This is not new news, but it is a reminder to myself and others involved in the publishing of information on the web.
I was just rereading the abstract from the web site credibility report carried out by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab
Not much detail is necessary here. The key findings are stark and speak for themselves. They are as follows:
1. The study showed that people say one thing, but in reality, act and make decisions based on something entirely different. Prominence-Interpretation Theory was used to understand both how people assess web site credibility and why there is a mismatch between between what they say they do [to assess credibility] and what they actually do.
2. There appear to be two pieces to the process of evaluating web site credibility: what people notice and the judgements made about those elements that were noticed.
3. The data showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site, such as visual cues, than to its content. For example, nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.
4. This reliance on a site's overall visual appeal to gauge its credibility occurred more often with some categories of sites then others. Consumer credibility-related comments about visual design issues occurred with more frequency with finance (54.6%), search engines (52.6%), travel (50.5%), and e-commerce sites (46.2%), and with less frequency when assessing health (41.8%), news (39.6%), and nonprofit (39.4%) sites.
5. In comparison, the parallel Sliced Bread Design study revealed that health and finance experts were far less concerned about the surface aspects of these industry-specific types of sites and more concerned about the breadth, depth, and quality of a site's information.
...so what we end up with is a pretty clear message: content is important, but don't forget to make the framing and layout attractive. If you do, your potentially exceptional content (and possibly you or your organization) will be immediately discounted in the eye of the consumer. Read the full study