Website Trust: To Take a General or Specialist Approach?

Recent university studies are showing that website visitors pay more attention and are more likely to respond to visual stimuli from experts or specialists.

We all do it. Looking for expert guidance seems to be something of human nature. At least in the modern world we live in, seeking out the best advice, that learned second opinion, an expert personally guiding us is virtually the norm. When it comes to the websites we design and manage, studies are showing that users respond better and react more favorably when they are under the apparent influence of an expert specialist’s recommendation.

This means that it very well may be better for web designers and companies with a vested interest in their online presence to narrow their focus and display specific guided recommendations versus trying to be a one stop shop for all that ails their potential customers.

Some popular thinking when it comes to providing solutions to ones target customers is that you’ll want to offer as many options and choices as is feasible. Think about the neighborhood Italian restaurant you sometimes frequent. How many pages of dishes are in their menu? By the time you’re able to narrow down your food order, you’ve likely forgotten you were hungry (or just the opposite, you find yourself dying of starvation!)

The highest end, most successful eateries change their menus weekly. They have only a handful of plates for diners to choose from. The cuisine is focused to present the chef’s narrow interpretation. This place becomes THE place to go for that type of food. Whenever anyone asks, this is where you recommend.

As it turns out, the very same thing is proving to be a powerful agent of change in the online world. When you provide your website visitors with options and recommendations that are backed by “experts”, they are much more likely to follow the path you desire them to take.

Many people use the Internet to find answers to questions they have. While some simply want to read the news or do some window shopping, if you are providing the answers to what they are seeking, and you’re doing it in a way that confirms your solutions are backed by credible specialists, you’ll find an increase in success online.

People like seeing that Better Business Bureau seal attached to online retail websites. Regardless of whether it means anything real or not, the perception is that having the seal of approval means that retailer can be trusted. The studies are showing once you’ve gained the consumers trust, chance are you will close the sale, get the referral or whatever your desired selling proposition may end up being for that consumer.

Care must be exhibited, however. While it may behoove you in your online operations to demonstrate expert opinions and recommendations, too much of a good thing may not be a good thing. There is only a limited amount of empirical evidence at this point, but we’ve seen practical examples for years. When banner ads first arrived they performed very well for a while. Then, with overuse, and increased numbers placed per page, their suggestive recommendations have diminished to the point that many web surfers are completely blind to the vast majority of display ads.

If you have a number of options all backed by expert recommendations on a page, it takes your viewer back to those pages and pages of menu items. Which to choose? Which is the most expert of these experts? It may be better to divide and conquer. Choose that which your users tell you are the best recommendations. Remove the rest. Continually refine your pages based upon the information you glean from user centered design. If it’s good for them, it will ultimately be good for your website.

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