Trustworthiness in Web Design: 4 Credibility Factors
Websites must establish trust and present themselves as credible to turn visitors into customers. The methods that people use to determine trustworthiness on the web have remained stable throughout the years, even with changing design trends.
While in Singapore for a UX Conference, a usability study was conducted to investigate major differences between how Western and Asian cultures evaluate websites — and, by extension, businesses. While there were some interesting cultural nuances, the basic factors used to weigh site trustworthiness were the same, regardless of location and culture.
In 1999 Jakob Nielsen listed 4 ways in which a website can communicate trustworthiness: design quality, up-front disclosure, comprehensive and current content, and connection to the rest of the web. In our study, we observed that these very same factors continue to influence users. This is yet another example of the durability of usability guidelines: although design patterns and trends change over time, human behavior does not. Users’ priorities and methods of evaluation are the same today as they were 17 years ago, even though the web itself has vastly evolved. What we now consider a “quality” website design looks very different from a reputable website of the past, but what influences the perception of quality has not changed and will not change in the future.
This article delves into the original 4 methods of communicating trustworthiness, and provides examples of how these principles apply to today’s websites.
The first step to garnering trust is to make your site appear legitimate and professional. Both the landing-page content and the main navigation must be well organized and the site should use an appropriate color scheme and imagery.
Site organization. Meaningful navigation labels indicate that the company considers users’ needs and understands their mental models and vocabulary. When people are faced with clever or nondescript category names, they may not be able to determine whether the relevant content exists on the site. As a result, they will become frustrated and may abandon the site. In contrast, when the links unambiguously point users in the right direction, they will feel confident and will trust your company.
Visual design. The standard for what is considered a well-designed site constantly shifts in response to trends that eventually become the norm. For example, perhaps young adults consider flat designs as more professional than older audiences simply because they use more websites that have adopted a minimalist style, and have adjusted their expectations over time.
Color schemes used on the website greatly affect the perceived value of the business, and can brand an organization as corporate, budget, or luxury. Ideally, the colors chosen should match the type of service and impart some meaning — for instance, Singapore participants were drawn to cleaning companies that used green or a lot of white space in their designs because those matched their idea of what is natural, fresh and clean.
In contrast, dark colors made the site appear more cluttered — and clutter is not what you would want from a cleaning company! Even companies not striving to match any particular color meaning should use colors strategically to support the tone of the organization. For example, including adequate white space adds to the perception that content is well organized. In our study, BoxGreen snack boxes were more appealing than those from GuiltFree because of the site’s colorful high-quality images and wise use of empty space that allowed those images to stand out without cluttering the overall look and feel.
Article written by Aurora Harley for NNGroup.com.