designing for trust

From Trust: it’s about good experience over time, David Walker writes: “The Cheskin/Studio Archetype study’s most important conclusion […]

From Trust: it’s about good experience over time, David Walker writes:

“The Cheskin/Studio Archetype study’s most important conclusion was that trust deepens or retreats based on experience. “Trustworthiness is about experience over time,” concluded the report.
Specifically, the eCommerce Trust Study claimed that trust sprang from:

  • a well-known brand
  • effective, usable navigation
  • strong fulfillment (including privacy, effective order-processing, and good handling of returned goods)
  • presentation
    Of these four claims, the last is – excuse my scepticism – the sort of finding you’d expect from a study by a Web design firm. Asked for help increasing trust, your typical Web site designer will swear black-and-blue that a “more professional look” is essential. To immunise yourself against this, take a look at eBay, Yahoo! and Amazon, the three giants of consumer e-commerce. None looks like a Web design firm has ever been anywhere near it. eBay, the most profitable of the three, looks like someone’s link-happy kid brother threw it together on a rainy afternoon.”

    Thoughts? How much does good design affect trust? How much does bad design affect trust?


    Add Yours
    1. 1

      you aren’t proceeding very logically. you’re implying that since three successful sites aren’t well designed, then – generally – good design isn’t important for success. this is sloppy reasoning. the causality isn’t clear, and the strength of the analogy between those sites and most other sites is at least suspect, and you haven’t defined your terms well.

      there are complex causes for those sites success, there are differences between those three businesses and other businesses on the web that must be considered. at what point were they launched and what were web standards like then… just one of many potentially enlightening roads of inquiry.

      but the other point is, we all alredy know quality doesn’t always sell. we knew that. microsoft and aol spring to mind. let alone formal ‘design’ for a moment, just look at overall quality. look at their checquered history pocked with gross breaches of their customers’ trust and disappointing products. look at the competition they have beaten down.

      does that mean we should all make crappy products because crappy products always sell well? duh. no. it means that success in the marketplace is determined on multivariate factors, and design isn’t the only one, nor is product quality, or information architecture.

      but then, maybe you’re just lobbing chum out there to roil the waters.

    2. 2

      Sorry, i did not make the fact that is a quote very clear. Hopefully I’ve fixed that. People may wish to follow the link and read the whole article.

    3. 3

      to summarize my rant: in some cases much, in some cases less much. specific cases are where the discussion seems relevant.

    4. 4

      If you look at design being strictly of the graphic variety, I would say it has a much less impact on trust than of the behavior variety. I say EBay, Yahoo and Amazon (Amazon more than the other two) invoke trust because they have well-designed behaviors (they make useful promises and keep them, they provide users with an opportunity to act and the users get an appropriate reaction from the software). All these behaviors are also well intertwined with each company’s business model. Design is key to their success, placing more importantance on what they do, promise and provide than what they look like.

    5. 5

      Well put, Elan. I’m very admiring of the work many designers are doing to wrest design from the veneer ghetto and put it back in its proper place as father to all the arts, from illustration to interaction.

      I’m still curious about that veneer though– how much does a slick veneer influence trust? A professional facade?

    6. 6

      um, i think that its still open to debate elan and cw. aol has awful software and a history of distastrously and infamously well-known broken promises and so forth.

      define ‘good design’

      then we’ll talk.

    7. 7

      you trust me to show up and make anonymous posts that offend you. trust isn’t all about good experiences over time. its about experiences over time, period.

      define ‘trust.’

    8. 8
      Jared Spool

      You’ve hit right onto one of our current ongoing research projects: credibility and trust. I’m on the board of advisors for Consumer WebWatch (Look at article #4). We’ve been looking into this exact question.

      Ben Schneiderman defines trust as a “positive expectation about the future based on past performance and truthful guarantees”.

      When someone doesn’t have past performance with an entity (a web site, a business, an individual) to go by, then they need external immediate experience to guide them.

      You go to a Doctor’s office. It’s dirty and the roof is leaking. Bugs and rats are visible and not scared by the waiting patients. Lots of patients are in the waiting room, crying in pain. You hear screams from the other side of the door. When the doctor finally comes out to get the next patient, you see that he’s dirty and disgusting.

      Even though you have no previous experience with this doctor, the “veneer” of this environment might lead you to not trust him.

      However, if the last time you felt ill, this dirty, disgusting doctor made you feel wonderful instantly, you might be willing to overlook the veneer and trust him purely based on your experience.

      That’s our experience with watching people on the web. Veneer will make a difference when there is no previous experience to go by.

      However, the quality of a veneer is a contextual perspective. Things that look crude to a very experienced graphic designer might look advanced to someone with no technology or design experience. eBay users who don’t use the web for any other purpose do not see how crude the pages on eBay are. To them, eBay is the pinnacle of design aesthetic.

      So, our research says that the veneer/trust issue is extremely audience dependant.


      p.s. Look closely at the original quote above — you’ve got 5 bullets for 4 points. It took me a second to understand what happened.

      p.p.s. I trust hackles, even though he/she is anonymous. I trust him/her to try to annoy me, but rarely succeed. 🙂

    9. 10

      Jared as usual covers almost everything, but I would add that word-of-mouth can (imperfectly) substitute for someone’s own personal past performance with an entity. So, for example, my fiancee has bought dozens of useless tchotchkes on eBay, and has had a good experience each time. I’ve never used eBay, but I see an old radio that is exactly like the one I used when I was a teenager. My fiancee tells me that eBay works fine for her. I am still a little skeptical, but proceed. Two weeks later, I have a radio I thought I’d never see again, and now have my own personal past performance with eBay on which to judge them. I think Amazon and eBay were both huge beneficiaries of this kind of network effect.

    10. 11
      nameless for now

      …I’m an IA whose corporate job seems to be increasingly that of creating architectures that funnel users to a sales destination, obfuscate where they’ve been, attempt to keep them from backpedaling, and in general turn the rules of order, path and knowledge inside out in the worst way.

      I accepted this job with intentions of being the white hat in town, was promised that my skills were needed, etc. — but my user-driven recommendations were increasingly trampled in favor of “forcing the user” (a direct quote) to do, read, and go where he/she doesn’t want to.

      How does this type of design figure in the above discussion, and has anyone else out there had to deal with this kind of sales/marketing fascism?

      I’m leaving asap, by the way, but trying to hold up the ethics of good design here is feeling like a King Canute job.

    11. 12

      “design here is feeling like a King Canute job.”

      What the heck is that?

      Also, hackles, are you really just CW posting anonymously? Sort of an evil-twin?


    12. 13
      nameless for now

      King Canute:

      “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey”.

      So spoke King Canute the Great, the legend says, seated on his throne on the seashore, waves lapping round his feet. Canute had learned that his flattering courtiers claimed he was “So great, he could command the tides of the sea to go back”. Now Canute was not only a religious man, but also a clever politician. He knew his limitations – even if his courtiers did not – so he had his throne carried to the seashore and sat on it as the tide came in, commanding the waves to advance no further. When they didn’t, he had made his point that, though the deeds of kings might appear ‘great’ in the minds of men, they were as nothing in the face of God’s power.

      I’m stealing this from

      where I learned belatedly that
      Canute … was the son of Svein Forkbeard. Canute’s grandfather was Harald Bluetooth and his great-grandfather was King Gorm.

      I swear I am not the much-maligned hackles. Just anIA who fears posting diatribes against the issuers of my paycheck at the moment —

    13. 14

      yes, you can punctuate and spell, which proves you are neither hackles nor me.

      How are the numbers on the “forcing a user” design? Sometimes when you are stuck, you can go to the logfiles to help make yoru case. Where are the bailouts?

      I read the other day on about someone who wanted to recreate the napolean march posters with their website and bailouts. thought that was a fun idea.

    14. 15
      nameless for now

      This particular site is being coded at the moment, and should go live in a week or so. I can’t wait for the numbers.

      Reactions from the designers when they saw the site architectures and wireframes:

      WHAT THE –?

      So back to the numbers. I need to revisit my Tufte, but I’m predicting bailout at high rates.

      Another problem: I also wrote the content for the site — but the brief I was given specified huge word counts. In fact, I was told to write long paragraphs of text unrelieved by anything (bullets, headings) that could be termed a marker for users.

      I was told “users *do* read long text. …*I* read long text.”

      Maybe it’s really 1995, and even the polar bear book is merely a twinkle in Lou and Peter’s eyes.

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