Are These Trust-Killers On Your Website?

Imagine you’re in a new city on a business trip. You’re hungry, but you aren’t sure where to go (and let’s pretend you don’t have access to Yelp).


You walk into a restaurant in a strip mall, where you’re greeted by passé decor and the smell of something burning. It’s empty of guests.


Do you sit down to order? Or, do you head right back out the door?


If you’re not building a credible relationship with your visitors from the moment they arrive to your site, how do you expect to convert them to a customer?


And the foundation for any relationship is trust.


Trust and credibility is contextual; what works for your audience might be different than that of another company. That’s why you track and measure any changes.


However, there are a number of fundamental attributes of a site that are commonly found to create distrust.


Let’s find out if any of these are present on your site.

Bad Design

Web design really does matter.


Just as people judge a wine by it’s label, they quickly judge your site by it’s design. Studies show it can take just 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not or even whether they’ll stay or leave.


Dr. Brent Coker, University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Business and Economics, developed a formula to track patterns and trends in online behaviours and purchasing. He studied the impact of attractive websites on human behavior and noted:

“As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. Our offline behaviour and inclinations translate to our online existence.”Websites that are more attractive and include more trimmings create a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in consumers.”

Stanford University compiled a great checklist for website credibility. It includes many factors, including to “design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose);”  Specifically:

“We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more. Of course, not all sites gain credibility by looking like The visual design should match the site’s purpose.”

While stylistically there may be some subjectivity involved, if your website is clearly dated and lacking basic design principles, it might be time to think about a refresh.

Technical Bugs & Missing Information


Fix these!

Are your site visitors finding dead links, non-functional forms, missing images, or other broken elements on your site?


Do you make it a hassle to find important information such as contact details or refund policies?


These things add up to effect the overall user experience and perception of your site. These are typically simple fixes, so be sure to identify and squash the bugs. Communicate important information clearly.

Spelling & Grammar Mistakes

Grammarly wrote in HBR about a study they conducted showing the professional dangers of bad grammar.


They reviewed 100 LinkedIn profiles of native English-speakers in the consumer packaged goods industry. Each had worked for no more than three employers over the first 10 years of their career. Half were promoted to director level or above within those 10 years…the other half were not. While their findings are correlative and not definitive, they found some interesting things:

  • Professionals who failed to progress to a director-level position within the first 10 years of their careers made 2.5 times as many grammatical mistakes as their director-level colleagues.
  • The study found that professionals with one to four promotions over their 10-year careers made 45% more grammatical errors than those with six to nine promotions in the same time frame.


In social media, spelling errors may have a strong impact on brand perception. A London-based digital communications agency surveyed 1,003 U.K. web users and found that 42.5 percent would be most influenced by spelling or grammar blunders.


That doesn’t mean you can’t write in an authentic, casual tone.


An article on Entrepreneur says, “Break the rules. It’s OK. You’re not writing for your high school English teacher. Present your copy in a casual but professional way.” For example, you could include:

  • Contractions
  • Dangling prepositions
  • Slang words
  • Sentence fragments
  • One-sentence paragraphs


It can be good for readability, as you will notice in this post. But it’s important to strike the right balance of connecting with your audience without being sloppy.

No Social Proof

Example of social proof for project management software Basecamp.

Robert Cialdini, author of the seminal marketing book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” defined social proof as people doing what they observe other people doing. It’s a principle that’s based upon the idea of safety in numbers.


We’re more likely to go to a restaurant that constantly has a long line versus one that is always empty.


There are many ways to implement this on a website, from testimonials, press mentions or customer reviews to showcasing your client list.


However, beware of negative social proof, which can occur when implementing social proof elements can backfire.


For example, you promote your social media channel that hasn’t been updated in a year and only has 27 followers. Or, your testimonials come across as suspicious or phony.

Not Enough or Too Many Trust-Signals

Trust signals can be great for conversions.


If you offer strong guarantees, refund policies, and enhanced site security, it makes perfect sense to mention them prominently.


However, if you jam your site full of every icon you can find along with an over-abundance of glowing reviews, you might end creating the opposite of the intended effect.


When your site looks like it’s trying too hard, it can arouse suspicion. Now you’ve planted the idea that the visitor should be cynical and confirmation bias can take hold as they seek out information to confirm their theory.


Trust is built upon many factors.


It’s hard to earn, but easy to lose.


So it’s important to do everything within your control to convey this to your audience.


P.S. Don’t forget…once you convert a customer, don’t forget about providing a great post-purchase experience so you don’t sabotage your efforts!

You may also like