I'm often amazed just how easily the simple, and obvious, things trip us up or cause a disconnect. It's no different with websites. Here are 10 seemingly obvious things that can really stoke the fires of credibility on your website.
1. Easy verification of site information
When you've written articles, invariably there are times, often many times, when you've used a source to help build the content. SO provide your content third party support in the way of citations, references, or links to original content. It's shows YOU have confidence in your material.
2. Be a "real" organization
Ever been to a site trying to find contact info and all you get is a web form? Seems a little shady, right? If I come across this sort of thing, I invariably hit the close button on the window. I figure they can't be very reputable if they have to hide their contact info. So give your phone number, a physical address, perhaps a photo of your offices (exterior), and also include any relevant associations you belong to.
3. Showcase your organization's expertise
If you have experts in your company, or your site contributors are, give their credentials. List any affiliation with respected organizations. Be warned though; linking to disreputable sites has the opposite affect!
4. Be open about the people behind the site
Not the site designer (unless they're part of your company), but consider having a staff bios page with images. Potential clients will feel more at ease knowing a little about who they're talking with.
5. Contact us!
This is just an extension of #2. Make sure full contact details are EASILY locatable on your site. So, firstly, include them, and, secondly, make finding them easy. Sometimes having them in the footer or header makes perfect sense.
6. Professional design
Who hasn't landed on a site that looks as if it was designed by a 3rd grader? Your website is you unsleeping salesperson, your 24/7 brand ambassador. Make it look like it's ready for business and hasn't just rolled out of bed after a very heavy "night-before"!
Keep it simple stupid! We, as designers, can be the worst offenders. There's always the tendency to try and jam as much in as possible. Make your site clear, and easy, to navigate and find information. Site maps are all well and good, but, IMHO, if site navigation is carefully designed, a site map is totally redundant.
8.Extra, extra read all about it!
It's not just the search engines that like fresh content; users do too. If you choose to use dates (this always applies in blogs), make sure the last entry is current. How many blogs have you seen with one entry dated 2 years ago? Doesn't foster a lot of credibility.
9. Hold the ads please
Be careful how many ads you assault your viewers with. They came to look at your content, not to be bombarded with advertising. I'm not saying not to try and monetize your site, but be considerate, and remember the site's primary purpose of promoting you and your business.
10. Avoid errors
Be careful with your content. Use spell check, and even have one or two others look over your content to see it makes sense. And make sure your links work - broken links are very frustrating to users.
Thanks to Stanford.edu for the basis of this post. Their document can be found at http://credibility.stanford.edu/guidelines/.