How to remain credible in an incredible web world

Aristotle once defined ethos as the credibility or good character of the speaker.

Web credibility is the good charecter we seek to achieve and the web is the speaker we use.  I believe Aristotles three artistic proofs of Ethos(credibility), Pathos(emotional) and Logos (logical) are as practical today as when he said this in 384 BC.

In the book “Writing Arguments” by John Ramage outlines Aristotles 3 artistic proofs. I have taken this and applied it to the Web.

Following this methodology we must present our information as an author who is respectable, formulate argument which is appealing to the emotions of the reader and by also by using logical reasoning to re-inforce your stance.(Ramage, 1998)

The internet is for the most part an unregulated place where people give their opinions freely, this is a dangerous place for a student to conduct research as generally it is without thought of any of these proofs.

Opinions, outlook, and information is presented which may be un-researched, unqualified, biased, or completely wrong. People also like to make money from the internet by selling or pushing products and advertising on their websites making them overtly biased. This week’s reading gave me insight into what contributes to website credibility and broke down some of the identifiable factors into things like design, content and reputation.

In the book “Shaping Web Usability” Badre says ” If quality is a design goal, the subjective perceptions of users will be one of quality.” (Badre, 2000).

As a student I would never quote or produce poor information which I understand is not of a high quality, or have to the best of my ability attempted to confirm is written by someone who is credible, unbiased and reputable. I wouldn’t do this as it affects my credibility as a student. It would also limit my knowledge and understanding of the subject and give me a non-credible base of knowledge to rely upon. Learning is a life-long journey and I would like to be an authoritative non biased, knowledgeable person on  my subject.

In presentation of this information, I’d try to at least have a read through a few books, journals and then maybe a few websites as generally my opinion of websites is not as good as printed, peer assessed information like books and journals. I will never use wikipedia, it’s not credible, it’s kind of a joke that anyone at any time can change the definition of anything.  Wiki means fast in Hawaiian and like most things which are fast in delivery they lack certain important qualities,  Wikipedia lacks Credibility.

Please feel free to explore Wikipedia’s current definition of Credibility.

“People tend to have different trust criteria in different spheres of their credibility judgment. Criteria used for assessing the credibility of an advertisement may not be the same as criteria used for evaluating other types of documents…When a user begins to judge the believability of a document, he/she is likely to make a decision based on certain indirect features (such as the reputation of the author and the author’s affiliation) as well as based on the document content. People tend to give greater credibility to a document that is written by a well-known author, or by an author affiliated with a prestigious institution.”(Liu, 2004)

As a student credibility of information should add academic weighting. If we are credible those who we engage can eventually see our works as  legitimate, researched, factual and may consider what we write to be of interest and maybe one day use-able.

Online newspapers are forever in a struggle with  getting the message out there quickly, with limited time for research and often being published online simultaneously.  It’s a struggle to get the news our whilst ensuring the information they are putting out is credible. It seems to me like a real challenge and I  believe the only way they must manage to achieve this on a daily basis is through several levels of editorial quality control.

The Web however has no editor. We saw in the readings that there are a few badges in recogintion of credibility which I think is a great idea. There isn’t many people dedicated to the task of internet credibility, however the stanford web credibility project are just such people.

The standford web credibility project is a team of people who are interested in the web and credibility. They are currently:

  • Performing quantitative research on Web credibility.
  • Collecting all public information on Web credibility.
  • Acting as a clearinghouse for this information.
  • Facilitating research and discussion about Web credibility.
  • Collaborating with academic and industry research groups.

The top 10 factors to a credible website are:

  • Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
  • Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
  • Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.
  • Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
  • Make it easy to contact you.
  • Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose).
  • Make your site easy to use — and useful.
  • Update your site’s content often (at least show it’s been reviewed recently).
  • Use restraint with any promotional content (e.g., ads, offers).
  • Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.

Fogg, B.J. (May 2002).

In summary credibility and aesthetics seem to go hand in hand, too much spurious information has a degrading effect, just as too much content in design makes the useability of the design degrade. Again I am finishing my blog saying less is more however it’s not as simple as that.  I am saying in this case ensure your information is credible and that it appeals emotionally to your reader, is logical in design and they way you deliver it. Plan for quality.



Badre, A. (2002). Shaping Web Usability interaction design in context. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Ramage, J. & Bean,J. & Johnson, J. (1998). Writing arguments: a rhetoric with readings. 3rd Edition. P81-82 .ISBN 0321163389


Fogg, B.J. (2002). Stanford guidelines for web credibility. A research summary from the Stanford persausive technology lab. Stanford University.
Ziming, L. (2004). Perceptions of credibility of scholarly information on the web. Information processing & management Volume 40 issue 6, Pages 1027

Wikipedia. (2012). Retreived May 20th, 2012, from

Standford Credibility project. (2007) Retreived May 20th, 2012, from


Wikipedia image. (2012). Retreived May 18th, 2012, from

Aristotle image. (2012). Retreived May 20th, 2012, from

Hulk image. (2012). Retreived May 15th, 2012, from

Newspaper image. (2012). Retreived May 18th, 2012 from


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