Trust as part of a positive User Experience

Trust and technology

Trust is important in any relationship and not least in building a relationship with your online customers.   Research tells us that when a customer trusts a company, they anticipate that company will fulfil their needs and expectations (Bauer, 2002; Bhattacherjee, 2002).    And that a consumer’s purchase decision to buy online is complex and sophisticated, but trust is a relevant factor (McKnight, Choudhury & Kacmar, 2002), citied in Zhang et al. 2009.


I became interested in this area when I started usability testing.  We would see two similar applications which performed very much the same in terms of efficiency and ease of use etc. but for some reason, users would much prefer one application over the other.  I believe trust was one of the elements that made the difference.

Good level of trust  =   more positive user experience.

Trust online

While talking to users about online payments, we hear that more and more customers are looking for the lock icon and/or https in the address bar before they commit their credit card details to a site but what about other aspects of trust in an online experience?

According to Nielson Norman GroupTrust is the user’s willingness to risk time, money, and personal data on a website. And they produce a report with design guidelines for increasing trust which is available to download for a fee.

Some advice for free comes from a very interesting article from UX matters which gives us some tips on building trust in e-commerce sites for first time visitors.

Trust Tips (1)

  • Use Trust Elements in Homepage: Professional looking logo , an ‘About us’ link, trusted words such as certified
  • Good Design and Content: User testimonials, the perception of easy search, easily defined categories, clear content etc.
  • Good Design: reduce the information complexity and lower the perceived risk of a transaction

Some other excellent advice for building trust comes from BJ Fogg from Stanford University and his book of Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.

He tells us that perceived trustworthy and perceived expertise  =  perceived credibility and that a website is more credible if:

Trust Tips (2)

  • It highlights the people or organisation behind content and gives details on service it provides (Give address, phone number, contact and email
  • Links to outside materials. Links to site you believe trustworthy
  • Displays an award
  • If meets your positive expectations – expertise – quick response, email confirmation, easy to find stuff, gives authors, is searchable.
  • If recommended by friend
  • Does not have Pop ups and ads, Out of date info or Domain name and company name not the same.

Conclusion – Building Trust online

Computer technology that is viewed as trustworthy (truthful, unbiased)    = increased power of persuasion and users more likely to perform desired task

And an increased number of trust elements (professional logo etc) combined with clear design, content and ease of navigation    =      increased perception of trustworthiness.

Zhang, X., Prybutock, V.R., Ryan.S., Pavur. R., 2009, ‘A model of relationship among consumer trust, web desing and user attributes’, Journal of Organizational End User Computing, Apr-Jun, pp. 44-66.


2 thoughts on “Trust as part of a positive User Experience

  1. Great post Abi, and lots of useful resources signposted. I will review our own application in the light of the points you highlight.

    Where does trust fit as part of the overall decision process (to sign up for a free offering or buy a product)? Is is a so-call hygiene factor, i.e. it causes a problem if it is not addressed but, once the basic things are done the users does not allocate much weight to more trust elements? Or is it a factor that keeps contributing to the decision the more trust factors you add?

    I’m really asking which category of factor do you think trust is according to the Kano model .

    1. Thanks for the feedback John and thanks for highlighting the Kano Model, I hadn’t come across that before. As to where trust comes into the decision process, the article I was speaking about in the blog post in UX Matters concentrates on first time visitors to e-commerce sites and conversion, so in that case, Trust could almost be seen as hygiene factor – if the Trust elements or symbols are not there, users will not buy the product. But beyond that initial purchase and in order to nourish a longer term relationship with your consumers, I think trust takes on new meaning which is much more related to the actual product/service and whether it lives up to users expectations and whether they can rely on your support with any issues they might have with it. Now, where it fits in Kano model, I am not sure, what do you think? (answering a question with a question 🙂

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