The value of good web design

Even scammers know that websites need to ‘look convincing’. Is your website lacking credibility by dint of bad design? PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

It’s 15 years since the “on the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog” cartoon appeared in The New Yorker (see below right).

Back in 1993, the net was an exotic beast and, with the world wide web unavailable to the general community, there weren’t too many dogs masquerading as something else.

On the internet no-one knows you're a dog

Today though there’s lot of imposters, and it’s harder to spot those dogs. The thousands of people defrauded by a website offering Olympic tickets have found this out the hard way.

One of the common complaints from the victims is the website looked so convincing; which proves the more professional your website looks, the more credibility your business has with web surfers.

This is despite the fact a quick web search would have picked up some less than complimentary articles on the ticket agencies concerned.

While I’m not going buy into the debate about sacking your web designer, the fact this site managed to fool so many people shows the importance of good design and how freely available good web templates are.

If your business has any internet presence, you should be looking at how good your web page looks compared to your competitors. That’s the good news for business owners.

The bad news is the broader issue for all of us who shop online. Once again we see why all internet users need to take care when buying over the net.

It never ceases to amaze me how people who would pester dozens of shop assistants when shopping around for even the cheapest item will jump at the first “bargain” they see online.

You need to do your due diligence before buying over the web. At the very least, do a search and see what others are saying about the vendor.

Had the victims of Beijing Ticketing gone down the first page on Google they’d have found an article in the Guardian newspaper last March discussing this very website and forum warnings from February.

As well as searching the internet there’s a few other ways of protecting yourself. Making your purchases on credit cards gives you a good degree of protection, although you should note that debit cards are not covered.

Alternate payment methods like PayPal depend on the circumstances, and personally I don’t think the paperwork and uncertainty of disputing transactions makes its consumer protection that effective.

Under no circumstances use money orders or direct deposits to buy from unfamiliar websites and any merchants who insist on these forms of payments should be avoided.

Also keep in mind a few truisms; such as “buyer beware” and “if something is too good to be true” it probably isn’t true.

The internet and e-commerce offer great opportunities for businesses of all sizes; it allows the little guy to compete on the same footing as the biggest corporations.

Unfortunately it also gives the crooks the same opportunities.

As a consumer, you need to do your due diligence to filter out the crooks. As a business operator, a well designed website, ethics and good customer service are the way to stand out from the pack.


Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator with his regular computer advice spots on ABC Radio. He’s written five computer books and just finished the latest Australian adaptation of Internet for Dummies. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.

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