Keep it somewhat seedy looking.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say the appearance of website has a big impact on how honestly – or if at all – people answer personal questions. What is surprising is that the researchers found that people are more inclined to answer questions on less-than-reputable looking sites. (via Technology Review). The researchers, who are publishing their results in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, asked volunteers an identical personal questions on three different-looking websites: one with an official-looking logo and staid colors; the second was neutral; the third used lurid colors and a cartoon-like devil icon.

The questions were personal including “Have you ever cheated while in a relationship?” and “Have you ever driven when you were pretty sure you were over the legal blood alcohol level?” The researchers found that people were nearly twice as likely to admit to having engaged in “illicit” or “socially questionable” activities on the least reputable-looking site, Technnology Review said. Perhaps more interesting, about a third of all participants gave up their e-mail addresses, about half of which were easy to trace back to the person’s real identity. The researchers concluded that the volunteers may have thought the least official-looking website would also be least likely to store or use their answers.