3 things you should NEVER put on your website

Stopping customer defection: 3 things you should NEVER put on your website


Sifting through the Webreep Data over the past 12 months, I was looking for evidence of “super no-dealers”, or elements when present on a website are certain to cause morbid dissatisfaction. After quite a bit of analysis (including structural equation modelling and means testing), I discovered what I consider to be the top three elements. We define morbid dissatisfaction as meaning a state of mind whereby a person will cease loyalty (defect to a competitor or alternate), and engage in no or negative word-of-mouth. This dataset includes 26,562 responses.

  1. 1. Human Stock Photos.Stock photos are those images that have been professionally staged. Human Stock Photos (HSP’s) are those that are staged and include models, such as a picture of a woman with a telephone headset on, or a man shaking hands with a client. Websites might use these images in various places on their website, including home page, contact us page, or even about us pages. You might have gotten away with it last decade (non-verifiable because I don’t have the data), but our data is showing that nowadays you might actually be causing damage using HSP’s. The problem is that internet users know right away that the photo is fake. The picture of the beautiful woman with a big smile talking into the phone is not your customer service representative, it is a model. You don’t hire models to work in your organisation; you hire regular people with specific skills. When internet users see HSP’s, it evokes what we call “sinister attributions”, whereby the person detects mild hoodwinkmanship. Placing a picture of a model on your website implies you want everyone who visits your website to believe that the person is one of your staff. The internet is too personal to use HSP’s, though in traditional type advertising it is probably still fair game. Trust scores for websites that used HSPs were on average 32% lower than their industry average.
  1. 2. Forced Advertisements.These are advertisements users cannot escape from watching, such as a lead-in to video footage with no “close” button, or an interstitial advertisement with no “skip” link.  Users have developed an internet browsing protection mechanism over time called “banner blindness” that protects them from discomfort when exposed to too much advertising. But by forcing people to view an advertisement, you penetrate their banner blindness shield, causing discomfort that leads to a state of morbid dissatisfaction. Always include a skip or close button when including advertising on your website. Satisfaction scores were on average 45% lower for website that included forced advertisements than their industry average.
  1. Text with Poor Contrast. In addition to our data, I’ve also noticed this one myself. Website owners continue to mix background and fonts colours that have poor contrast. Even just medium contrast is unacceptable I would argue. Easiest on the eye is white text (or very light grey text) on a black background. But unless you’re running a security or file swapping site, I’d stick with very dark grey (or black) text on a white background. Websites with poor text contrast had website content quality scores 47% lower than their industry average.

The order you read reviews affects your decision accuracy

I published in the Journal of Economic Psychology research showing how we might make more accurate decisions when purchasing online. Specifically, when we read positive reviews before negative reviews, our chances of making a regretful purchase are much higher than if we read negative reviews before positive reviews. Those people who read negative reviews first, before reading positive reviews, have far less likelihood of regret, and higher levels of satisfaction with the purchase down the road.

Let’s face it –we all read customer reviews online to help us make a decision on whether or not to buy. We assume customer reviews are impartial –obviously the vendor selling the product is not going to tell us their deficiencies –we have to learn what we might be in for from those who have already bought.

Our aim is to make an accurate decision about a purchase, because online what we see is what we get. But this method of evaluation is not perfect –we’ve all suffered regret after buying something online –even if we did our best to make an accurate decision by reading other people’s reviews. Many people assume it wasn’t their fault –there was no way they could have known without physically inspecting the product beforehand. There might be some truth to that, especially for ‘experience’ type goods (second hand cars, business suits), but there is another factor at play here that is impacting the accuracy of our purchase decisions online –our sub-consciousness.

When we are evaluating a potential purchase, our attitude shifts in real time dependent on the information we’re exposed to. For example, when reading negative reviews our attitudes move towards negative, and when we read positive reviews our attitude moves towards positive. However, we also know that our sub-consciousness plays a part in influencing our judgment. Some psychologists refer to this as having ‘dual attitudes’. Our subconscious attitude can influence our conscious attitude, without us being aware of it.

What my research has found is that a subconscious positive attitude can have a stronger effect on our conscious attitude, than can a subconscious negative attitude. For this reason, positive reviews tend to continue to influence our current judgments longer than negative reviews. And so, when we read positive reviews, our sub consciousness remains positive and continues to influence our judgments when we read negative reviews. The result is that when we read negative reviews they don’t appear to be as negative as they actually are. This in turn leads to a less accurate decision, and more chance of making a regretful purchase.

The solution to making a more accurate decision to purchase when shopping online: read negative reviews before you read positive reviews.