Why Visitors Trust Some Websites More Than Others

A unique study by Southampton University* and commissioned by Yell has identified what makes individuals trust one company website rather than another – and, therefore, choose as a supplier. This article summarises the findings and provides a practical checklist for what this means for your business.

Contributors to trust

The research identified criteria which are important to users when evaluating a potential supplier when looking at their website.

Most important reasons for choosing sites

The most important are ease of use and site functionality – especially (in order of importance):

  1. Easy to find information
  2. Easy to read descriptions
  3. Coherent and Simple

This ‘Wordle’ from focus groups shows the criteria that made them trust a web site the most. The bigger words show the more important criteria:

Southampton University research
Southampton University research

For a site to be trusted it has to convey the idea that there is a team of real, locally based people who have taken the trouble to make it easy for you to do business with them and who are there on the end of a phone to sort problems out once they’ve happened.

Anything clever or that gets in the way of this is at best not relevant and at worst actually gives a contrary impression. That’s not to say that people don’t appreciate elegant use of technology – they just don’t want it pushed into their faces.

A caring, responsive, effective approach to doing business that provides honest value backed up by meaningful recommendations from real people is what you need to work towards conveying to the site’s eventual customer.

Reasons for not choosing websites

The research identified reasons for not choosing sites tended to focus on wordiness, too “salesy” and a dislike of the colours.

The least important criteria for trusting a website

  1. Size of the organisation
  2. Videos to illustrate what you get
  3. Sense of Community

The research has identified the following complete list of criteria that make individuals trust one company website rather than another:

Ease of Use

  • Simple to understand – Simplicity is key
  • Clarity of approach
  • Easy to find information
  • Easy contact details


  • Being able to enter into a dialogue
  • Prominent contact details
  • Easy contact details


  • Features and information which demonstrate authenticity
  • Recommendations, testimonials, reviews, accreditations transparency on pricing


  •  The site is informative
  •  Easy to find information
  • Transparency of information
  • Accuracy – absolute attention to accuracy in copywriting – no typos or broken links – the older and more female the target demographic the more critical this becomes.

Being local

  • Location (being local)
  • A local presence
  • Presenting yourself locally/ as being local.
  • Number of branches

Being personal

  • Give a sense of who the people behind the site are and what you are about, being personable – convey the authenticity of the people behind the site.
  • Easy contact details

Other factors:

  • Professionalism
  • Time in business
  • Range of choice
  • A good reputation
  • An attention to detail
  • Customer focus

What this means for your business and website

Review your website to make sure it is:

  • Easy to use.
  • Has clear contact details and features.
  • Demonstrates your authenticity and reputation (recommendations, testimonials, reviews, accreditations and transparent pricing).
  • It is informative, with honest and transparent details about who you are, what you do, what you offer, your opening hours, how long you’ve been in business, your range of choice you are offering, and pricing.
  • Is accurate with no typos or broken links or incorrect information.
  • Shows where you are based, and emphasises your local presence.
  • Is personal – Give a sense of who you are and what you are about – blogs, contact details, photos, bios with your expertise, reasons for your professionalism, staff details, pictures of your vans or shop premises, factory floor, events and so on.

*The source for this is:

Website Research project for Yell by Dr Alan Rae – Ai Consultants, Dr Lisa Harris, Southampton University, June 2011

Summary of methodology:

(1) selection of sites to be compared from relevant industries (having a consumer rather than a b2b focus) one of which would be a small company and one which would be a larger one from the same sector.

(2) focus groups in London and Brighton plus one for Students in Southampton

(3) online questionnaire


8 thoughts on “<span>Why Visitors Trust Some Websites More Than Others</span>”

  1. Very interesting. Personally I agree with the findings and think the same when I’m browsing on the Internet. Nice post!

  2. ‘Shows where you are based, and emphasises your local presence.’ Sorry but for all the good, interesting points coming out of this study, this part is rubbish.
    The internet is a global marketplace and if a business is offering value for money products and other factors such as secure shopping and free shipping, then it is this that buyers want. The physical location of Amazon does not stop it being the world’s largest on line shopping portal! Clearly the ‘study’ was biased to demonstrate the importance of ‘local’ directories such as Yell…or Thomson.

    1. Hello Bob
      thank you for your feedback. The research study was commissioned by Yell because we are interested in websites because we design and create websites for our customers (Yellsites). We wanted to find out what made people choose one website over another so that we could reflect that in our own website designs, passing on the benefit to our website customers. We found though the research was so interesting that we wanted to share it with everyone, because even if you don’t have a Yellsite, there were some fantastic findings which would help any small business website. The research study was an independent piece of research by Southampton University – Dr Lisa Harris, and Alan Rae of Ai Consultants did the work. The aim of the research was to establish what makes individuals trust one company website rather than another and to demonstrate that small companies can be chosen in preference to larger companies in the online world. The research found that size is not a primary consideration when people evaluate one website over another, and size was not as important as a good reputation and an attention to detail and customer focus.The research found a local presence is seen as an advantage and size is trumped by having a local presence. For a site to be trusted it has to convey the idea that there’s a team of real people who have taken the trouble to make it easy for you to do business with them and who are there on the end of a phone to sort problems out once they have happened. So, for businesses who have a local presence, we conclude that they shouldn’t hide this. In the case of Amazon, customers trust its good reputation, attention to detail and customer focus – these are the factors that appeal and make people choose them – customers do not choose Amazon because they are a big global site and company. The point is that size doesn’t matter, but to some customers ‘local’ does. There appears to be a real trend for consumers to be looking for local suppliers, and businesses like Tesco Local for example are meeting this need – I’m sure we’ll see this trend continue online.

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