Design More Important Then Content Online
A study conducted by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab along with Consumer WebWatch, found that "look and feel" is more important then 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, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.
People in this study used advertising on a site as a criterion for judging the site's credibility. In 13.8% of the comments, people talked about advertising, usually negatively. But at times, study participants talked about the judicious use of advertising in a positive way. Pop-up ads were widely disliked and seemed always to reduce perceptions of site credibility.
The study surmises:
Not surprisingly, advertisements are especially harmful to a site's credibility if they lead a user to believe that the site's content is swayed or controlled by the advertisement or that the site is connected to the advertisement, and is itself trying to sell the user something. The latter is a case of not providing a clear line between advertising and the site itself, which has been shown to harm credibility in previous studies (Fogg et al., 2001; Fogg et al., 2002; Princeton, 2002), and is intimately related to a site's connection with its sponsors. The comments make clear that some users are fully aware of potential sponsor influence. They expect a clear line between the content and advertisements so that sponsors do not compromise the site's information.
Something to be aware of as we explore online advertising methodologies that blur the line between advertising and editorial.