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"Trust is the most valuable commodity in Cyberspace"

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Continuing with "Trust is the most valuable commodity in Cyberspace", here we'll look at the rest of the checklist shown in the first part of this series.

Attractive, user-friendly design
An attractive, user-friendly designed web site is hugely important in establishing a web site's credibility. Your web site is your showcase, and people judge your organization by its design. Just like the bricks and mortar establishment you might currently reside in, if your web site is not presentable, many a customer you might lose. With bricks and mortar not everyone can afford a prestigeous office to showcase their presence but when it comes to the Internt and web sites, there is no excuse.

You don't have to present a web prescence with all of the bells and whisltles, flash, bang and glitter. Often simplicity pays more dividends. Remember that the more complex the technology, the more easily things can go wrong.

Whether simple or complex, your site must look professional and it must work flawlessly, subject to, of course to the Internet's network stability. This is important for all variations of web sites from the small not-for-profit or academic site right up to the commercial web site.

A secure order form
Now that the ability to sell anything online is more widespread on the Internet, providing a secure order form is essential if people are going to order through your web site. Whether you manually or automatically process orders, forms should be processed through a secure server. If automatic processing online is used, then you certainly need to be able to accept the major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Discover. Click here to learn more

Good writing and perfect proofreading
Good writing and perfect proof reading cannot be emphasized enough. However, even if you have proof read you writing three times, I'll guarantee that each time you will have missed a correction. Strangely, this even happens when you get three separate individuals to proof read your writing. Nevertheless, if you can get others to proof read your writing, many if not all of the erros will be found. Gee! I wonder how many errors you're going to find in this document?

The magic word -- "FREE"
The magic word -- "FREE" always helps to entice visitors since the Internet is often called the gift economy. You can win popularity by giving away something worthwhile. Many web sites give away products, services, games and shareware/freeware software. One of the most popular giveaways is information. Your copywriter is often in charge of producing free information. Using his ability to generate information about the benefits on the type of product or service is a great way to provide FREE informaiton. Don't just drop pamphlets and articles into your site. Edit this information expressly for the web.

Friendly persuasion
Is your web site supposed to be persuasive? If so, remember that web users are generally suspicious of hype. Most have no desire to read your boasting that your product is "the best", "the cheapest" or "the ultimate". When you exaggerate, your credibility collapses.

In general, people on the web are persuaded by two things:

  1. the clear benefits to themselves
  2. the facts.

They're not interested, usually, in the things that fascinate you -- like the technical features of your product. They want to know how your product will benefit them.

When you're trying to persuade web users to buy something or even subscribe to a free newsletter, put yourself in their shoes. How will your product or newsletter or services benefit them? Explain all the benefits from their point of view, and you have a good chance of successfully persuading people.

Even if your site is a charity, you can show people what their contribution will achieve in concrete terms. World Vision advertising is a classic example of this.

A real sense of your people and premises
A real sense of your people and premises is extremely valuable. For a small organization to provide photos of its staff, and sometimes it's premises on the web site, adds to the bricks and mortar effect and lends more credibility to your web presence. A safer feeling of doing business with a know and visible entity is generated.

Of course photographs don't automatically guarantee that you're a genuine bunch of experts doing genuine work. But photographs can humanize your web site, and help to overcome the anonymity of the web. Photos can help people to trust you.

It's understandable that people should want to "see" you. We all make business judgments partly on the strength of whether we like the look of a person. So do include photos of your people to increase your credibility.

List your staff's accomplishments and qualifications. List your memberships in applicable professional organizations, Chamber of Commerce, ISO9001 accreditation, etc.

Quote facts about your organization. Size does matter on the web. Even if you are a small business, you can still cite big numbers. Do 12,000 people subscribe to your ezine? That's big! Have you got 100% satisfied customers? That's big. Say so.

A big strong money-back guarantee
A big strong money-back guarantee for what you're selling is essential, and the stronger the better. People need to know they can get their money back if something goes wrong. This is extremely important when they're buying something on the web. They don't know you. You may live in a different country, with different consumer laws. They can't see their purchase until after they've paid for it. So people naturally want a guarantee before they hand over credit card details. Without a strong guarantee you will surely lose sales. Even the single product supplier offers a guarantee to ensure it's credibility. If you value your customer's business don't hesitate to let them know.

Testimonials from real people, with addresses >> [ Some of ours ]
Genuine testimonials from satisfied customers and happy clients, with addresses are a great way to boost confidence in your web site. Each testimonial should emphasize a different strength of your business.

Make sure you get permission to publish these letters as testimonials, along with the writers' names and addresses. Without a genuine name and address, a testimonial could be phony and everyone knows it.

Start actively collecting specific testimonials from top customers, using their own words, and even showing their photo plus full name and address or a link to their business web site. They are a cusotmer of yours so they'll appreciate the link.

Your organization's name and address on pages
Ever found yourself at a great site with no idea who produced it? That's an unthinkable blow to credibility. Make sure the name of your organization is on every page. A link is not enough. Put it in words: a graphic will be invisible to some users.

Where are you coming from? People want to know where your organization is based. So put your old-fashioned snail mail address on pages also but more so on your home or entry and contact pages. This may seem odd when the web is by definition global: but people have a human need to know this simple fact.

A promise not to sell people's names and addresses
If you invite people to email you, guarantee that their name and address will go no further. This inspires confidence in your integrity. A promise not to sell the customer's name and address eliminates the hurdle of getting contact information. A must if you are going to maintain a communicatin link and keep them informed of your products, serveice or ideas.

Links to other web sites
Outbound hypertext links to other web sites also raise your credibility. These links show you have done your research. They also show you are confident of your own web site's value in comparison to others. Getting reciprocating links back to your web site would be you next step in continuing the cycle of linking and is how many an order arrives.

"Last updated" last month
For maximum credibility, refresh your pages frequently. Your site inspires the most confidence if the "last updated" time was within the last month.

Of course you must update certain things immediately or daily -- for example, new prices, catalog changes, weather forecasts and daily news. This requires a fail-safe communication system between you and the webmaster. However, updating content daily is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming for most organizations. And if the content drops in quality as a result of the pressure, daily updating can backfire.

A typical winning web site publishes a new article (or recipe or tip or whatever) every 2 to 4 weeks with archives of old articles becoming a rich asset.

Standard information can be a good draw also, even if it's rarely expanded or changed. Encyclopedias aren't updated every month. Technical details about your unique system of whatever or manufacture of rubbers will not change overnight. Just make sure this type of information is high quality.

So there you have it. Using many or all of the above practices in your web presence can only help to enhance your credibility in cyberspace. Doing it well, frequently and effectively is the key to a trustworthy and bookmarked for return visit web site. In others words, a potentially profitable web site.

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Has your budget included using the Internet effectively? Let us help establish your company with effective Internet web site design, web site development, Internet marketing and promotion or maintenance. Our satisfied clients have benefited from our help for years.

At Topic we consider the strategic importance of web design and usability to enhance OUR CLIENT'S ability TO ATTRACT, MAINTAIN and INTERFACE with existing as well as the millions of potential customers on the INTERNET. Not only do we design web sites from scratch, but we often get contracted to do face-lifts and upgrades for existing sites, or maintenance on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis.

Don't forget to bookmark this page on "Trust is the most valuable commodity in Cyberspace". Looking forward to your return visit.

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