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Earning Your Visitors' Trust     
09/26/2002 - Author, Pam Roth, CreatingOnline.com

When designing a business site, there are several things you can do to help earn your visitors' trust, a key factor in making sales and encouraging repeat visits:

1. Provide complete and accurate information about yourself, your company, and your service or product. One of the reasons often cited by consumers hesitant to shop online is the uncertainty of knowing exactly what they will be getting.  Erase that uncertainty by providing product photos and detailed descriptions. Convey your expertise in the field to which your site is related. List your credentials. Let your visitors know why they should have confidence in you and your service or product.
2. Ease of navigation is extremely important. Don't attempt to dazzle your visitors with design at the expense of site usability.
3. Project an image of honesty and sincerity. Include prominent links to your site's policies, such as those regarding privacy, shipping, refunds, and customer service. Compose a brief narrative in plain conversational language to express your true, unbiased viewpoint on your site's topic, as opposed to a page full of nifty slogans.

4. Be upfront with your visitors about pricing. State the price on the first page or include a link to your pricing page there. Your visitors will appreciate this, and you'll earn points immediately with them. If your visitors have to conduct an extensive search to find pricing information, they will soon begin to feel that your service or product must surely be overpriced and will leave without wasting another minute of their valuable time.
5. Give your visitors something for free, even if only information or links to related resources. If they don't make a purchase at this visit, they will at least leave with the feeling of having received something of value from having visited your site and will bookmark it for future reference.

6. One of the most effective ways of lending credibility to your site is for you to "get real." Your visitors need to feel confident that you are a genuine company in the real world. This can be accomplished via "people photos", place of business photos, bio, a real physical street address, and several contact options (i.e., phone number, email, fax number.) This goes a long way in helping your visitors to feel you are not just another fly-by-night website.
7. Promptly reply to all customer inquiries. Let them know their needs and concerns are important to you and deserving of your immediate attention. Reply within 24 hours, even if only to confirm receipt of their correspondence and to let them know when they may expect an answer to their question.
8. Don't overdo banner advertisements. A few banners strategically and tastefully displayed are okay, but do not bombard your visitors with popups on entrance and exit and ads all over the place mixed with the site's content. This will only serve to confuse and annoy your visitors, who will probably make a fast escape and a mental note to never return.

9. Project professionalism by performing a thorough site check. Solicit a few friends to double-check for you. Your site design may look professional at first glance, but tiny little errors such as typos and broken hyperlinks are glaringly obvious to visitors and ultimately spell "amateur."
10. Use the exclamation mark sparingly and not at the end of every sentence. No one can be that happy! :)
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