- Inspired by Moz.com post from Cam Secore called A Comprehensive Guide to Building Trust Online
- Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
- The Non-Designer’s Design Book
[00:00] Mike: In this episode of “Startups for the Rest of Us,” Rob and I are going to be talking about trust signals for your website. This is “Startups for the Rest of Us,” episode 205.
[00:14] Mike: Welcome to “Startups for the Rest of Us.” It’s the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product, or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
[00:22] Rob: And I’m Rob.
[00:23] Mike: And we’re here to share experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Rob?
[00:27] Rob: We have some new iTunes reviews, a couple of five stars, and then we have a comment from a Trevor 1 in the U.S. He says, “Top-shelf knowledge on b-to-b apps. Rob and Mike are very knowledgeable in SaaS in the b-to-b app world. I learn something new from them every episode. Really like the acquisition stuff lately. Great job, fellas – and keep it up.”
[00:43] So, if you haven’t left us a five-star review in iTunes, you don’t even have to leave a comment, you can just click in there and click on the five star. We’d really appreciate it.
[00:52] Mike: I’ve finished the rest of the designs for the upcoming version of AuditShark, and I think that it’s going to resolve most of the issues that people have been complaining about. So, there’re some performance issues with the product if you have a lot of machines that you’re going after or trying to gather information from. I don’t have a good handle on exactly what the underlying issue is. I have some theories about it, but I’m hoping that some of the changes that we’re making are going to solve those performance problems and then add the additional functionality, like the reporting, a better scheduler and things like that that people have been asking for.
[01:21] Rob: And you said the designs for the upcoming version. This is the desktop version. Is that correct?
[01:26] Mike: Yes.
[01:27] Rob: Okay. And so what are the design? Is it like code? It’s, like, mock-ups?
[01:30] Mike: It’s like a functional spec, more or less.
[01:32] Rob: Got it. Okay.
[01:33] Mike: So, say this is the subsystem that needs to be implemented. This is how it’s got to be done. These are the things that you should do, and these are the things to be careful of, and this is how it’s going to interoperate with the rest of the application.
[01:42] Rob: Got it. And these were requested by early-access customers or folks who’ve used the product?
[01:47] Mike: Yeah, people who were using the products and saying, “Hey, how do I do this?” or, “How do I do that?” And it’s like, “Oh, well, that’s coming,” because I’m getting to the point where there’re certain things that are going into the next release that I know are going in there, because we had a release two or three weeks ago, and we’ve got another one slated for the end of September/early October. And there’s stuff that I know is a problem; but, it’s like, okay, I can’t push them off anymore. We’ve got to do this.
[02:11] Rob: You know, I remember several years ago Joel Spolsky had a post, and he said that when customers request features, that they wouldn’t write them down internally because they found that the features that people really wanted were requested so much, that you just remembered them. And I’ve always been kind of fascinated with that. I wouldn’t say I’d take that approach directly. We actually do track everything everybody requests, but then certain ones, it just becomes painfully obvious that the product is not going to serve people’s needs without, you know, this fundamental feature. And so when you hear it over and over and over, that’s when – we have some features that I haven’t wanted to build; and we’ve, you know, finally capitulated when we get a lot of folks who are really into using that.
[02:52] Mike: Yeah, and I think that’s the interesting thing, because you have this vision of what your product is supposed to be, and then there’s reality, what the customers actually want. You have to kind of balance between those two things.
[03:00] Rob: That’s what it is. It’s balance. And, you know, for every feature that we implement, we probably get ten feature requests; and we don’t build a lot of them, because people will see your product in relation to other things, maybe, that they’ve used in the past. But you may not want to build that. You may not want to add a shopping cart to your auditing software. You know? Or, want to add landing page functionality to your email marketing app, which people have requested; and you just have to decide what are we really building. But then hold that loosely enough that you are willing to respond. If you get people who are paying you money, and if you know enough about them, and you know enough about their experience to know that their needs will probably be shared along a large group of people – that’s the root thing you’re looking for. Right? You’re trying to figure out which of these needs are really for this one person – because a lot of feature requests you get, people are just asking for something that no one else will ever use, and that’s where that judgment call comes in really handy to be able to differentiate, “All right. Will a lot of people need this? Or, is this really just a unique snowflake scenario?” I call them “snowflake features” – right? It’s ones that no one else is going to use, and you’re basically going to spend a lot of time – and complicate your UI. It’s not even development time anymore, but it’s like I don’t want to bloat this app with these random features that are not going to be used by at least 20 percent of the users of my app.
[04:16] Mike: The other thing you have to keep in mind is that you have to implement certain things that seem on the surface to be things that would not be used very often, and those are the types of things that are barriers to entry. So, if it’s painful for somebody to get up and running with your application, and that’s why they’re not using it, and that’s why they’re not paying for it, then those are the things that you have to implement, even though they’re only going to probably ever use it once. So, those are the types of things that we’ve been looking at as well. So, part of the application – we implemented like a ping sweep functionality initially just so you could say, “Okay. Let’s scan the network [and] see what’s out there.” And the next level was essentially going directly against active directory and showing them what’s there so that they can drag that into their collections and say, “Okay. Now I’m going to go after all of these machines that active director knows about.” There’s two, different sides of it. There’s what you know about, which is in active director; and then what you don’t know, which is available through ping sweeps and S and P and things like that. It’s taken time to get to that point, but that’s a barrier to entry for some people, because they’re like, “I need to audit everything in active directory. How do I do that?”
[05:16] Rob: Right.
[05:17] Mike: And they haven’t been able to until now.
[05:17] Rob: Right. I think it’s about finding that minimum path to awesome. It’s basically about how we heavily, heavily scripted the onboarding process and how someone getting set up with DRIP is heavily orchestrated; and we spent a lot of time on it. We spent a week or two on it the first time around, and then we redid it when we moved into automation; but it gets our onboarding percentages really high. And it sounds like you’re in the process of that, too. And that’s what you’ve got to figure out – is what’s that first moment where a customer says, “Wow. This is awesome”? They get payback for it. And how can you get them there as quickly as possible?
[05:52] Mike: So, today we’re going to be talking about trust signals for your website. And the idea behind this is that people don’t buy things from websites they don’t trust, and they don’t give information to websites that they don’t trust. When you’re browsing around on the Internet, the “BACK” button is very easy to use, and so many people use it, that even Google measures when somebody clicks on a site and then uses the “BACK” button to go click on another site. And they use that. In analytics, it shows up as your bounce rate, but they look at that and say, “Okay. Well, how useful is this page?” And it’s not necessarily about just how useful it is, but how sketchy the page looks as well.
[06:24] So, this was inspired by a moz.com post from Cam Secore and the idea behind this is you have to establish trust on your website, and there’s a lot of different ways that you can go about it. So, the first question is really, “What does trust mean?” And trust is essentially a state of being where someone exposes some form of vulnerability, or accepts some risk based on their positive expectation of the attentions or behavior of another person. So, if somebody comes to your website, and they trust that you’re not going to spam them, then they might be willing to give you their email address. So, behind this, trust is really grounded in the evaluation of two, different things. The first one is ability, and the second one is your integrity. So, ability is your demonstrated skill, or competence, or knowledge around a particular topic. The second piece is integrity. Do you adhere to your principles, and are those principles known?
[07:15] And a trust violation occurs when either of these things proves to be false. So, if you’re going out, and you are billing yourself as some great conversion expert, and you go in, and you do some work for somebody, or you offer them free advice, and it turns out that they can pretty clearly see that you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, then that’s considered a trust violation. Another thing is if you are gathering email addresses on your website, and suddenly they start getting spam. Then their trust has been violated, so they’re not going to trust you as much in the future. So, you really want to be careful about those types of things. But we’re going to be looking today about some of the different, major trust signals for websites and how you can go about addressing them.
[07:56] Rob: Yeah. And I think trust probably falls into two categories, even. There’s instant trust. It’s like I come to a brand new website that I don’t know, and it’s basically a cold look at this website. What are the factors that are going to help me trust or not trust it? And then there’s that long-term trust – right? Once you get to know a company, or a person, or a service, trust builds over time. And then there are thing, like you said, where if they get hacked, or if suddenly they send you spam or whatever, then you get a ding. You get a withdrawal from that trust bank. And, typically, you can withstand a couple of those before people start bailing on you. So, I think there’s really two things. I think we’re going to be talking about that initial impression and building trust quickly when someone comes to your website.
[08:41] Mike: Now, before we get into these things, there are some things that you should keep in mind, which are essentially heuristics about how we recognize and establish or associate trust with people. And there’s a few different mental shortcuts that people take in order to figure out whether or not you’re trustworthy. So, the first one is an authority. If an expert believes in something, then it’s probably what you should believe as well. So, if there’s a Ph.D. from MIT who comes out – he’s a physics expert – and he tells you something that’s related to how the starts are aligned in the galaxy, chances are really good you’re probably going to believe him; because he comes from MIT. He’s got a Ph.D. in physics. He’s an authority on the topic. And if he tells something to someone else, and they tell it to you, the source of the information is that authority, so it becomes more trustworthy just because of that.
[09:27] And the second thing is social proof. If other people like me are doing something, then I should probably do it, too. So, anything on Twitter, Facebook. But at the same time, having some of that social proof behind it is one of the ways that we essentially shortcut some of these things.
[09:43] Rob: Right, and a big way to do that, typically, on a website is to have testimonials, or to have logos of big-name customers that someone might recognize.
[09:51] Mike: Right. And another heuristic that people will use is familiarity with something. So, if you’ve done something before, then chances are that you’re familiar with how to do it, and you’re going to go through the same process again. And people tends to gravitate towards things they are familiar with. So, if somebody comes out and says, “Oh, well, this is the way you should do X, Y and Z,” and you’ve done that before, you are going to inherently trust other things that they tell you because they have proven that they think in the same way that you do; so, [they are] thereby more trustworthy.
[10:21] And then some other ones: things like length. If you write a report, or a white paper, or something like that, if it’s longer, then it has a higher impact on it; because it took a lot more effort to create that. Things that are much shorter tend to have a lot less credibility or a lot less trust associated with them when there’s no external, influencing factors.
[10:41] And then the last one is more of an opposite effect. If other people are publicly bashing something or saying, “Hey, this is a very bad idea,” you essentially get that opposite effect. And, again, that’s just a mental shortcut that a lot of people can take.
[10:54] So, now let’s get into the different trust signals. The first one that I want to talk about is a visual design. So, when you’re looking at a website, the design itself tends to strongly influence what you feel about that website and how trustworthy it is. If it’s a very well-designed website – you know, it uses good color schemes, has a visually appealing layout to it – that’s the type of website that you’re going to gravitate toward and say that it’s more trustworthy. And there’s different security studies out there that have shown that people will inherently trust a website more if it looks nice versus things that, for lack of a better example, look like Craigslist. Wikipedia is another prime example that is more of an exception than anything else, because their designs are not that great. It’s very text-heavy. It doesn’t have a lot of design around it, but you know what you’re getting when you go there, and you expect that because it’s been there for so long. But if you go to, like, a corporate website for, let’s say, Exxon Mobil, and if it looked like something like Wikipedia, you probably wouldn’t trust it nearly as much – except for the fact that it says “Exxon Mobil” on it.
[11:56] Rob: You can overcome the lack of trust that you get if you have a crappy design or kind of just a template design. You can overcome it with the other things we’re going to talk about today, like the social proof and having good content and good architecture and all that stuff. But if you’re at the point where you can get a good theme, or you can hire a designer, you’ll notice that people will trust you more when you come out with something that looks really sharp. I notice this from the old HitTail design. That was in 2011. And then when I relaunched it in 2012 with a new design from Ryan Scherf, that you’ll see today at hittail.com, it is noticeably more trustworthy. It has a higher conversion rate and instantly had a lower bounce rate, because it went from looking like something that was built in the late ’90s, early 2000s to something that was built in this decade. And it’s some anecdotal evidence with a little bit of data, but over and over, I see this happening. And I see it in myself, too. If I landed a blog and it looks really nice, and it’s obviously professional, I instantly will at least give the content a shot. Right? I’ll at least give it a shot. I’ll at least consider subscribing to the email. But if it looks like crap, it’s going to take a lot for me not to just click the “BACK” button.
[13:07] Mike: If it was recommended to you by somebody, or if the reason you ended up there was because you were hearing a podcast talk about it, or if you had received a white paper or something like that that had recommended that site to you, you’d think differently of it than if you randomly landed on it because you clicked on a headline.
[13:23] Rob: Yeah, that’s right. If someone recommended it to you, it’s a piece of social proof. Right? I’m definitely going to give something more benefit of the doubt if someone had told me about it. Or, let’s say I was reading your blog, and you linked over to it and said, “Hey, this is something you should check out.” So, maybe you didn’t tell me directly, but it was just a blog post from someone I trusted, or a tweet, or something like that. You’re instinctively going to work through it a little more, but if you get the combination – you know, the way to really blow it out of the water is to get the social proof and the recommendation and have a good design and have good content – right? Then that’s when you’re going to really maximize the number of people that stick around and start to become engaged with what you’re doing.
[14:03] Mike: So, in addition to the visual design itself, there’s a lot of different aspects of visual design. So, things like making sure that there’s not a lot of white space, or clutter in the design. You have to be consistent among different sections of the website, so between your navigation – like, you don’t want your navigation to change from one page to the next. It just looks terrible; and it doesn’t put a lot of credibility on you to be able to build, for example, a web app or a piece of software, if you can’t even do the basic things required to make your website look consistent from one page to the next.
[14:33] Rob: Yeah. These are kind of fundamental aspects of design and a web design. There’s a couple of books. If you haven’t read these, [they’re] definitely worth it. They’re not too long. One is called “Don’t Make Me Think,” by Steve Krug, and that’s a little bit more about app design, but there’s also some good stuff in there about just architect and websites. The other one is called “The Non-Designer’s Design Book.” While it talks a lot about print, layout and fonts and that kind of stuff, it applies both to web and print design. I found it super helpful, because I never had a design education. When I see something, I can say, “Wow. That looks really good,” or, “That looks crappy”; but I often don’t know why, and I often don’t know how to make it look better. And both of those skills are things that are worth learning, and that’s where a book like “The Non-Designer’s Design Book” can come into play.
[15:16] Mike: [A] couple other things that kind of fall under the idea of visual design are things like ads and stock images. So, if you have a corporate website, and you’re serving up ads on it, ads, I think, are generally expected on news websites; but not on a corporate website. I wouldn’t expect to go to Exxon Mobil’s website, or to the NASDAQ website and see advertisements all over the place. And then in terms of stock images, you really want to be careful about using stock images in place of people who you might actually have pictures of. One of the examples that’s given is the idea of plumbers. And if you have a stock image of, like, a cartoon plumber versus an actual picture of people who are on the team of a plumbing company, the plumbing company that’s using a real photograph of the employees is going to do better than the one that’s using stock photography.
[16:05] Rob: Yeah, absolutely. There’s an example in this article – and they’re right next to each other and you totally get more confidence in the folks when you actually – it says, “The Team,” and it shows everybody there. And it’s like, “Oh, these are real people” – right? It just gives you confidence that they’re not kind of hiding behind this stock cartoon image. This is one of the reasons I think that “About” pages are hit a lot more. If you go look at your Google Analytics and see how many times your “About” page gets hit – and this is one of the reasons that I include head shots of everybody, and on the Drip “About” page, specifically. It’s just one more way to build confidence that there’re real people behind your app.
[16:40] Mike: It’s funny you mentioned that, because I was surprised at that as well – that the “About” pages tend to get a fair amount of traffic, more than I would’ve reasonably expected them to get.
[16:49] So, beyond the visual design, what other sorts of things can affect how people view the website and whether or not they’re going to trust it? Well, the next one is website architecture. So, how easy is it to use the website? How easy is it to get around? How quickly can you find the information that you’re looking for or that you need? And this isn’t necessarily about doing great SEO. It’s about organizing it in a way that, from any page, it only takes a couple of clicks to get to any other page. You know, you go to these massive websites like IBM, and it is impossible to find anything that you’re looking for. And most people try to avoid going to those websites if they can, because they just can’t find anything. And then when you do find the page that you’re looking for, it generally doesn’t tell you what you actually want to know anyway. You have to call somebody and talk to them on the phone. So, from an ease-of-use perspective, those websites just completely fall flat on their face. The only reason that they have trust is because they’re such large companies, and people tend to work with their sales reps. That’s why people go to their websites, is to try to find more information. And then when they can’t find it – maybe that’s a sales strategy that they have. You know, they make their websites intentionally terrible so you have to call them.
[17:55] Rob: I think it’s so easy to make bad websites. It’s so easy to let things get complicated, because if you take an app, for example, if you take every user’s feature request and you build it, your app will suck. You have to be that gatekeeper, and you have to only build certain things that fit your vision. And the same thing happens with a marketing website. You’ll find people saying, “Hey, I couldn’t find your FAQ,” even though you have a link in the footer, and so you move it up into the top navigation. And then someone says, “Oh, well, you know, the about page gets a lot of visits. Let’s move that up into the top navigation.” And then on and on and on, and pretty soon, you have 50 links in your top navigation. Just because someone made a case for it at some point, or some user complained they couldn’t find it, you’ve tried to remedy everything. And that just builds kind of a kluge.
[18:37] And so if you look at a lot of sites that are easiest to navigate, they edit like samurai warriors, basically. They really have a strong sense of what they are, and they’re opinionated about where things go. But, I have my own opinions about, on a SaaS marketing website, what I think should be in the top nav and what I think should be in the footer and what I think should be in a site map somewhere and doesn’t even belong in the footer – you know, that’s kind of buried even beyond that. And, yes, every once in a while, you’ll find someone who can’t find things, but for the most part, the other 99 percent of people who are using it are going to get more benefit out of your site if you choose the things that are important, you put them in the top nav; and then you move everything else down below the fold, into the footer and into other pages.
[19:19] I think the other thing you touched on is page load times, and it’s a big one – not just for SEO, but there’ve been tons of studies that find that people will bail on websites. Subconsciously, they will bail on websites that are taking more than a second for pages to load, because they just feel like it’s too much effort, and their subconscious just kind of takes them out of it really quickly. And so getting your page load times down is super important. It’s something that I don’t know that people spend enough time on. It’s something I always respected about Jeff Atwood with Stack Overflow when they were building it. They spent a ton of time optimizing it, and it really shows. When you use Stack Overflow, you never once think about how slow the pages are. And, in fact, I think that’s an interesting thing. If you’re using a website, you never think, “Wow. Look how fast this is loading.” You never think that. But you will think, “Wow. Look how slow this is loading.”
[20:07] Mike: Yeah, I read something that essentially had Google quantifying how much money they would lose if they were to increase the page loads by, like, half a second. They actually tested it. They could prove kind of beyond a shadow of a doubt they were losing money, and they could quantify exactly how much money they were losing based on how much they increased the load time for different pages. It was kind of crazy to see that kind of detail.
[20:29] If there’s broken links on your website, those are killer. If there’s internal pages where you’ve got crosslinks and stuff – and, sure, it’s easy to screw some of them up, but there’s tools out there you can use to essentially crawl your website and look for those broken links. Those are the ones that you[‘ve] got to find. And if you haven’t put together, like, a custom 404 page – I actually heard the other day that using your 404 page as essentially a landing page: “Oh, we’re sorry. We screwed up; but, hey, here’s a free giveaway” – that’s an option. I haven’t actually pursued that, but I thought it was an interesting idea to use a custom 404 page as something of a landing page as well. But I think, in most cases, you could also use a 404 page to log that information back someplace. On my websites, there’s a log-in mechanism that, if you ever try to go to a page that doesn’t exist, there’s a log-in mechanism that logs that stuff to a database and says, “This is the page that somebody was trying to go to. This is where it was referred to.” And that way, you can hopefully cut down on those. So, if there’s other people linking to material of yours that is – you’ve moved it, or it doesn’t exist anymore, you can redirect them under the covers so that the end user doesn’t have to see that experience of clicking on a link, and they end up at a 404 page.
[21:39] Rob: Yeah, that’s a big one. Everything that you just mentioned, I think, is something people should do. The reporting of the 404’s is important as well, because even if you crawl your site internally and you take out all the 404 links, and you fix everything, people can still be finding you through Google at old pages. And you want a notification when someone hits that page so that you’re able to either get a redirect or get the page back there, because you don’t want to lose that Google traffic that you’ve worked so hard to get.
[22:04] Mike: And just because you go onto Google and you search for a specific page and you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean that one of Google’s other data centers doesn’t have a link to that page. So, that’s the one thing that you kind of have to keep in mind, because different Google data centers have different data about your site. And it’s kind of screwy that you have to even deal with it, but having a mechanism in place that can log any sort of 404 pages is really critical when you’re trying to eliminate those types of errors.
[22:29] I think one of the other things that, whenever I got to a website that just kills me is if you go there and there’s popups that try to get you to give them information right away; or, if you try to scroll up and down, and they just throw something up in your face and say, “Hey, would you like to subscribe to this?” And it’s like, “Yeah, I was already leaving because I wasn’t interested in what you have. You’re not going to get me with an email popup at this point.” And then there’s those websites where you go to them, and they just automatically start playing music or videos in the background. Sometimes, it’s even hard to find where to turn them off because there’s so much stuff all over on the page.
[23:05] Rob: I’ve never been a fan of either of those. The popovers over and over – people say they get more email sign-ups, but I’ve never been a fan, and I’ve never used one myself. But that’s one of the reasons we developed the DRIP Toaster widget that’s down in the lower right, and it’s just much less intrusive. I also am not a fan of the exit intent stuff, you know, when your mouse moves up to hit the back button, or to close the tab, or whatever, that it jumps out and tries to get you to subscribe. I’ve never once – I’m not saying they don’t work, because I know they do. But I’ve never once entered my email after that. It’s almost a principle thing at that point.
[23:41] Mike: So, let’s move on to the next section and discuss the written content itself. One thing I see: using ambiguous messaging in terms of trying to get your customers to work their way through your website. If you’re not direct about what it is that you’re trying to get them to do, or why they should stick around, people are going to leave. They’re not going to stick around and try to figure out what it is that you’re trying to say. And that’s one of those big things where you come to a website, and there’s this wall of text – neglecting blog posts, because I think those are in a different category. But if you’re going to a product website and you look at the website and you’re really not sure what it’s even for, that messaging really needs to be tightened up. You can figure that out. You can figure out whether your website is having issues there if you show it to some random person that you meet at a conference and say, “Hey, can you take a look at my website?” Don’t even explain to them what you do. Just have them look at your website and see if they can figure it out. And if they can’t figure it out from the home page, then chances are you’ve got to rework that home page a little bit.
[24:38] Rob: Yeah, you have to think about all your content as if new visitors – first-time visitors – are looking at it, because I see some sites that cater more towards their return visitors, and they do it on the home page. And, typically, you have an enormously higher ratio of new visitors hitting a lot of your pages than you do returning. And so one home page that I saw, the headline was “V3.4 Now Released.” And it’s funny, because if you just arrive at that as a brand new user, you have no idea what you’re talking about. “V3.4 of what? And what does it do? And why do I care?” and all that stuff. Now, V3.4 release could be a subject line sent in an email out to your existing customers, because then they’ll have some idea of your app and what it does. They have some indication. But doing that on your home page is a big mistake, and I think it’s not only ambiguous, but you’re leaving a lot of potential on the floor when you’re doing that.
[25:29] The other thing that you should think about is you should have a lot of you’s and your’s in your web page – right? So, you don’t want to say, “We are this,” “We are that,” “Our app does this.” You want to show the person who’s there that you understand them. And so if you go to getdrip.com and you look at the first five paragraphs, almost all of it talks about “you,” “you” and “you.” And you’ll see it, and it’s me being in the head of people who potentially want to use DRIP, and it’s me understanding them and showing that I understand them. You know, it’s an age-old copywriting technique, and then they’re just more likely to follow your logic and listen to you as you continue to talk. But if you start off with “we,” “we,” “we” and “I” and “me” and “my product and this and that, it’s not that it never works; but it works much less often.
[26:17] Mike: And that kind of leads into the language and the claims that you’re making about the product as well and about the problem space itself. And if you say, “You can save a lot of money,” or, “This is trusted by thousands of customers,” it doesn’t necessarily break trust; but if you make very specific claims, those things are a lot more compelling than when you’re more generic about what it is that you’re claiming.
[26:38] Rob: I agree. if it said, “Our average customer saved $3,420 last month,” or, “Our average customer saved 8.2 hours of time for every dollar they spent,” or something like that, it really has a lot more impact than just throwing out platitudes and clichés that a lot of people – “We are the best email marketing software on the market.” It’s just a such a big difference.
[27:03] Mike: Yeah. And along those lines, the specifics of it are really what get people. So, if you say “under ten hours” versus “8.2 hours,” 8.2 is almost certainly not made up. I mean nobody’s going to say “8.2.” But if you say “under 10,” it’s not to say that it’s a deal breaker; but if you just say “under 10,” it seems, “Well, okay. Somebody just kind of estimated.” But 8.2 seems like a real number that somebody had to measure. I think you also have to be careful about typos and grammatical errors and things like that, because if you have grammatical errors or spelling errors, any sort of careless typo – especially when you are tasked with building software that addresses critical data or sensitive data – then if you’re not careful about the copy that’s on your website, it kind of invokes a little bit less trust in your products; because if you can’t keep spelling errors out of your website, how are you going to keep bugs out of the product? How are you going to keep that data secure? How can they trust you to do a good job with the software itself if you can’t even write good copy for your website?
[28:04] Rob: Yeah, and it sounds petty, but I do think it’s a subconscious thing. I think that if I see typos, instantly there’s a little ding. It’s not that I’m going to bail on it, but there’s a little ding to their credibility. And the more that I see, the more of an issue it becomes. And I’ve, frankly, had a couple typos pointed out. There’s one in the FAQ of DRIP, and I fixed them right away. Now, if there are typos on my blog, and it’s more of personal brand stuff, I don’t mind that as much. It’s me writing on my blog. It’s a little more casual. But in corporate stuff, where you’re trying to sell software, trying to sell an app, I do think that it’s worth the effort to make sure that your grammar and your spelling are really in line.
[28:45] Mike: I think the last two categories are essentially independent verification and then self-verification. So, in terms of self-verification, talking about the type of audience that you serve, or the experience that you have, any sort of guarantees or commitments that you have to people. Those are the types of things that are essentially the self- or first-party verification type. You know, you can tell people about what it is that you do, how many people you’ve helped – those types of things. And then in terms of third-part verification, you can think of things like reviews, testimonials, comparisons between you and other competitors, where you’ve been seen, any sort of affiliations you have.
[29:22] Security seals. For example, one of the things that a lot of people will do is they’ll put Visa, or Master Card, or American Express logos on their websites and say, “Hey, we accept these credit cards.” But in addition to just letting people know that you are accepting those credit cards, you’re also essentially borrowing trust from those symbols; because Visa and Master Card and Discover have presumably given you permission to accept their cards, so clearly you must’ve gone through some sort of approval process to be able to do it. And that’s a way that you can essentially borrow trust from those organizations to help boost your own.
[29:54] So, when you’re looking at a website and trying to figure out whether or not it’s going to be trustworthy, especially when you’re trying to evaluate your own website, you need to look at it through the eyes of the customer. And the first thing that you look at is the core tenets of trust. The first one is, are you credible? Is there any sort of social proof? Can you prove that the information that is out there is up-to-date? So, for example, if your copyright at the bottom says “2010,” and it’s 2014, that’s probably going to be a problem to people, because they’re just going to say, “Well, this information is old and outdated.” Are you transparent? Are you showing contact information for your company, ways to get in touch with you, any sort of disclosures or privacy policies? Are you telling them flat out, “Hey, we will not spam you. We do not share your email address” – those types of things? Are you talking to the customer and letting them know how they should expect to be treated?
[30:42] And then the third thing is, is your site easy to use? Does it load fast? Is it easy to navigate? Does the user have a clear set of expectations on any given page where they should go next?
[30:54] So, those are the things that you need to keep in mind when you’re looking at a website and trying to evaluate whether or not it’s trustworthy. And those are the types of things that we’re trying to really harp on for this particular episode so that people look at their websites with a little bit more of a critical eye.
[31:09] Rob: And, realistically, you only have a couple of seconds before people make that snap judgment, and I think visual design is a big part of that. And then I think that the tone of your written content, which we touched on a little bit – that’s one of the other, biggest stumbling blocks I see; because it’s so easy to write generic, crap, marketing speak that you kind of feel like you should write, and that’s very safe to write.
[31:31] And, typically, if it feels very safe to write, it’s junk. And trying to break out of that mindset and write something that’s really risky, that feels risky, tends to be what’s successful. And I would challenge you, if you’re going to sit down to try to write copy for your website, that you don’t start thinking about what your product is and what it does; but that you start by thinking about who your prospect is and who the person is that’s going to buy your software. Try to get into their mindset and then talk directly to them.
[31:56] I would also say go look at some websites that you feel like have done an exceptional job of communicating their value proposition. So, look at copyhackers.com, and you can go and read the tips in the blog and everything; but look at the home page. Do you feel like a person wrote that and you get a pretty quick feel for who that person is and what her voice is? And the answer is probably you do. You know, there’s personality there. And there’s a number of other examples, but go to, you know, a Patio11. Go to his home page of his blog. It’s not a blog post, but right away you feel like there’s a person there writing behind it. You can use that same tactic to write a marketing website – and I’ve done this with my own apps as well – to where it doesn’t feel like someone recycling the same, old, marketing jargon and platitudes and clichés; because none of that works. And you may as well not be doing it. Trying to find our own voice and writing like you speak and trying to identify with people as another person, instead of as a corporation, I think, is a really big step towards making this all work.
[32:57] If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888.801.9690, or email us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control.” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for “Startups,” and visit Startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.