Merriam-Webster says credibility is “the quality or power of inspiring belief.” In the online world building credibility is difficult because you’re readers can’t hear your voice or see your face. Since your first point of contact is your blog design, it makes sense that that’s where your credibility starts… or where it ends.
In 2005, ABC News ran an article about Internet users and how they evaluate the credibility of a website. Dr Gitte Lindgaard and colleagues from Carleton University in Ottawa found that “Visual appeal can be assessed within 50 milliseconds, suggesting that web designers have about 50 milliseconds to make a good impression.”
Fifty milliseconds is, well, let’s put it this way: It’s less than one second. In less than one second after they land on your blog, first-time visitors will decide if they want to stick around.
And if that was the result in 2005, one can only imagine how much faster your visitors make that decision now because Internet users are much more savvy now than they were in 2005. They’re no longer taken in by all that glitz and glamor and those flashy backgrounds and banners. Now, they want substance, something they can sink their teeth into.
In 2005 you could still count the number of blogs on the Web. Now, it’s like trying to count the grains of sand on a beach. If your design doesn’t scream “credibility and quality content” your first time visitors know they have thousands of others to choose from and they’ll be gone in less than one second.
Does that mean you need to spend money on a premium theme or a high-priced designer? Not necessarily. If you have the skills you can tweak any theme, even the freebies.
What it does mean is this: Whether you realize it or not, your design is one of the most important aspects of your blogging business. If those first-time visitors don’t stick around, they don’t turn into repeat visitors, and we both know how important repeat visitors are.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What does my design say about me? If you have a whimsical color scheme and design then your visitors are going to think that you’re a whimsical person. Is that what you want them to think? If not, it’s time for a design change. Ask friends, family and blogging buddies to give you their own first impressions of your blog if you have to.
Is my message clear or is it lost in all the clutter? While lots of banners in your sidebar qualify as clutter they’re not the only things making your blog hard to navigate. Do you have prominent links for pages, categories and special content? Are you using formatting to make your content easy to read? Is all of your content relevant?
Is a split-second enough time to get my message? Can that first-time visitor tell what your blog is about the second he lands on it? Because, if he can’t…
Does my design fit my message? If you’re blogging about brain surgery and you have cute bunnies in the background you won’t have to worry about building your credibility – you won’t have any to start with. Your design should fit your message. If you want people to view you as an expert, your blog has to look professional – no matter what you’re blogging about.
Don’t forget – You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and if you’re trying to make it online you only have less than a second to do it. Blog credibility and blog design go hand-in-hand.