11 Reasons Customers Don’t Trust Your Web Site

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While it may be hip to say otherwise, your small business needs a Web site. The same way you can’t ignore your blog for social media, you can’t ignore your site in lieu of a Twitter account. You may spend your afternoons engaging with people on social sites, however it’s your site that users will turn to for trusted information about what you do, how you do it, and how they can get it. But before you go just throwing something together, remember they’re looking for trusted information.

The Web site you create can’t help you if it doesn’t appear trustworthy to users. And that means more than just creating a professional design (though that helps). It means taking time to lay the foundation from the very beginning.

Here are 11 reasons customers won’t trust your Web site. It’s the what NOT to do.

It’s written like a brochure.

Do you read brochures handed to you while at the mall or when walking into a new establishment? No, you don’t. You don’t read them because even though they may hold important information, they’re as engaging as the phone book. You don’t want to commit the same sin on your Web site. Write your Web site as if your customer was sitting in front of you and you were verbally explaining to them all the benefits of your company and what you offer. Said simpler: Your Web site should sound like a person, not a corporate robot. Go read your Web site aloud and see which category you fit into.

It’s littered with typos.

I know. The larger your site, the harder it is to prune every sentence, however, each typo a user finds puts another ding into your credibility. Do your best to find typos and squash them dead.

You don’t say why you’re different.

If I’m on your site, it’s because I want to know what you’re all about and what you offer that the other guy doesn’t. Your site should be able to tell me this. If it doesn’t and you can’t clearly outline your point of difference, that means you don’t have one. I’m gonna go find someone who does.

You say ‘we’ too much.

Stop talking about yourself. Talk about me. That’s why I’m on your Web site, to serve MY needs.

It hasn’t been updated in five years.

One way to establish trust and show people there are living people behind your site is to keep your Web site as fresh and up to date as possible. That means giving it a good scrub as needed to reflect industry changes, new product offerings and maybe even new keywords customers are just now searching for. While you’re updating your content, also make sure you’re updating your copyright, as well. Nothing says “we’re dead” louder than a copyright date of 2004.

It’s hard to navigate.

Steve Krug said it best:  Don’t Make Me Think (highly recommended reading). If I have to figure out how to navigate around your site, it doesn’t help me trust that you’re the right service provider for me. If you were, you would have anticipated my needs and laid your site out accordingly. If I’m struggling to find your Product pages, than your site must be for people way smarter than me. I’ll go elsewhere.

It’s buzzword city.

If I can play buzzword bingo on your Web site, we have a problem. Unless your product really is “revolutionary” and “game changing” don’t use these words. And if it is, still don’t use those words because I’m not reading them. Just show me instead.

It looks like a template.

The goal of your Web site is to tell people what YOU are about and to show how you’re different from anyone else on the Web. And it’s hard to establish trust in that when you’re using the same generic photos on your Web site, the same basic layout and the same site theme as your ten closet competitors. The more “you” you can place on your site, the more people are going to trust you. Instead of cruising istockphoto for generic employee photos, why not use photos of your real employees, feature your real customers (with their permission) or spend the money to create a custom site design? The more boilerplate your site looks, the less people will trust you really care about it.

There’s no About page.

It’s said a lot, but it’s true: people do business with other people, not with logos. Help people trust your Web site by telling them about yourself, why you do what you do, how long you’ve been doing it, and by introducing to the people who run your store. All of this information helps establish credibility and shows you’re not just going to take their money and run. Take some time to introduce yourself to the people you want to be your customers.

You don’t provide a real address.

If you fail to include a physical address with real contact information, then I’m pretty sure you don’t exist. If you did, you’d be telling me where you’re located so I could come see you, right? Give me a street address, your phone number, an email address and maybe even a Google Map embedded directly on your site with driving directions. Then I know that you’re real and want me to come find you.

No third-party endorsements.

I know YOU think you’re awesome, but show me what everyone else has to say. Prominently displaying third-party testimonials, awards or press coverage is a good indicator that you’re a business I can trust. What does everyone else think of you?

Above are 11 of the biggest trust breakers that commonly drive people away from your site perhaps without you even realizing it. What Web site no-no sends you running for the hills (or the nearest competitor)?

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Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

37 Reactions
  1. Sourcing Agent

    I am re-building my website currently. This article is really help. Thanks a lot.

  2. This is awesome Lisa! good stuff

  3. Very useful information, thanks. I think we have most of it covered, might have to fix the navigation though!

  4. Great post Lisa. As per usual!

    The About Us page is a good point – I see less and less businesses using them, so it’s unusual to see someone promoting them for once.

  5. Mark Atkinson - Site Fusion Website and Corporate Design

    Being in the web and corporate design business, I cannot stand when I come across a website with typos all over it! Proofreading a site should be just as important as designing the site in the first place.

    Reading through the list, there are a couple things that our website is lacking, and which we will definitely correct! For example, we are in the process of putting together a testimonials section for our site! 🙂

    A great, practical checklist for people to refer to when they feel that their websites aren’t performing as well as they should be. 🙂

  6. Michelle Shapiro

    I love this post! Especially the part about contact information. A lot of small Internet start-ups appear to only exist on the web, and a real address shows there are some real people in there, not just robots.

  7. Great points – but I have one concern – I workout of my house – I do not want to put an actual physical address. Is phone and town ok/

  8. I’d break out your ‘Telephone’ requirement from “You don’t provide a real address” and create a #12 to make it an even dozen. I think it’s important enough that it’s worthy of a separate item.

    12. You don’t prominently display a telephone number.

    Amazon and Google get away with it but almost no one else can. Even Apple has their toll free number sprinkled liberally throughout their store. Online businesses trying to cut costs by avoiding lots of telephone calls are severely hurting the growth of their business. The best way to turn people away is to make it hard to talk to a real live person if you have a question or problem.

  9. @thewoodenHub,

    Good point! I will do my phone numbers (we are in 2 areas) more prominently

  10. I liked this article, but you have TYPO’s in it! Unreal.

  11. Lisa,

    I will not re-visit a website/blog that has an “About” page with no name of the person that’s writing the blog, or who owns the company.

    Also, if I cannot easily locate a photo of said person on the site, my red flag waves in the air, a tad.

    The Franchise King

  12. “You say ‘we’ too much.

    Stop talking about yourself. Talk about me. That’s why I’m on your Web site, to serve MY needs.”

    Hi Lisa,

    you are right with this one. I believe the reason of it is that it’s very difficult to describe and advertise your product talking with your customer about him- or herself. I’ve noticed that big companies have adopted a more impersonal style (this has been in fashion for years now) to promote their products: they refer to your needs as to their goal, which is good, but it somehow renders a similar air of disinterest. Probably a good solution is in-between.

    Lloyd Burrell

  13. @JL – I agree with the name ( I have mine listed by my blog and the about us page) but the photo in my mind is not appropriate to all businesses.

    YOu do not want someone to judge by how the persons looks. And yes this happens.

    @Lloyd – it is so hard to not just talk to them about their needs and not with them.

  14. Thanks for the share! I’m going through my website now to make sure I am not doing any of these. 🙂

  15. Hi Lisa,
    No About Page — that definitely causes me to question a site. If you’re not willing to tell me a little about yourself, why should I tell you a little about my credit card…

    I can’t think of a site I’ve purchased from that didn’t have a healthy About Us page. Just makes good sense for relationship building.

    Anecdotal evidence from sites I manage or have managed — I see the About Us page often in the top 2 or 3 of site links clicked on. Across all industries and biz types. But it’s a pretty small sample, i admit.

  16. Kim @ Money and Risk


    For some industries, there are very strict regulations about what is allowed on a business website. Customer endorsements or recommendations are prohibit for the financial sector. The third party endorsements you see on financial advisers’ website? Those advisers didn’t read their own regulatory requirements.

    Companies always need to keep in mind the laws and regulations first in designing a website. It is not worth it to get your business closed down or be heavily fined because you’ve violated a small reg somewhere on your website.

  17. @Lisa great points but its covers more than just your website it covers your marketing in general. Your social is one key area that can be filled with typos that include spelling or grammar mistakes.

    You say “we” too much… its a very back example but a search and replace with “you” or “your” can be a quick and dirty fix.

    You can also do an a/b test that shows them the “we” page and the “you” page and show the difference in conversion rates, once you can show them the difference on one page, you can usually get some copywriting budget to fix some other parts of the site.

    The copyright issue is again another quick and easy fix with search and replace, it takes 5-15 seconds in something like Dreamweaver or Frontpage, or just update your footer in your CMS and it will apply across your whole site.

    The template is a hard issue when dealing with a larger corporate as each location has no choice or if you are part of a franchise… but the template issue is complicated by the fact that a large number of PPC landing pages that convert well are all mostly templates…so can templates be all bad?

  18. Julie,

    I respectfully disagree about the photo. Online communications are impersonal enough to begin with. A photo helps one become real.

    Also, would you rather I “guess” what you look like?

    Just sayin…

    The Franchise King

  19. JL,

    I understand what you are saying, but I guess to me it is the product and the quality that are the most important not the persons looks.

  20. Thank you, I had not considered the testimonials. I’ll need to update my website!

  21. Noam @webstockpro

    Great article. Last 3 items (About, Real address, 3rd party endorsements) are important but very few successful sites really apply them.

  22. This is a great post. The “About page” is a biggie that I’ve blogged about and posted videos about in the past. It’s amazing how simple it is to do, but how big of an impact it can have. I totally agree. Potential customers would easily open up their pocket books and do business with you if only they had a chance to build some sort of relationship with you. Just allowing them to see visually who you are, what you’re about, that you’re a real person, that your company is real, you have a real office, etc. etc. Transparency builds trust and trust will get you conversions. Crutchfield.com is a great example of a solid “About” section.

  23. MIchael, OK – even for web designers?

    I think I have a decent about me page. except the photo – I am on the fence about how important that is

  24. Ok I took the plunge and put up my photo ..

    I would love to hear everyones opinion about my site and the points made above.


  25. While users may be forgiving of some of these mistakes, for many they will totally abandon your site if just one is present.

  26. @ Robert Brady what mistakes specifically? the 11 mistakes listed? and what if some of the things are not applicable?

  27. “It’s littered with typos.”
    “…your ten closet competitors”
    It’s amaizing how are brains fix/overlook our typos when we proof-reed.

  28. Alexander Hold - Alexanderhold.com - Network is Power

    Good list Lisa… Some good points you come with… I especially took notice of the real address part. I think that is really important that people understand how import it really is that your costumer can see, we are talking a real product and not a scam.

  29. Hi Lisa

    All were very good points. I find it “suspicious” when the about page has no information on humans. No names, no address, nothing. Its like a robot made the site and it makes me wonder what they are “hiding.” Unless someone is willing to say who they are, where they are, etc. Its a red flag. I never thought of embedding the google map into my website. I like that idea!

    Thank you!


  30. Great advice – thanks! I am currently updating my freelance graphic design site and am going to take on board alot if these tips – seems making the site personal and with a point of difference is important in creating an impression with perspective customers.

    Thanks again 🙂

  31. Good article, the one thing our site doesn’t have is an about us page which we are working on. The site is will be updated in the next few weeks and I will take on board some of these website tips.