UX Producer Dan Richardson, explores another factor from our new PulseCX digital Customer Experience benchmarking tool.

As touched upon last week by Creative Director Matt Weaver, building a credible and trustworthy customer experience can lead to an army of loyal customers and exponential word of mouth marketing, so how can great web design help?

We make hundreds of decisions to trust things every day without even thinking about it: trusting a chair to support our weight, or trusting the water from our tap to be clean enough to drink. Not having to think about competing options gives us the confidence to 1-click-purchase our way through the day, freeing up cognitive capital for bigger problems on hand.

So if we have such a propensity for trust why is it UK consumer trust at an all-time low? Well, recent events certainly haven’t helped, but it’s clear that many businesses are failing to communicate their credibility to consumers. 

Negative formative experiences tip the balance from trust to suspicion and those experiences tend to stick around in our memories for a very long time. Given that a website or digital marketing channel is often the first interaction a customer has with your brand, how can we make that experience as positive as possible?


1. Be Transparent


Proving you have nothing to hide has been a key component of trust for thousands of years: handshakes were originally ways of demonstrating you weren’t carrying a weapon, the clink of glasses during a toast was supposed to prove your tribe weren’t trying to poison another. 

Being transparent online is more about giving users all the information they need up front. 

  • Tell users how their data will be processed and why you need it at the point of collection (don’t just hide this in a privacy statement)
  • Communicate the full cost of a product including any service fees
  • Tell users when they can expect delivery and supply tracking information
  • Provide information on how your product is sourced or manufactured
  • Reassure users about guarantees and return policies
  • Communicate the social and environmental impact of your product
  • Openly compare your product or service to competitors

In fact, going to extra lengths to communicate what’s included in a purchase will immediately avoid suspicion that you’re somehow trying to pull the wool over your customers eyes. 

At Whitespace, for example, we designed the National Trust for Scotland membership sign up page so that it’s easy to understand what to expect when you purchase a membership.


Screenshot of the National Trust for Scotland membership page


2. Be clear


Being clear doesn’t necessarily mean designing everything to be minimal. It’s important to consider the job the user is trying to complete on your site and ensure all of the content, be it photography, video or copy, helps them progress with that job. 

Sometimes that means removing distractions, but more often than not, if the content is required, hiding it is a bad idea.

Forcing users to look for information they need increases interaction cost and in turn increases suspicion about why it’s hidden.

  • Use select boxes as a last resort (try radio buttons instead)
  • Only use carousels for low-priority photography
  • Ensure all form fields have proper labels
  • Don’t use ‘small print'

Gov.uk uses radio buttons instead of select/dropdown boxes wherever possible to avoid hiding content.


Screenshot showing a form with radio buttons on gov.uk


3. Avoid surprises


A great way of increasing trust is by ensuring interfaces work in the way users expect. Material honesty is the idea that an object should communicate what it does by how it looks. Buttons that look like links and vice-versa are common examples of material dishonesty. 

Semantic HTML was developed to help reinforce the meaning of digital information, and many websites go to surprising lengths to override browser defaults. 

Designing additional affordances like hover states and micro-animations can also help subtly communicate what elements do, ensuring users feel supported rather than hindered by the interface. Ensuring users understand what to expect from interacting with an interface helps build trust click-by-click.

The NHS Design System only uses buttons to carry out actions on pages and includes different CTA and link styles to help users differentiate from regular inline links.


Different link and button styles from the NHS design system


4. Be human


When we meet someone for the first time, we rely heavily on facial expressions, posture and tone of voice to make judgements about trustworthiness within a matter of seconds. Asking someone to make those same judgements about you or your business without providing that same sensory information is a guaranteed way to start arousing suspicion.

Humans are also diverse; we come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, genders, colours and religions. When we’re consuming digital content, we’re constantly looking for sensory information that connects the perception of ourselves to the perception of what we’re consuming. 

At Whitespace we’ve helped Brand Scotland promote the country to a diverse market by creating content that’s emotive and inclusive.


Still from a video showing diverse people of Scotland


Get this one wrong, however, and it can massively damage your authenticity. Users are getting much better at spotting stock images and videos so faking this one really isn’t an option. Luckily there’s lots of different ways of instilling a human touch into original digital content often without breaking the bank.


5. Highlight endorsement


The testimony of others is hugely relevant in our path to trusting a person or organisation. It helps us progress by skipping past some of the due diligence we might normally do if we were researching from scratch.

There’s lots of different ways to include endorsement on your websites but there’s evidence that people trust reviews and testimonials from external sites more.

Blub energy include their Trustpilot score in the home page header.


Screenshot of the bulb energy website showing their trust pilot score


In conclusion


Users gain and lose trust in a brand via their digital experience very easily. Time and effort spent creating trustworthy experiences leads directly to increased commercial performance. For a third-party evaluation of your site’s credibility and trustworthiness using our new PulseCX Benchmark contact Managing Partner Phillip Lockwood-Holmes on phillip@whitespacers.com.

Header illustration by icons8.com