signalling-quality-with-your-website

What can washing machines teach you about web design? At least one thing: don’t waste an opportunity to signal quality to your customers.

On Door Hinges & Websites

I bought my washing machine after a simple demonstration; the salesperson opened the front-end loading door, stepped up, and jumped on the open hinges.

At first glance, this demonstration seems trivial: why would the machine’s door need to support the trampolining of an adult woman?

On closer inspection, this is brilliant. Staring at a line of washing machines, customers can judge their features but not their quality. The weakest links are internal to the machine, and customers have no sense of which manufacturer cuts costs by substituting plastic where steel would fare better. By making a preposterously sturdy door hinge, the manufacturer signals to customers that they care about the durability of their machine and are willing to spend the extra money to ensure it.

The Efficacy of Signalling

Signalling an attribute is usually much more effective than declaring you possess the attribute for one crucial reason.

Declarations are rightly subject to greater scrutiny than demonstrations. What is more believable? The statement “we pay attention to the details” or a firm that demonstrates this by having a great website without errors in design, spelling, or grammar?

Signalling quality with your websiteq

  • SSL encryption
  • Professional design
  • Consistent brand colours
  • Quality images
  • Credentials
  • Testimonials
  • Easy forms
  • No errors

Signalling quality with your website

  • SSL encryption
  • Professional design
  • Consistent brand colours
  • Quality images
  • Credentials
  • Testimonials
  • Easy forms
  • No errors

The website on the right is a sample for demonstration purpose only. The web address is not valid at the time we published this post.

What Attributes Can You Signal? And How?

What attributes do you want your customers to believe you have? Below is a list of attributes for professional service firms to consider signalling, along with their corresponding methods.

Attributes How to Signal
Attention to detail Spend the time/money on impeccable and detail-oriented website design. Things like sloppy mobile layouts, error messages, and 404 pages make firms look amateurish – let your competitors make those mistakes!
Writing ability Spend the time (or money if you’re hiring a copywriter) on excellent writing. Spelling and grammatical mistakes on a professional service firm’s website create doubts about work quality. Well written content has the opposite effect.
Legal expertise If you run a law firm, expertise can be signalled by an up-to-date blog about the latest changes in the law. Don’t forget also to keep content on regular pages up-to-date, and meet the latest requirements in privacy policy, cookie policies, etc.
International Reach The most obvious way to signal international reach is by listing addresses for your international offices. More subtle approaches include using international formatting for your phone number, complying with EU website requirements, offering multiple languages, and ensuring fast load times all around the world.
Stability Signalling that you’ll be around in ten years can be done by filling your staff page with both your experienced professionals as well as more junior employees. It takes more than that, though. Banks famously invest in expensive edifices in their branches to demonstrate their long-term plans. Investing in high-quality branding (a great website, snappy logo, sharp business cards, etc.) sends the same signal.
Long history History pages and black and white photographs usually do the trick to demonstrate a firm’s long history.
Competitive Competitive marketing, including a higher rank in Google, sends this signal convincingly. Another useful tactic is using competitive images in your messaging (think runners, competitive postures, etc.), content, and call-to-actions.
Price transparency People are wary of surprise fees. This is why we offer fixed pricing on websites. This helps, but if – unlike us – you don’t need to create each quote from scratch, then posting your prices on your website can give you a significant conversion advantage.

Next Steps

After determining what attributes you want to signal and some strategies for signalling, I recommend starting with those some are amenable to testing. Signals amenable to testing would be those that you expect to have a resulting difference in conversions or other measurable metrics like time on page.

Others, like attention to detail in design and content, are straightforwardly beneficial and require no testing.

If you want to explore ways to send the right signals with your website, fill in the form below!

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