Two studies were published showing an unexpected gap between how people say they judge Web sites and the criteria they actually use:
From Stanford University and Consumer Web Watch: “How Do People Evaluate A Web Site’s Credibility? Results from a Large Study.”
From Sliced Bread Design, LLC and Consumer Web Watch: PDF download “Experts vs. Online Consumers: A Comparative Credibility Study of Health and Finance Web Sites.“
The studies asked Internet users to evaluate the credibility and quality of information they get from various websites. Even though visitors told researchers they looked at many different aspects of a Web site when deciding whether to trust its information, researchers were surprised to discover that visitors were more swayed by a site’s design than anything else. Few people (if any) told researchers that they would trust a site more if it “looked good.” However, that’s exactly what researchers discovered after asking participants to evaluate a number of different websites.
Beau Brendler, director of Consumer Web Watch noted:
“While consumers say they judge on substance, these studies demonstrate that consumers judge on aesthetics, and get distracted by bells and whistles.”
Visual design is the second test of a site’s credibility. Speed is first.
“I would like to think that when people go on the Web they’re very tough integrators of information, they compare sources, they think really hard,” says Fogg, “but the truth of the matter–and I didn’t want to find this in the research but it’s very clear–is that people do judge a Web site by how it looks. That’s the first test of the Web site. And if it doesn’t look credible or it doesn’t look like what they expect it to be, they go elsewhere. It doesn’t get a second test. And it’s not so different from other things in life. It’s the way we judge automobiles and politicians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_Web_Credibility_Project