Here are a few tips about how to tell if the website you are visiting is a reputable one or a shady one that you should not trust your personal information and credit card data.
- Design, look and feel
For a company that sells product online and makes a profit, designing a good-looking website is not very expensive. If a business skimped on a decent-looking website, what else did it decided to save money on? Data security? Personal information? Ecommerce? Customer relations? As a rule of thumb – if the website looks outdated and neglected – stay away.
- Mobile compatibility
All modern websites should be mobile compatible – designers and business owners know that. So if you load a website on your phone and it looks like a tiny scaled version of desktop website impossible to navigate without pinching to zoom in – it means the website is old and not being taken care of properly.
- Excessive advertising
A reputable business won’t shove many ads in your face. So if you see more than one pop-up, many ads on the homepage, and especially ads of other businesses and products not related to the website – it means the website owner is not serious about providing information or selling products and is trying to squeeze every cent on renting advertising, or alternatively is hosting the website on free hosting demanding running ads as a form of payment.
Nobody reads Terms and Conditions pages on the websites. I don’t urge you to start now, but you should definitely check if any online store has a link to its policies and terms. Most payment gateways demand that websites have it and most clients may want to check what the return policy is for example. So if those pages are not present – the owner is not serious about his business.
- Clear contact information, phone and address
Any reputable business should have a clear and detailed contact information listed on its website. That includes a phone (1-800 number indicates a larger business, while regular number is typical of a small business), email address (preferably) or a contact form, and physical address of business. Not listing address is shady and is not a good sign.
- Writing Style
Poor spelling and bad grammar are indicate that the site may not be credible: as website is a public face of the business, all contents should be carefully written, sometimes by professional copywriters, verified and spell-checked and carefully designed to convey the professional message to targeted audience. If it’s sloppy, incoherent and has grammar and spelling mistakes – you can be sure that this indicates how the whole business is managed and run. Stay away.
- No Secure SSL connection or certificate mismatch
If you are paying online the website has to have a secure SSL connection (usually marked by a green lock symbol next to the URL), and by clicking on the lock symbol you can verify what certificate it is using – it has to match with the URL. Never by anything from an unsecured website.
- Browser security warnings.
This one is simple: Make sure your browser is up to date (I recommend Chrome). If you see a browser warning about the website possibly containing a malicious code – run away. The site has been hacked or initially created with malicious intent in mind.
- Weird URL
Look for misspellings or strange-looking URLs. Those can indicate “typo squatting”.
- Flash Player or other unwanted downloads
If a website prompts you to download Flash Player or “additional codec” to play videos, or anything else you are not familiar with – run away. In the best case – it’s a very outdated website that still runs Flash, so it’s not to be trusted.
ROMAN DESIGN is an Award-winning web design studio based in Oakville and serving Toronto and GTA region, providing state of the art web design and development, graphic design, video production and photography services to corporate and small business clients.