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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 12-Jun-16


Sunday 12-June-16

Designing online trust

Most of us have interacted online with other people, companies and websites. In doing so one of the early questions we wonder is whether the other side can be trusted. Whether we do or not has a great deal to do with how the website and interactions are designed for trust.

So how do we trust? First, we trust people who are reliable, including keeping promises on time and being competent, so they can deliver on their promises. To design for reliability, it is important to manage expectations, telling people what you will deliver, then always delivering, on time, on budget, and to specification.

We also need honesty in forming trust, so we look for truthfulness. This can be a problem when a site isi rying to sell us something as we may well suspect exaggeration of good points and concealment of bad points. The site should never knowingly mislead customers, as a betrayed customer gets angry, tells others, and never returns.

The third leg of trust is care. We trust those who seem to care about us, both passively ('do no harm') and the more helpful active care. Care as a component of trust is often forgotten, yet this has huge potential for building trust. A site can show care with simple, good design that is attractive, lets readers easily find what they need, and provides them with quality information. Offering helpful tips and otherwise giving without asking is likewise likely to make them feel good when they think of you.

And here are a few more things you can do with your site to build trust:

  • Include photos and full details about your products, as well as easy overviews.
  • Show photos of your people, smiling and looking good.
  • Allow reviews and star rating of your products.
  • Provide multiple ways for readers to contact you, such as email, phone and online chat.
  • Respond quickly and sympathetically to all communications.
  • Don't be defensive about criticism. Ask for more information.

The bottom line is to keep thinking about trust. Everything you do can build or destroy it -- and destruction is very easy, and can have devastating consequences. Figure out what trust you need and act accordingly. Do not expect blind loyalty -- web users are largely cynical about all the trickery that they see every day. Also do not 'wing it' with 'that will do' type tweaks. Think hard about trust and design for it, and, if you truly understand it, you will be far more likely to get the powerful trust that you need.

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