Consumers Prefer Better Looking Websites Ross Kimbarovsky | July 13th, 2011

Successful businesses know that to develop long-term relationships with their customers, they must find  ways to build trust. This is not as easy to do as it sounds. According to the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer study, U.S. consumer trust of companies dropped 8 points from 2010 to 2011.

In fact, this trend seems to be worsening. According to a new University of Melbourne study, online shoppers are 30% less loyal to online businesses than in 2007.

The good news is that businesses can improve their trustworthiness. The University of Melbourne study also found that Internet consumers are 20% more trusting of websites than they were five years ago. According to Dr. Brent Coker, the author of the study, the increase in online consumer trust is largely linked to the visual appeal of websites.

As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. Our offline behaviour and inclinations translate to our online existence. As the internet has become prettier, we are venturing out, and becoming less loyal. With websites becoming increasingly attractive and including more trimmings, this creates a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in online consumers.

But it’s not enough just to have a pretty website. According to Dr. Coker:

The biggest source of frustration is the inability to find relevant information on a website. The best way to stop defection to other websites, and increase loyalty, is to be interesting. Being pretty, but with nothing to say, is not enough.

Among other things, the University of Melbourne study found that if a website has poor navigation or access to information, or takes more than two seconds to download, prospective customers are more likely to opt against purchasing and navigate to another site.

To help you evaluate your own site, we recommend the following additional resources: Small Business Marketing: Web Design Best Practices and Tips, Startup and Small Business Marketing: Website Optimization Mistakes, and  Best Practices and Tips for Restaurant Web Design,


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  • Garnette

    no shit.

  • Dana Solano

    While I agree with the points made about trust being impacted by design, I disagree that it inspires loyalty. I think loyalty is bigger than aesthetics alone, and is even powerful enough to make someone choose one option over a prettier one.

    Loyalty has taken a 30% hit since 2007 because of the increase in the number of products and services now available online and the availability of tools and communities to get product ratings and better prices.

    And if you think about it, most people start their quest for goods with a Google search–an interface that doesn’t show those other “prettier” virtual storefronts. Instead it’s the websites rank in Google (a trusted resource) that leads people to a different option.

    Once you get someone to your site, you definitely could be turning people away with a bad design. To make a purchase, they’re going to be asked to give up personal information including an address, phone number, email, and credit card number—it is very important to look like your website can be trusted with that information, but that’s not enough to inspire loyalty.

    Loyalty stems from so much more then the look of your website–it could be ads/commercials, content, customer interactions, packaging, price, quality of goods, business philosophies, the list goes on. People are loyal to companies and brands because when they look at the company or product, they are able to see themselves or their needs.

  • More self serving BS from establishment experts.

    I had a wholesale catalogue/ecommerce site in 2003 that was generating 100 orders a month and thousands of B2B pageviews.

    A friend who designed Visa’s direct mail pieces said it wasn’t professional enough and I should pull the site until it was redesigned to look modern and professional. So we pulled it not realising it ranked top 3 in Google for 100’s of relevant keywords.

    After 2 months of the new “improved” professional site we pulled it and went back to the old one.

  • CR McIntosh

    As a designer, and a new business owner, I actually agree, LOADS. 

    I live and subsequently work & research subconsciously on the world of design. Now, there are variations of the term “pretty” (different people, different views), but I get what you mean and I like bite with it’s psycho-association with loyalty/trustworthiness. 

    In my field, your craft is proof of your skill. For a new client, your appearance and/portfolio is your first impression (right or wrong) to show your savviness, skill and delivery.
    Same goes for your website. As said so many times before, your website is truly an extention of your company. So what does your’s say about you, in the same way that your clothes do or portfolio does, say in an interview (the first few seconds to impress a potential new client to hire “buy” you and your “skills” ie: stuff). And yes, the whole “book by cover” thing, got it, but in reality, at first glance, if you meet someone, and they look like crap, unless you’ve got time to sit, engage and learn, one’s in a rush or strict hunt for something specific will move on to the “better dressed”/”better presented” person, because they immediately “look” like they know what they are doing. 

    Now all of that goes to hell if the their now brains behind the beauty of course, but unless you just have a love for the underdog, the cutest puppy gets picked up first- most of the time. :/

    With that being said, if you look bumish, half-assed assembled or shady, I’m not trusting you with my credit card. plain and simple :/ Same goes for a person as with an online company. For some it’s clothes, for others it’s code. Bad of both could cost you opportunities. 

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