Best Practice: Explain how your site makes money, or how and why it is funded if this is not apparent. This adds to the site’s credibility and overcomes fears that the site may be a scam of some sort.
Rationale: Not all sites are what they appear to be and people are becoming wary of new sites as an increasing number of online scam stories are covered in the media and passed around as an urban myth. People are taught (rightly) that “if it is too good to be true, it is”. This has implications for legitimate corporate websites and web-based applications (Web 2.0 take note).
Many new users, particularly those not familiar with your brand offline, will be very skeptical of your motivations until they get a sense that they can trust you. Design, ease of use, trustmarks, and real-world contact information all contribute to trust. But if people coming to your site cannot determine how you make money or why you built the site, they are likely to assign nefarious goals and may be reluctant to use the site. If it is not clear how your site makes money or how you benefit from making the site available, it is advised that you provide an explanation.
Tip: Providing an explanation doesn’t mean linking to an essay justifying your site’s existence. Just adding “a free service to support users of our products” for example can ease concerns.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on February 1, 2006.