3 Scientific ways to build more trust in your blog

Heidi Cohen, made a bold statement backed by some interesting research yesterday:

“On blogs, format is king, not content. Without reading a word of content, 94% of people distrusted a site based on its format according to research of online health sites”

Her message was: increase your blogs trustworthiness by improving your blog’s format. She has some great tips and tricks.

I clicked through to read the research – It wasn’t long, and was very interesting. There were a few more nuggets of gold that I think she missed:

Design is in the eye of the reader. Look at the two images below from the research and guess which is the ‘good’ design, and which is the ‘bad’ design.

Website Design A Website Design B
Design A Design B

If you guessed Design A was the ‘bad’ design, and Design B was the ‘good’ design, well you’re wrong (I was too!). Participants actually thought Design A was a more trustworthy design. To understand why you need to look at the reader’s motivation. They were middle-aged women looking for health advice. They indicated they distrusted sites that looked corporate, or sponsored (E.g. pharmaceutical companies). They liked sites that represented their own social identity – they connected better with these sites. They trusted sites written by women who had gone through the same thing they had and were sharing their knowledge.

So when you think about updating your design – think about your readers and pick a design that resonates with them.

One key design principle that always works is: keep it simple! You can’t go wrong with that.

Users are smart and notice things. Users in the study picked up on biases and website sponsorship, even if it was hidden away or in the small print.
Don’t try to pull the wool over your readers eyes – openly state when you are directing them to an affiliate link, or if you receive money from a company you are promoting.

Good design disappears. Heidi reported that 94% of users distrusted a site based on the design, but what she didn’t mention was that when users did trust a site, only 18% of them did so for their design. Design itself will not win you trust. Trust building involves two steps:

  1. A rapid screening process – does this look like it might interest me, or give me the answer I want.
  2. A detailed review of the content – does this contain something that is relevant or interesting to me.

Once you’ve won a user then design disappears and it becomes all about the content, so don’t expect design itself to win you new readers. You need to hook them with good content still.

Have you experienced any of these design decisions on your blog? I’d love to know how they affected you. Leave a comment below, and let’s chat!

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