Simon Willison’s Weblog

Credibility and CSS

James Buckley links to a new report on How people evaluate a web site’s credibility. His comments:

Take a look and the first thing you’ll notice is that Design was king of the hill with 46.1%, I think its a common misconception with some hardcore usability people that if a site is usable it doesn’t matter how it looks, or it’s a significantly lower priority, I hope they keep results like this in mind.

What interested me about this concept is the angle it brings to the CSS layouts and Netscape 4 debate. A lot of CSS advocates (myself included) recomend “hiding” advanced stylesheets from Netscape 4, leaving it to render structural markup using its default styles or a ultra-basic stylesheet provided by the site. The site remains fully usable, all of the content is accessible, but you can garauntee that the site’s credibility in the eyes of a potential customer is going to take a serious knock. If you’re using leading edge, backwards compatible, structural and standards compliant markup with CSS while your competitors are using 3 year old table hacks and hundreds of font tags, Netscape 4 users will see theirs as a professional, credible site and yours as so much unimpressive looking text.

Of course, the golden rule for this kind of thing is to build for your audience. If your stats show a significant Netscape 4 population (which is thankfully getting less and less likely) you’re going to have to break out the tables.

Incidentally, James is currently working on a redesign. It’s looking really nice, but my one suggestion would be for him to include his surname somewhere on the site! It took me a good five minutes to track that piece of information down for this entry, and I only ended up finding it thanks’s to my own blog’s comment archives.

This is Credibility and CSS by Simon Willison, posted on 6th March 2003.

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