Designing a Website People Trust

Earning User Trust is a Constant Design Objective

A fundamental truth across products, industries, and objectives is that the single most important ingredient in any interaction that prompts a user to convert, or take action, is trust.

Trust And Your Website

Consumers need to feel a sense of trust in your website and your brand before they can take an action on your website. Users won’t schedule a consultation, download a gated white paper, or purchase a product if they don’t a sense of security and comfort while using your website and interacting with your brand.

Design can address the need for your brand to earn your potential customer’s trust by tending to the fundamental tenants of designing for trust on the web.

1. Style

On the web, looks do matter. It’s subjective territory, for sure, but it’s wildly important. In a user study of healthcare websites conducting in 2004, respondents listed style issues 15 times more frequently than other issues when describing sites they distrusted. Style, in this case, referred to the overall look of the website, it’s usability and overall perceived quality. And, let’s be honest, when a website looks outdated, or its difficult to use, we (even those of us who do this for a living) become disinterested or - yes - even distrustful of what the website (and the brand) has to offer.

2. User Experience

How well a website works starts with the basics of how well the website is organized. Websites that are easy to navigate, present clear categories of information, and make apparent what kind of actions the user is able to take, are far more enjoyable to use. There is pleasure in simplicity and transparency. When websites afford users the opportunity to complete more complicated transactions, like ordering a custom product or service or completing detailed applications, the ease of those interactions is wildly important. If they are cumbersome and the process or purpose is seemingly opaque, users can lose interest or - again - become distrustful of what they are doing. Have you ever filled out a 20-page consumer survey after purchasing something and thought to yourself (again and again): when will this end? That kind of thing is horrible.

3. Transparency

Users want to know what you are going to do with their data and that they are about to start working on a 20-page survey. Transparency, in terms of web design, is as simple as including messaging and feedback that lets users know what they are engaging in. It’s simple, and it goes a long way in letting users know that your brand values their time and privacy.

4. Accuracy

This one is simple, but still wildly important. Information on your site should be presented neatly and correctly. Images should be your own or available to you under the appropriate license. And, in this error of misinformation, what you post should reflect reality. No excuses.

5. Accessibility

This one means so much to me. I’m passionate about making sure digital experiences are available to everyone. There are a few fundamental ways in which people like me can make that possible. I’m all about using plain language in your site navigation, page and subject headers. That means avoiding wildly technical terms, industry and organizational jargon, uncommon acronyms, and anything else that might only be understood by a select audience. Next, I can organize your site logically. Typically that means organizing the site around categories of content, or - depending on the client and purpose - around the user’s needs. On a technical level, I can facilitate accessibility by including the proper formatting and descriptions necessary for a screen reader to read the site.

6. Connections to the Web

No website is an island. Even if your website is the single digital asset your company has, it’s connected to another data point somewhere on the web. Odds are, however, that you have social media accounts where you market your company. Your website should be connected to those accounts and they should link back to your website. It’s an easy way to let users know you are active elsewhere and give them a path to discover how users in those spaces are interacting with your brand.

Designing for Trust Has It Nuances

The tenets described above are fundamental to designing for trust. However, depending on your product and the industry you exist within, there may be other ways in which design and content can help you earn the trust of your website users. Those nuances vary from whole sequences of simple gestures that help the user feel comfortable with your brand to bold statements that establish you as an authority worthy of consideration.

Either way, otherwise reputable businesses and organizations can miss out on gaining traction with new people when they neglect their website or fail to take the time to add the necessary details to make for easy, transparent, useful experiences. Don’t be one of them.

Michael Wagner