Building User Trust with UX Design

We interact with apps and websites every day. We slide through Instagram stories. We move money from checking to savings. We check email. We place our trust in apps that manage our time, our money, and our social lives. They are woven deeply into the fabric of our lives.

Imagine you are using an app that serves a critical function for you and that also holds valuable data – like your banking app. You tap a green button to navigate to your checking account balance. You realize that’s not where you wanted to go and hit the back button. But when the app loads the prior screen, the “checking account balance” button is now blue. Later, on a different page, that same button appears red.

The design for the exact same navigational button is inconsistent across the app. You may not realize it, but at this moment a question is forming in the back of your mind: if they can’t design a button consistently, what other holes does this app have? Will transfers work properly? Is my balance showing up correctly? Is this app secure? A simple design inconsistency is suffocating the user’s trust in the app and, by proxy, the company.

David Maister writes in his book The Trusted Adviser trust is built on four key pillars: credibility, reliability, intimacy, and low self-orientation. James Davis, a professor of Strategic Management at Utah State University spoke about trust in his TedX talk, asserting that trusts manifests from someone’s perceived ability, benevolence, and integrity. UX design is partly about keying to these principles and building trust with the user:

1. Benevolence
Hareem Mannon from the Huffington Post wrote “UX is, by design unselfish… It’s about putting other first, it’s about ego-taming, it’s about benevolence.” Improving and creating a positive user experience where the user comes first emphasizes benevolence. For example, using photography and imagery that can be loaded quickly places the user at the forefront of the design. An overdesigned site with bloated load times isn’t considering user functionality or objectives.

2. Credibility
Creating credibility is about fulfilling expectations by giving the user the proper representation of what they can expect to do. It is also about longevity. The user needs to believe that the service will last for a reasonable amount of time. Inconsistent design, spelling errors, and other apparent hiccups will instantly diminish a service’s credibility.

Keeping benevolence and credibility in mind, there are a few simple guidelines for improving the user experience for digital applications that will also generate a surge in user trust from the first interaction.

1. Clear navigation
Everyone by now, fingers crossed, knows that you can click on the logo in the navigation and it will take you back home. The user should be able to use common navigation cues and find the information they are looking for quickly. Every second of frustration increases the chances of a user leaving the site.

2. No overwhelming content
Let the user see and explore the digital application first. Let them take small steps of excitement when learning more about your website. You want the user to feel comfortable while you navigate them to take an action you want.

3. Personality
This goes beyond just the copy. Personality is also letting the user know there are people behind the website. People’s thought and time went into every element of the website. Your company thought through the visuals, the identity, animation, and copy. Let the user get that sense and know that those individuals are a click away.

4. Appealing design
People are generally more trusting of design that looks like it was carefully constructed. Navigate to any simple html webpage that hasn’t been updated since 1995 and compare that to a modernized website. Which has more credibility?

5. Transparency
Let users know upfront what is possible about your company and features. Let them know who the faces of your company are. Give as much clarity as to what you need from them and what they will receive in return.

6. Attention to detail
No typos, broken links or other mistakes that immediately diminish credibility.

7. Website design guide
Create a guide for your website so all buttons, headlines, photography, sizing, etc are consistent.

8. Be easy to contact
Don’t’ be unreachable! This can even mean having a chat bot or a form for reporting problems. Don’t make it difficult for users to reach you – this will hurt your credibility. For many businesses, having a customer support line in the top right-hand corner of every page will add instant trust.

9. Natural transitions
When you scroll with your mouse you expect to move up. When you click a button, you expect it to do what it says. Don’t make transitions overly complicated. Users expect things to work well and smoothly. If you are breaking a transition norm, make sure it will still create a clear path for the user, so they don’t feel out of place.

Gaining trust is easy as long as you keep these rules in mind. Always think about the user and cherish their time the same way you value your own.