5 Ways to Build Trust with Your Users

January 20, 2017

It’s such an extraordinary and tumultuous week in our country’s history. Many Americans are still trying to understand what happened in this election cycle.

Among the myriad factors that got us here, polling data showed that “trust” played a significant role. This isn’t the place to explore the validity of that narrative (e.g., hacking, Comey, etc.) – but I believe the election illustrated the extent to which an absence of trust can motivate human behavior.

Trust is equally important in creating successful user experiences. In this article, we will take a closer look at why building trust with your users is crucial and we’ll share some insights to make sure you’re not going down a path that will damage your trust.

Trust is Fundamental

Trust forms the foundation of our relationships with other people and with organizations. If a person or organization proves to be untrustworthy, we will avoid them in the future.

Your website is often the starting point for your organization’s relationship with customers. And since many of your customers may never interact with a human directly, their user experience on your site may represent the entire extent of the relationship.

It seems obvious that earning users’ trust should be a top priority. Yet, with pressure to reach internal goals and to satisfy the needs all internal stakeholders– it can be easy to lose that focus.

We often challenge our clients, “Will it build trust with your customers if you do that?” A common response is an “a-ha” grin. Building trust with your users requires shift in mindset.

At Crux Collaborative, we work in industries that have built-in issues with customer trust, such as health insurance. While this makes building trust more challenging, it also represents a greater opportunity.

For example, we redesigned a benefits management portal to focus more on building user’s trust and focusing on user needs. Post enrollment questionnaires submitted afterward showed users were surprised and delighted that the process was smoother than they expected based on their experience the previous year.

Meeting User Needs First

If we ask our clients about the purpose of their website, a majority of them will talk about business objectives first. This is no surprise — obviously, these are important to the organization and critical to the project’s success.

Nonetheless, user needs should always come first. Successful user experiences meet the user needs while achieving your business objectives. It sounds simple, but striking this balance can be challenging.

Even inadvertently downplaying user needs can lead to trust problems – because they can be subtle and fall through the cracks if you’re not always thinking of the user first.

Ways of Building Trust

1. Be Authentic

A product site we recently evaluated featured a dozen reviews on various pages. The reviews were absolutely glowing – all of them were “5 Stars” out of 5. They were each presented individually. You could not comment on them or interact with them.

The reviews were intended to build trust in the product, but were actually eroding it. We advised our client to include a “living” reviews section or remove them altogether.

2. Support Mobile

Plenty of organizations still believe their users will not rely on a mobile device to use their site. The data no longer supports this assertion. In fact, many users only access the Internet on mobile – some by choice and some by necessity.

Disregard for mobile users was excusable a few years ago, but that’s no longer the case. An organization that has not adapted to today’s mobile-centric world does not inspire confidence or trust.

3. User Focused Language

The importance of carefully crafting the language of your site cannot be overstated. From the site headers to the calls-to-action, too often this task gets put on product teams who lack the skill set. Unclear or misleading language can encourage users to take unintended actions. Too much text can be overwhelming. Confusing error messages can be maddening.

We relish the chance to work hand-in-hand with effective copywriters when designing user experience because effective, user focused language creates a smooth, intuitive experience.

4. Use Promotional Content Appropriately

There is a right place and a wrong place for promotional content. Too often, we see promotional content in the wrong place, which tends to be task-focused areas for logged-in customers. Over-use or inappropriate use of cross promotions can add cognitive load to pages and can make a site feel selfishly focused.

Most of the time there are indeed internal stakeholders pushing for these kinds of highly visible promotions. Promotions can be helpful to users if presented carefully and with restraint. Knowing when to exclude them can build trust with users.

5. Conduct User Research

Be sure to check in with your users before making any assumptions about them. User research will uncover issues you never expected. Users will let  you know when they’re skeptical or mistrustful. User research will also validate your assumptions.

These are just a handful of ways you can avoid damaging your user’s trust. As your mindset shifts to focus on the user first, it becomes second nature that each feature you design helps to build the user’s trust in your site – and, in turn, creates good user experience.

If you have questions about how you can improve your website or web application, please get in touch with us to start a conversation.

By Tony Johnson
Senior Front-end Developer

Tony has spent well over a decade building interactive applications. He collaborates in the full life cycle of projects – bringing a unique blend of technical savvy, creativity and strategic thinking to our user experience consulting services.

View Tony's Bio


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