Is Your Website Trustworthy?

Is your website trustworthy?

The thing about taking a course on web design entirely online is that sometimes the videos, articles, and other material you have to read for the class, just aren’t updated fast enough. Take, for example, the most recent article I had to read on the topic of trustworthy web design – Prove It: What Makes You Trust a Website? by Lorelle VanFossen

It’s evident that the page hasn’t been updated in years. Since 2012 to be exact. I can’t lie that I’m a little hesitant to trust the information I’m reading about the trustworthiness of a web design from such an old article. But I dove in anyway, and despite the old-school design, VanFossen does raise some timeless and legit points on what makes a person not trust a website.

Trust Triggers

VanFossen talks about how trust triggers have a significant factor in a site’s credibility. These are the elements of the site that has to be seen clearly and immediately before the “back-button syndrome” gets triggered. A website only has a few seconds to prove its trustworthiness before the back button gets pushed. Elements such as a clear and concise logo, clean images, and a strong message all contribute to a page’s trustworthiness. However, what conveys trust for one website, may not work the same for others. It all depends on the user’s definition of what makes a site trusted.

In Dennis List’s article, “Trustworthiness of Web Sites (2006)”, another old source but still relevant today, he states,

I propose a working definition: that trust in any object can be measured by the willingness of visitors to interact with it in some way. When the object is a web page, which means not just looking at the page, but believing the information presented, or acting on it.

Sounds like List just defined UX years before the term became popular.

Content with Personality

One major point in the VanFossen’s article is to make your company and website sound more personable. This may only work for some companies, but I have done this in my own practice as well. The company blogs should give a personal feel. Talk about the employees that help to make your product or service successful. In the blog, convey your brand message with topics that would make your audience smile or identify with. Let your audience know who the company is behind the scenes. To quote the article, “Don’t leave it to their imagination.”

Website Credibility Factors

I did my own research to find a more current article that talks about website credibility. I found an article published in September 2017 by Neil Patel that provides a thorough analysis, 41 Factors That Influence Your Website’s Credibility.

The articles from Patel and VanFossen both talk about B.J. Fogg’s Four Types of Credibility Study.

  1. Presumed – assumed credibility based on where the user has heard about your brand
  2. Reputed – Word of mouth credibility based on the advice of others
  3. Surface – the subjective opinion on how the website appears to be
  4. Earned – the visitor’s opinion based on their interaction with you

Based on Patel’s article, here are a few actionable items that you can do on your website now to achieve some of the credibility types in Fogg’s study.

  • Provide helpful FAQs – Don’t make your visitors work to find the information they need.
  • Always be updating – if your website is frequently updated with new blog posts, it shows to the visitor that you are actively involved in maintaining the site and finding new ways to answer potential questions.
  • Show your testimonials and reviews – Word of mouth referrals are an essential part of gaining new customers. Reviews can boost the credibility of a good company.
  • Display trust seals – If you are affiliated with reputable companies and services, let your visitors know. Membership badges from the Better Business Bureau or secured website badges give your visitors the peace of mind knowing that your site and business has been verified by trusted 3rd
  • Minimal questions – Only ask for the information you need. If you are asking for someone to sign up for your free email newsletter, it may be a little unsettling to fill out a form that asks for more than just name and email address.
  • Guest blogging – The more you can lend your company name to other respected sites by providing useful information, the more credible you can make your own brand name.
  • Clear Design – Typography, grammar, navigation, and a professional design all play significant parts in the credibility of a website. If the site looks spammy, has misspellings, slow to load, or confusing to navigate, these factors could immediate red flags to any new visitor.

Three Main Takeaways

Here are my three main takeaways from I gathered from both articles about website credibility.

  1. Your website must answer the visitor’s question without them even putting it into words. For example, if a visitor uses google to search for “box fans,” a good and credible website should be well designed to answer more than just “box fans, ” but any follow-up questions they may have such as:
    • What kind of box fans
    • What has others said about these fans
    • Where are the fans made
    • How much do they cost
    • How long does it take to deliver
    • What is the warranty
  2. It’s easier to trust something when there is little to lose – If the visitor is required to enter in any information, be clear about what the steps are, what the expectation from receiving this information is, and only ask for what is absolutely necessary.
  3. Giving the site personality gains trust – An About Us page, blog articles about company culture, testimonials and reviews all contribute in providing the visitor with a bigger picture of what the company is all about.

A Technical Approach to Getting Your Design Team On The Same Page

I usually base a lot of my design decisions on what I feel looks good. Since I’m still a web design student, I’ve been lucky enough to get away with this methodology for now. I don’t know how I’ve come to these conclusions; maybe my right brain rules the show? But for some more analytical people, they need a more technical approach when it comes to web design.

Priyanka Godbole wrote an article entitled, “A Framework for Creating a Predictable and Harmonious Spacing System for Faster Design-Dev Handoff“ that answers the question of, ‘How can we over complicate a spacing issue so that everyone is on the same page.’ This is not a quote in her article, but rather my own point of view after reading it. Granted, I’m saying this because I didn’t fully understand her approach to solving her spacing issue. However, that is what I was able to gather after reading it.

When designing and developing a UI with a team, consistency and spacing become an issue. In Godbole’s case, she was developing an internal database system in which the design parties involved were not following any guidelines in spacing. As a result, extra padding, margins, and other inconsistent spacing were becoming an issue. Using a lot of hypothesis testing, multiples of 8 and 14, grids, intervals and geometry, her team was able to pick values that worked for the project and agreed to adhere to them.

While I didn’t understand most of her strategy on how she and her team calculated the code, I do understand the need to have guidelines in place to keep the experience consistent across all screen sizes and uses.  Nathan Curtis wrote an article on a similar theme, but more user-friendly content in, “Space in Design Systems”. Curtis and his team struggled over consistent spacing and felt limited with the HTML box model. His article brings up a good point: “Most collaborators can’t see space, a primary reason it’s so arbitrarily applied.” This is true in most cases, I believe. If you are working with a team of technical and nontechnical backgrounds, design definitions can differ. Curtis’s team created a model of S – XL which equals a certain pixel range to define specific elements within the UI coding.

Both articles stressed the importance of designing for consistency. When creating a methodical system of margins and padding, it shrinks the gap between designer and developer. From my own personal experience, I understand how there can be a disconnect between designers and developers on what looks good. A designer may be designing for user experience based on consumer research or other strategies, but a developer may be creating the backend magic that makes all of the features and elements in the code run efficiently and effectively. The developer is not concerned with the overall color and spacing structure. The designer may be wishing for something outside of the limitations of what the system can do. I think the key in both articles is to create agreed upon guidelines on how the finalized product should look and perform. How you get to the conclusions that your team agrees on is a whole other journey.

Are We Ready For Emotionally Intelligent Machines?

Sophie Kleber of Huge Inc. recently wrote an article titled “It’s Time to Design Emotionally Intelligent Machines.”  As technology advances and becomes more complicated, design trends have shifted towards creating human-machine interactions. As society becomes more familiar with the use of bots, smart speakers, and other “talking machines,” research shows that society wants the interaction to be more humanized. Humans don’t want to feel like they are talking to a computer. The question then becomes: how do designers refine the experience while simultaneously preventing brands and companies from profiting from the interactions or swaying consumers to go in a forced direction unknowingly?

In the article, Kleber brings up a good point, “When machine learning meets affective computing, what do designers and brands have to think about to create beautiful and supportive experiences that are more Big Hero 6 and less Ex Machina?” Are we ready for Big Hero 6 to become a reality? Companies are already experimenting with it and have been for years, whether or not we knew about it or were ready for it.

Messenger bots are becoming increasingly popular on websites and social media platforms.  Siri, Amazon Echo, and Google Home are just a few versions of our merge towards intelligent machines. Designers are now tasked with creating genuine and emotional responses. I think to create something that can connect with consumers; we must first understand them and be able to answer these questions:

  • What do customers hope to achieve by using this product?
  • What do they feel when they are using the product?
  • Will emotional responses from the machines make the product or service better?

Kleber writes that there are three categories of emotional responses that can classify an emotionally intelligent machine:

  1. React like a machine – More preferable in transactional situations and security moments.
  2. React like an extension of self – The machine recognizes a particular emotion but does not steer the user in any direction based on those feelings. Useful in self-improvement services.
  3. React like a human – The machine can interpret emotions and with the users’ permission, assist to sway their feelings. This can be used in mental-health capabilities.

There are benefits to using intelligent machines for some brands, but designers should ensure that the experience is genuine and in-line with brand personalities. Studies continue to prove how persuadable consumers can be. Ethically, developers should be held to a higher accountability to ensure that the persuading is occurring after permission has been granted, as well as making the experience feel genuine. This is a unique challenge for designers as we can only design something that is as emotionally aware as we are. If the person or team creating a messaging bot lacks empathy, it would be hard to for the consumer to form an emotional connection with the product or service. To create a successful product, I think a bit of sociology and psychology should be involved. To maintain someone’s attention while using the product is to know how someone’s mind works. That’s a big request from a designer. How can a tool be efficiently designed in foreseeing how a mind will work? Are we ready for this new technology?

Before brands jump into creating their intelligent machines or artificial messaging on their channels, I think that they must first learn from person to person interactions. Before automating your online customer service, first, have it backed by actual people. Learn from what people are asking for and solve their problems on an actual personal level. From those experiences, you can have a better understanding of your consumer and how responses should be made. Designing a poor, intelligent machine is worse than not creating one at all.

Five Tips That Lead To A Positive User Experience

In under 30 years, the internet has gone from the great unknown to “Big Brother is Watching”. It boggles my mind how fast technology has grown to capture almost every action that a user performs. Even the most tech-savvy of us can’t avoid it.

Recently I read the article, “How To Build Honest UIs And Help Users Make Better Decisions”. The title of the article at first glance gave me the impression that it would discuss how to build clear and simple web forms. Instead it went down a rabbit hole of the dark and deceptive ways that Amazon, Facebook and other websites guide us towards performing actions unknowingly and unwillingly. This action, called “anticipatory design”, can be a great source of convenience of users if the designer uses this tool for good. We’ve become a society of where we’d like to make as little decisions as possible and our technology to be intuitive. But that comes with a price.

Drawn from the article mentioned above, here are 5 tips that lead to a positive UX:

Avoid the Dark Side

Dark patterns are “tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things that you didn’t mean to.” – Examples can be items that show up in your shopping cart through a pre-selection radio button on a previous screen that is hard to catch, or when a free service ends and your credit card gets charged without any warning. This practice will always leave a user with a bad taste in their mouth.

Less Is More

This is not a surprise to me but more designers need to realize that more choices create more of a negative experience for the user. According to the article, “studies suggest that by reducing the amount of choice in a user interface, we can improve a user’s ability to make decisions, thereby reducing frustration and making the user experience better.”

Reduce Options By Anticipating Decisions

The goal of any website should be an easy to navigate structure. The author believes that this can be achieved by anticipating what a user might like to purchase based on past purchases. Not only is this handy when it comes to online shopping but it can also be useful when using music apps by playing songs the user may be interested in. Google Now does a good job of anticipating user needs by alerting the user of traffic information around the time the user leaves the office. These anticipatory designs enhance the user experience by automatically providing the user with choices that they would most likely of made themselves.

Reducing Options Can Lead To Reducing New Discoveries

The drawback to UIs that are so smart is that sometimes it prevents the user from making new discoveries for themselves. Facebook does this by controlling your newsfeed to showing only things they think you want to see. Amazon also does this by showing you similar items of something you already purchased. Music apps can hinder a user from discovering a new genre that they may not have considered by only playing music in the genre that the app has been designed to track.

Transparency is the Key to A Good Balance

The author sums up the article by providing examples on how a website can be intuitive but also ensure that the control stays in the user’s hands. This can be achieved by easy to find account settings to allow users to opt-out. Another tip is to clearly identify what is or isn’t an ad. The final tip is to always ask the users permission. Never assume that they want a preference or information saved.

Trust should be paramount behind any brand image. If a user feels conned or mislead by the website, it’s hard to gain their trust again. In this day and age, one person’s bad experience can influence many through social media and the world wide web.