How Can We Study Website Credibility

How can you tell if your site is perceived as credible or trustworthy, wouldn’t it be great if we could just ask users and say, hey, how credible do you think this site is or how do you trust this Web site? Unfortunately, we can’t quite trust users answers if we ask them those kind of direct questions, primarily because as soon as we use those terms about credible and trustworthy, then users tend to shift their mindset away from their task and they shift it towards something where they start now thinking about what’s the responsible answer, what would the best way to evaluate the credibility of the site be? OK, so we’ve influenced their answer just by asking that question. The other reason we can’t trust their answer is because people don’t necessarily know what influences them or not. They don’t know what’s causing them to choose option A..

Over option B, they might think that it’s one thing, but there might be other psychological principles happening, cognitive biases happening that they can’t describe. So what can we do? Instead, we can observe users. Ultimately, we measure credibility by whether or not a user accomplishes their task or whether or not they convert. So we want users completing tasks and we look for signs where maybe they start to question the information on the site or they start to become wary of the requests that the site is making. Is the site giving misleading information or is it having mistakes or something that is maybe different from what they read on a previous page on the site? Or are they asking for an email address? And the user starts to wonder, why do they want my email address? Are they going to send me spam? Those types of questions that the user has or hesitations are really where we can observe possible issues with credibility on our site. At the end of a usability testing session, you can also follow up with the user and ask how easy or difficult was the site and ask them to talk about that. And in describing those difficulties, you might be able to find out what was causing some of that trust issue. You can also ask a user how confident are they in whatever answer they had to come up with. And if you hear a user say, well, you know, I think this was the answer, but I’m not quite sure because X, Y and Z, those are the kinds of opportunities that really we can take advantage of to improve our sites and make them more credible.

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