“It’s hard to know now who, if anyone, in the media has any credibility.” – Howard Fineman
Why is it important to evaluate the credibility of a website?
“Credibility can be defined as believability.” (Fogg, 2003) How believable a piece is, comes down to the trustworthiness of the source and the expertise. For instance you are more likely to believe a Doctor who tells you that you have a certain disease, then say a friend. This is because a Doctor has studied medicine and health, therefore he has the “expertise” to diagnose you. Doctor’s also usually take an oath to do no harm, making them “trustworthy”. Credibility requires a combination of trustworthiness and expertise. For instance Fogg describes that a mechanic has the “expertise” to tell you what is wrong with your car, but if he has a reputation for suggesting unnecessary repairs that makes him “untrustworthy” and his credibility is diminished.
So much is thrown on to the world-web making it sometimes impossible to derive fact from fiction. As students we need to make sure the information we are relaying in our assignments is credible, by evaluating the credibility of our sources. Some ways of determining if a website is credible is by looking at its creator, the date it was published, the sources, the domain, the site design and the writing style. (“How can I tell if a website is credible?” 2017) At the end of the day as a student, the information you use is to back up your work and if you’re sources aren’t credible its really all for nothing. (“Evaluating the Credibility of Your Sources,” 2017)
Why Wikipedia shouldn’t be used as a “credible” source
I’m not going to pretend I’m above Wikipedia I use it all the time, to search up movie plots (yes I’m one of those people that like to spoil endings for myself), to settle debates and even as a starting point for research. However despite all that I never use anything I learn from Wikipedia for assignments and here are the reasons why:
- Wikipedia says in their own site “we do not expect you to trust us.” And trustworthiness is needed for credibility. Furthermore it says that false content may be present.
- Credible contributors can be shut down. It is the editors of Wikipedia who decide what is “reliable” enough to be put on the site. Often they use “Wikipedia is not a reliable source” as a safety net to post whatever they want, including sensitive information because it is deemed that it won’t be believed.
- The amount of active Wikipedia editors has plateau. So there aren’t as many people constantly checking the content being put up.
- Wikipedia editors lack diversity. A 2009 survey revealed that 87% of the editors were male and in their mid-20s.
- People create defamatory content that goes uncorrected for months on end.
- You have no idea who wrote it. How do you know if they even have expertise in the matter let alone trustworthiness?
- You should never rely on just one source for the bulk of your information.
(“The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely on Wikipedia,” 2011)
Anticipated issues that may affect the users’ perceived credibility in the future
- Pop-ads: Websites filled with adds are a visual distraction, which makes me skeptical when I read information online
- Security: With the recent ransom-hacking happening world-wide and infiltrating organizations such as Britain’s Healthcare System, online security is becoming an increasing issue. These days it is so easy for someone with basic coding skills to hack your information so caution and constant security updates is key.
- Web designs: often it is so easy to look over design as being worthy of your time when developing a website. However, as explained in an earlier post about “Aesthetic-usability effect” sites that are more pleasing to the eye are deemed more credible and easy to use.
- In the world of instant messaging, so many companies having Facebook pages, questions and reviews posted online by customers need to be answered promptly to keep a company’s credibility.
- These days sites are becoming easier to use and create, meaning even kids can now easily create content. I myself had a cooking blog when I was 13, and I hadn’t even done one class in cooking yet. So user credibility is going to become an increasing issue.
Websites that use the 4 different types of credibility
PETA falls under the presumed-credibility category, as it is a non-for-profit site that is part of a worldwide corporation that helps the treatment of animals. Not only do they have the user function to donate money to the cause of saving animals but they also have lots of information regarding how animals are treated/used for food, clothing, experiments etc. They are an organization that not only educates but helps with regards to animal cruelty. The short cut way of identifying a “presumed-credibility” website is one that has “.org” in the url. (“4 Types of Web Credibility,” 2013)
Reputed credibility comes from the “endorsement or recommendation of a third party.” (“4 Types of Web Credibility,” 2013) Goodlife is a fast growing chain of gyms around Australia. Now while this company doesn’t have any awards displayed on their site, the gym was recommended to me by a few colleagues of mine, making it reputable.
Surface & Earned
Surface credibility is all about the design, if the design looks appealing to us then we deem it as credible or at least worth investing more time in. (“4 Types of Web Credibility,” 2013) The Mecca website is clean, professional looking, updates regularly and lacks ads floating around. The colour scheme and graphics are thought-out to appeal to a wide audience.
As the name suggests earned credibility is the rarest form, and is only achieved once a person has used the site for a considerable time. (“4 Types of Web Credibility,” 2013) Mecca, for me, has earned credibility because I have used the website countless times, and find it easy to navigate and use. The site’s credibility is heightened by the fact that it sends me email notifications confirming payments; it has my details automatically saved, the site allows for customers to review products, etc.
Types of Web Credibility, (2013). Retrieved from http://flylib.com/books/en/2.438.1.60/1/
Fogg, B. J. (2003). Credibility and the World Wide Web. In Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do (pp. 122‐125). Amsterdam: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers
How can I tell if a website is credible?, (2017). Retrieved from https://uknowit.uwgb.edu/page.php?id=30276
Evaluating the Credibility of Your Sources, (2017). Retrieved from https://www.college.columbia.edu/academics/integrity-sourcecredibility
The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely on Wikipedia, (2011). Retrieved from http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/education/2010/march/The-Top-10-Reasons-Students-Cannot-Cite-or-Rely-on-Wikipedia.html