When it comes to your plastic surgery marketing efforts on the Internet, credibility is essential. This may be true for just about any website, but it’s particularly important for medical and health related sites. But just what makes a website a credible one? You’re sure to be surprised by the answer.
When considering just what make a site credible, things like accurate content, privacy policies, affiliations and awards are likely to come to mind. That’s what we think we want from a credible site, but researchers have found otherwise. In fact, studies have found a huge difference between what people say about how they judge a website versus the actual criteria they use in doing so. Rather than the accurate content, privacy policies and so on, it appears that the design of website influences our impression of a site’s credibility and quality to a greater degree.
In one study researchers found that, despite what participants said about determining a site’s credibility based on substance, they actually judged a site based on aesthetics. Visitors to a site first evaluated the overall design, including their use of multimedia. However, this doesn’t mean that a great color scheme and lots of flash animation are more important than accurate and reliable information. Instead, the study found that the design of a site is not the only indicator of quality, just the first indicator. Once the site’s design allowed a visitor to initially deem the site as a credible one, they stayed on the site rather then moving on and then used other criteria in further considering credibility.
In another study, both consumers and experts reacted to specific health and financial sites. Unbiased information, reputable sources, disclosure of authors’ names and credentials, and citations for published articles were factors in determining a site’s credibility, but only for the experts. Just 7.6% of the experts considered the design of a site as an indication of its credibility. This is compared to 41.7% of the consumers who took design into consideration.
Both studies made it clear that a site’s design is very important, and they further broke it down to the particular aspects of design that are important. A good color scheme was mentioned and should involve color choices that reflect the audience’s preferences and coordinating colors which draw attention to important elements. The layout should include a clear navigation structure, an easy-to-read placement of page elements, and the use of color, bullet lists, section headers and the like to highlight important points. The font should be safe, easy to read, and common enough so that the majority of visitors already have them installed.
Despite the fact that both studies found design to be an essential factor in site credibility, some caution should be taken. In one study, sites that were described as ‘over designed’ and simply geared towards sales received negative comments. A balanced approach is likely the best approach. A site should be designed to deliver information to visitors, but that information must be delivered in a pleasing way with an easy layout and proper color and font choices. While a great design may induce visitors to take a closer look, useful content, good organization and ease of use will keep them on your site and returning for more.