This short piece appeared on the interbiznet website in 1996 as an introduction to the then forthcoming 1997 Electronic Recruiting Index. It was a part of a chapter on great website design. There was little else available on website design principles at the time. I’m pretty sure it was the first mention of “authenticity” as a communications design principle.

On Authenticity

It’s very easy to see the Web as a vehicle for telling the world about your firm. A Website that is weighted /component/page,shop.product_details toward giving information about your firm, however, can be considered self-centered. One that provides information that is useful to users and clients can be considered user-centered. The measure of the user-centeredness of the Website as a whole is what “authenticity” means in this edition of the Electronic Recruiting Index.

There’s a fine line between over-hyping and justifiable self-confidence. Many of the Websites make the exaggerated claim of “We are the premier on-line recruitment site” in one form or another (we counted 17 currently doing so).

This sort of inflated and generally unsubstantiated claim is the opposite of authenticity. Yet the firms behind these Websites are very useful, competently run employment advertising services. It’s as if someone told them that they needed an aggressive tagline for their Websites.

The problem with such transparent hype is that users can see through it. An inflated tag-line that greets a visitor to a Website has the potential to create doubt about the rest of the information that might be provided there.

Authenticity is the way that users can assess the integrity of the information on the Website as a whole. It is very important for a firm to ensure the accuracy of each piece of information it provides on its Website to a user. A user’s whole perception of a firm’s professionalism can be skewed by simple things like poor grammar, unsubstantiated claims or self-centeredness.

Authenticity can be thought of as a cross between genuineness and integrity. The combination of the two yields a consistently trustworthy information source that has the user at its center. If a Website does not provide this, the user can easily discover plenty of alternatives that do.

The Websites that generate return traffic and user loyalty are the ones that provide their repeat clients with additional value each time they visit. The value, which may be new job postings or additional professional information, is aimed specifically at the needs and interests of the Website’s users.

– from Chapter 8: Characteristic of a Great Website (If you visit the interbiznet website to see the rest of the chapter, please accept my apologies for the condition of the material.)

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