This week’s article examined credibility, specifically in relation to websites and how users may perceive them. A combination of trustworthiness and expertise should be utilised in order to convince a user of a website’s credibility, factors such as links to other credible sites and easily verified information will enhance credibility while pop-up ads and typographical errors often have a negative impact on a user’s trust of a website. Trust of a website must also be built on both a personable and professional level. The vast majority of websites aim, whether directly or indirectly, to convince a user to change opinion, attitude or behaviour and a website which is viewed as less credible will have greater difficulty gaining enough user trust to convince a reader of anything. The article also explores the four types of web credibility: presumed, reputed, surface and earned. As both the amount of information available on the internet and number of people regularly using the internet for information and research grows an increasing number of people are viewing the internet as a reliable source, in some cases more reliable than print media. Even those who do not view the internet as a reliable source often still use it frequently for information (Shah, Ravana , Hamid, & Ismail, 2015). Ease of use may be considered a factor when judging the credibility of a website, as the simpler and less cluttered a website is to use and the more appealing it is aesthetically the more a user will instinctively be willing to trust it (Sears & Jacko, 2007). Likewise assurances of privacy protection will establish a relationship of trust (Folk & Apostel, 2016). Misinformation is an undeniable aspect of the internet and, due to excess of information and lack of most regulations, it will likely remain that way for some time (Flanagin & Metzger, 2000) as a result highlighting the credibility of a website remains a crucial part of visual design.
Wikipedia as an Unreliable Source
Wikipedia is considered an unreliable source by most in part because of its unlimited, unrestricted editing. Anyone with an account is able to add or change information on a Wikipedia article without any sort of guarantee that said information is accurate and, as a result of this, much of the information on Wikipedia cannot be guaranteed to be true. The information may be outdated, poorly researched or blatantly false depending on whom decided to edit it. In fact as a result of this Wikipedia itself warns readers to check information before using it in academic writing. There is also no record of who has edited the information, meaning that a reader cannot account so easily for the writer’s personal opinions and biases or assess any more of their work to judge long term credibility. What must also be considered is the potential for some users to purposefully edit articles to include misleading information due to the lack of consequences for doing so (Moran, 2011). Although Wikipedia can serve as a starting point for research, especially due to the listed citations that appear at the end of some of the longer articles which can lead to more reliable sources, as a result of these factors it cannot be considered a reliable or credible source to be used in academic research or writing.
Web Credibility in the Future
- It is likely that there will continue to be a steady increase of information on the internet in the future meaning in general perceptions of the internet will likely eventually shift to seeing it as a credible source.
- With the growing ease of finding a great range of information on the internet in a short span of time it is possible that in the future the average reader will not be content to settle for any one source and may instead look for the facts that are repeated the most across a range of sources.
- Speed of information and updates, while already an important component of trust with regards to websites, will likely become more and more vital as current news becomes easier to access online. Twitter which, while unreliable, provides many instantaneous and on-location updates is already putting pressure on professional news sites to update quickly and will likely continue to do so.
- Concise news is also likely to become a desirable factor as the internet provides access to an unprecedentedly large amount of both local and international news, more than the average person has the time to read. Quickly summarising the crucial facts will likely become increasingly important as the internet continues to grow.
Flanagin, A. J., & Metzger, M. J. (2000). Perceptions of Internet Information Credibility. Jornalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.
Folk, M., & Apostel, S. (2016). Establishing and Evaluating Digital Ethos and Online Credibility. IGI Global.
Moran, M. E. (2011, October 27). The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely On Wikipedia. Retrieved from Finding Dulcinea: http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/education/2010/march/The-Top-10-Reasons-Students-Cannot-Cite-or-Rely-on-Wikipedia.html
Sears, A., & Jacko, J. A. (2007). The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, Second Edition. CRC Press.
Shah, A. A., Ravana , S., Hamid, S., & Ismail, M. (2015). Web credibility assessment: affecting factors and assessment techniques. Information Research.