Photos Make Websites More Credible

Published on March 28, 2007 (↻ February 5, 2024), filed under and (RSS feed for all categories).

This and many other posts are also available as a pretty, well-behaved ebook: On Web Development.

An important finding of Stanford University’s work regarding web credibility is that photos can make websites more credible. A study by B.J. Fogg et al., Web Credibility Research: A Method for Online Experiments and Early Study Results (PDF, 25 KB), showed how “a photograph of an author had significant effects on how people perceived [credibility]”:

Credibility measure No author photo (mean) Casual author photo (mean) Formal author photo (mean) Statistically significant? (between groups)
How believable is article? .70 .41 .92 p = .03
How trustworthy is article? .17 -.17 .41 p = .003
How competent is article? .35 .15 .67 p = .02
How credible is article? .34 .15 .47 NS
How unbiased is article? .76 .58 .63 NS
How expert is article? .27 -.09 .47 p = .009
Composite measure (combining all six items) .42 .17 .60 p = .02

Though this is just one out of a number of aspects of web credibility—the Stanford-Makovsky Web Credibility Study 2002 (PDF, 461 KB) is still a highly recommendable read—it is an important one, and eventually still surprising. As professional sites should consider all major credibility factors it’s interesting to note the potential of many sites. It’s no rocket science to create credible, trustworthy offers of information (no, MySpace), and we shouldn’t get tired to work on that aim.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. On March 29, 2007, 22:39 CEST, Steffen said:

    As this article doesn’t provide a picture of the author, I can hardly believe these facts, Jens. Are there any implications by showing your Werder Bremen pride, too?

  2. On March 30, 2007, 14:29 CEST, Graham Higgins said:

    Jens, despite the fact that you’ve used a direct quote from the Fogg et al. paper, it’s going beyond the evidence to claim that “a photograph of an author had significant effects on how people perceived the credibility […]” because that particular difference is reported to be statistically insignificant, i.e. a direct contradiction of the statement.

    Choose “believable” instead and you are on statistically safer ground, pace your disciplinary preference for p value thresholds.

    There may be a slight methodological difficulty concerning the degree of separation between the semantics of “believable” vs “credible”.

    It seems to be a trap into which the authors themselves fell and perhaps should have prompted them to check whether subjects might have experienced a similar confusion, possibly resulting in artefacts in the form of lower scores for “credible” and higher scores for “believable”.

    The longer paper probably provides full details of the self-report technique question design, although at the moment, I don’t have the inclination to check.

    Still, it does seem worth sorting out a formal photo for one’s audience. Perhaps it’s a subtle issue of “manners” in what is a relatively impoverished information stream compared to the face-to-face interactions which usually inform our perceptions of others.

  3. On May 18, 2007, 1:05 CEST, alex said:

    I think the problem arrising with photos is that users/readers who don’t come from a “computer” background, need visual enhancements to absorb information : when I’m in the tube in london, with all those newspapers arround, I open one, look at photos 80% of my reading time.
    I think the deep issue is the opposite : We do not look at photos when we know a site is credible -> we go straight for the text and content. Now if we do not know about the credibility of a site, we are going to look for credible information (not cut and paste info), then we are going to check photos …

    Well not sure if what i say makes sense.