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Building Trust On Your Website


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#1 Respree

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:57 AM

Building trust has got to be near the top of the list, when you think of the elements that makes for an effective website and favorable conversions.

More often than not, delivering superior value to your customers is far more important (and appealing) than providing the lowest price.

How do you convince a total stranger, one you met online two seconds ago, to turn over their hard-earned $ to a total stranger (your website)?

Be honest about who you are, what you're about, what you will do, what you won't do and when you'll do it. Be as sincere and upfront as you possibly can and open with your communications and you'll have taken huge steps in creating that 'touchy-feely' intangible thing called trust.

I thought this was a nice little article entitled, "Trust as the Most Important Online Value," written by our own member Yuri (A.N.Onym), which shares further thoughts on the subject.

How to build trust?
As mentioned before, only humans can build trust. So, when it comes to building trust with your customers, you’ll need to make sure your and your staff personality shines through however you communicate with your customers: through your website, via support emails or by phone.

That’s why to build trust, you’ll need to make sure your message is sincere, in good will and aimed to deliver value to the customer. Only then they’ll be able to trust and feel confident when buying from you. To build trust, you may do one of the following:

- provide honest, correct information about you, your company and the product
- make is obvious that there are real people behind the company (via about pages, for instance)
- be open to communication with your [potential] customers (a clear way to contact you, have a forum or even a blog)
- underpromise, overdeliver
- write in simple language, while focusing on the people
- have a user-friendly website
- make it obvious that the site is well managed by updating content often, having time-sensitive information - news, press releases, dated posts - on the site, responding to site feedback

As you can see from the list, you can build trust by providing value to your customers and making it obvious to them.


I especially like the "Under promise, over deliver" part, which I also happen to use on my site (coincidentally). Exceed your user's expectations and you're a hero (1). Fall short, and well, you're the opposite.

What techniques do you use to build trust and gain your visitors' confidence?

Do share.

-----------------------------------

(1) = website who has just increased their likelihood of repeat business

Edited by Respree, 24 January 2007 - 01:20 PM.


#2 bwelford

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 10:56 AM

Great thread, Respree, and a great article, Yuri. There are many good pointers in what has been said already.

Another aspect to building trust is to show that other real customers have had a great experience. Again there are a number of ways of showing that. Even a list isn't bad. Testimonials are better. .. and if you happen to have a blog as part of your website (a slog), then leave the comments on and see whether you can get some good discussion among your 'community'.

#3 BillSlawski

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 11:26 AM

Yuri points to the Stanford guidelines in his article, and I remember that they came out with some long reports on studies that they conducted which showed how important the design of a site itself is in building trust.

It's funny how much the look and feel of a site can have on building trust.

There was a recent presentation at Google, one of their tech talks, which discussed signalling theory, and how it might play a role in design. It was kind of interesting:

Signals, Truth, and Design

It you think about trust and credibility in the design of a site, what kinds of things stand out as signals upon a page?

How might choice of fonts, layout, colors used, and so on, make a site more trustworthy or less?

#4 swainzy

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 08:20 PM

Another aspect to building trust is to show that other real customers have had a great experience.

Good point Barry.
This is how I handled testimonials. These were right out of my guest books. Notice that Tripadvisor (not controlled by me) had testimonials on my business also. I think this type of marketing does influence future customers. It does help create confidence.

Another article on trust:Understanding Trust

In advertising, nothing is more important than trust. It really doesn't matter how clever or
creative your messaging is, how high your site is on search results, or how cute your packaging is. If
consumers don't trust you, you'll never be successful. This simple fact's importance continues to
multiply online, where dirty secrets never seem to stay secret for long. The burgeoning
word-of-mouth industry is built on the principle that people will uncover the truth about a product or
company and share that with one another.

Companies must reconsider what trust means for them in a rapidly evolving world. Trust is changing,
and soon how you trust will be more important than who you trust.

and

Trust is a combination of two primary factors:
* Benevolence: The degree to which people believe you'll do the right thing.
* Competence: The degree to which people believe you're capable of performing the tasks you say you can.


I agree with Garrick's point, under promise and over deliver. No one wants to feel cheated. No one likes
disappointment. In a world where trust and honesty is becoming rarer, transparency is important. Straightforwardness automatically nurtures trust and builds relationships for the long run.

#5 SEOigloo

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:02 PM

How might choice of fonts, layout, colors used, and so on, make a site more trustworthy or less?


Gosh, this is such an interesting subject. Bill, I don't suppose there is a written transcript of that Google video. It's an hour long, and I'm going crazy listening to it in 3 word segments, halting along. It looks very important.
Miriam

#6 BillSlawski

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:54 PM

I don't think that there is a transcript of the presentation, Miriam. I looked for one for about an hour or two a couple of weeks ago.

I did find an article that the speaker wrote a couple of years ago where she talks about how people identify themselves and interact with others on usenet, and talks about some of the same themes (signaling theory) as in her presentation.

Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community

Here's a snippet:

Online communities are growing rapidly and their participants face these questions, not as hypothetical thought experiments, but as basic issues in their daily existence. A man creates a female identity; a high school student claims to be an expert on viruses. Other explorers in virtual space develop relationships with the ostensible female, relationships based on deep-seated assumptions about gender and their own sexuality; patients desperate for a cure read the virtual virologist's pronouncements on new AIDS treatments, believing them to be backed by real-world knowledge. For assessing the reliability of information and the trustworthiness of a confidant, identity is essential. And care of one's own identity, one's reputation, is fundamental to the formation of community.


A lot of the presentation doesn't deal directly with design, but when it does, it provides some interesting and different insights. She raises some interesting questions, but doesn't explore the answers indepth. But you can get a sense of some of the answers from her questions and her presentation. For instance, why do bloggers decide to link to some of the sites that they do, and write about some of the subjects that they cover? How we tell the difference between a MySpace profile that is from a real human being, and one that has been created by a marketing firm, and isn't from a real person?

#7 swainzy

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 10:09 PM

From Software Usability Research Laboratory
Department of Psychology
Wichita State University
Perception of Fonts: Perceived Personality Traits and Uses

This study sought to determine if certain personalities and uses are associated with various fonts.



#8 A.N.Onym

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 10:14 PM

Thank you for the appreciation of the article, folks. Good to know it is a good one, once in a while.

In the article, I focused mainly on what the site owner can control, such as text and his actions, but Bill's point about design is a good one.

I suspect it all comes down to usability. Not some prettiness or ugliness, but how well the visitor can find what he/she wants. And we all know what we need to do to improve usability, right?

Human Factors suggested that when building trust with site design, it helps to apply various research results on trust building to websites. Here are a couple of studies you may find interesting:

Can one build a Web site or application that engenders trust?

Trust in human-automation partnerships can be defined as "the attitude that an agent will help achieve an individual's goals in a situation characterized by uncertainty..."


The above quote pretty much makes it obvious that a site has to work and deliver what the visitor has come for. Sure, the site look can and may be important (an obviously ugly or eye-snagging website vs a clean looking one), but what and how the customer does with the website is also important.

Here's another study on building trust with design: How do people evaluate credibility?

Notice how most prefer a good looking website and well structured website. But there's limit on how much you can trust these findings, as experts and consumers view website credibility in different formats:
Experts vs. Online Consumers: A Comparative Credibility Study of Health and Finance Web Sites (the page breaks awfully and it can't be read. Hopefully, they'll fix this- can download a 800kb PDF meanwhile).

From the last time I read it, I recall the following:
- experts more evaluate website content, such as information, how correct the facts are and such
- consumers are more focused on how the site looks (design, style, feel) than what it has inside

That's why it pays to know who your customers are and remember about eye-catching (sometimes unnecessary) features, if you design for some expert audience, for example.

P.S. Thanks for the link about trust and communities, Bill.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 23 January 2007 - 10:31 PM.


#9 SEOigloo

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 10:22 PM

Thank you, Bill, for the link.

On this topic of trust .... the Internet, as an entity, has done much of the work for us when it comes to the concept of making people believe if they buy something on-line, they will receive it. I'm sure there is still a segment of the population that doesn't trust Internet shopping, but time really seems to have eroded doubt in this area of Internet use. In fact, it has done so to the point that Internet users are too trusting, and one need only go take a gander at eBay to see the con artists there who make a living ripping people off with spurious listings.

Where the issue becomes more complicated, in the marketplace environment, is how do you present your company in a way that engenders more public trust in you than in your competition?

It so depends on your audience. I am positive that a sector of the public still feels more trusting of homemade sites than they do of corporate ones. You know...websites built in Frontpage with pictures of grandma and the owner's 7 cats on the homepage. These sites send the obvious signal,
"There is a real person behind this website."

Unintentionally, to users like me at least, they are also sending the signal that they may be untrustworthy simply because there is a single human behind the web presence. What if one of their cats gets sick or their grandma goes to the hospital? Will this make their life fall into disorder with the end result for me being that they forget to deliver the goods I ordered from them? I know that if, instead, I make my purchase from a more professional entity, the personal life of the staff is unlikely to hinder my receiving my purchase.

So, it's a door that swings both ways, is what I'm saying. It would seem that market research is going to indicate whether a homey looking site or a corporate looking one is going to win the vote of the client base.

The presentation Bill linked to points this out by showing an image of a woman in a fur coat. To someone whose life is all about fashion, this may send a super signal. To me, it's saying "this person is completely without a conscience if they are so unfeeling as to wear a fur coat."

Signals seem to me a fascinating area of study and I'd love to read more about this.
Miriam

#10 BillSlawski

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 10:59 PM

Signals seem to me a fascinating area of study and I'd love to read more about this.


Same here.

Looking some more, the speaker has a class on this subject and some web pages for it, and she includes descriptions of the course, class notes and questions, and reading materials for each class on those pages:

Signals, Truth & Design

Here's a snippet from the front page:

Some signals are more reliable indicators than others. Lifting a 300 pound barbell is a reliable signal of strength; wearing a T-shirt that says "I'm super strong" is also a signal of strength, but not a reliable one. What makes a signal reliable? The simple answer is that a reliable signal is one that is beneficial to produce truthfully, yet prohibitively costly to produce falsely.


Thank you for the appreciation of the article, folks. Good to know it is a good one, once in a while.


Lots of good articles on your site, Yuri. :wacko:

The "Experts vs. Online Consumers" reports where the ones I was writing about above. They are long, but worth reading when it comes to trust and credibility.

The SURL article that Donna mentions, and the report that Yuri links to were the inspirations for me to ask about the role in design. Fonts do have a personality, and I think color choices do too. How can they impart trust.

Say a site has a black background and uses a gothic type font and images of skulls. You might not be inclined to buy financial services from the site, but you might buy heavy metal records from them. As Yuri points out, some aspects of trust rely upon context. Still, I think that there's a certain baseline of the kinds of things that you could and should include to make a site more trustworthy.

The presentation Bill linked to points this out by showing an image of a woman in a fur coat. To someone whose life is all about fashion, this may send a super signal. To me, it's saying "this person is completely without a conscience if they are so unfeeling as to wear a fur coat."



She either addresses that in the presentation itself, or in the Q&A session of the presention. I think it's in the questions and answers.

#11 A.N.Onym

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 11:40 PM

Still, I think that there's a certain baseline of the kinds of things that you could and should include to make a site more trustworthy.

Well, that's the research-based, tested and proven guidelines you can use on your website :wacko: That being said, if we simply focus on our customers and apply any tips to our own case, it'd be better than blindly following any advice.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 24 January 2007 - 12:27 AM.


#12 Angela Charles

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 10:56 AM

First impression is everything. If a person doesn't get a "warm-fuzzy" within the first 30 seconds, you've lost them. Here's how I'd order elements for building trust:

-- Full contact info on every page on the web site, visible onscreen without having to scroll down;
-- Clear description of business and its products/services on the home page
-- Clean, easy-to-navigate web site design (I'd prefer professionally designed, but some home-grown sites look better than so-called professionally developed ones)
-- If the site is promoting your business/service, don't prostitute it by putting Adsense on it.

#13 BillSlawski

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 01:31 PM

Hi Angela,

Welcome to the forums.

I like your list. As for the advertisements, I think that they have the potential to confuse people as to the aim of the site, and what the siteowner offers. They are the wrong signal.

#14 Respree

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 07:58 PM

I also think, going out of your way to help your visitor shows you have a genuine interest if helping them and takes giant steps toward building trust.

Here's a e-mail recent exchange between a potential customer and myself.

Customer: I am getting ready to order a large (36" X 42.75"), canvas transfer, "______________ " by artist _________. I don't seem to be able to find the difference in price between a regular, canvas transfer and one that has been embellished with brush strokes. Please let me know the difference in price.

Thank you,
[customer name removed]

Me: Hi {Customer Name Removed]:

Greetings from Respree.com and thanks for your e-mail.

While our 'basic' canvas transfer can easily be ordered online (for the price listed), we normally handle our brushstroke service by quotes only, which is the reason you're not seeing an ordering option on our website.

Our brushstroke service for the piece entitled Garden Walk At Sunset will be $____. This would bring your total purchase price $____, including complimentary shipping.

Should you wish to place an order for this piece, you may do so on our website. Simply add the appropriate item to your shopping cart and follow our checkout procedures. When you come to the final checkout page (where you enter your delivery information), you'll find a 'special instructions' box. Please enter the phrase 'add Brushstrokes, as per quote'. Our systems will charge you the 'basic canvas transfer price' for your item and we will process the surcharge, quoted above, on a second transaction behind the scenes.

I hope I've answered your question, but if you have any further questions, please let me know.

Here is a quick link back to our store.
[url removed]

Thanks for visiting our store and have a great day.

Customer: Thanks for you reply. One more question . . . Are the brushstrokes worth the added $___ ??

Me:Hi [Customer Name Removed]:

Thanks for your e-mail. That's a very interesting question, one that I haven't been asked before.

Sometimes I go into a new restaurant I've never tried and ask the waiter or waitress "What's good?" Often times, they reply with a very enthusiastic "Everything!," which leaves me in the same position I was in 'before' I asked the question.

I won't insult your intelligence by doing the same.

Rather than give you the answer you were expecting, "Yes, of course," I'll share some of my thoughts about pricing.

In the simplest of terms, the price of an object is 'worth' whatever people are willing to pay for it.

If I had plumbing skills, which I don't by the way, I don't think paying a plumber to come out to my house and paying him $95/hr. would be worth it.

On the other hand, it my sink were spurting water and was about to ruin my $10,000 of my furniture and carpet and there was zero probability I could fix it myself, then yes, in this case, the $95/hr. would be worth it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is "It depends on one's perspective."

If you like the idea of the brushstrokes, having a professional artist meticulously apply each stroke by hand gives the canvas a nice added dimension, bringing your art a couple of steps closer to what the original art would have looked like. If that's important to you and you love the piece, my answer to you is "Yes." If you believe you can emulate what a professional artist can do, then my answer is "No."

Again, as with everything else, it all depends on your perspective.

Customer

Wow, that's quite a reply!
I'm always impressed with your personal responses to my queries; there have been earlier ones.

Thank you,
[Customer Name Removed]


I haven't converted this visitor to a customer yet, but think there's a good chance I eventually will.

I sense I've built trust and credibility with her.

Edited by Respree, 24 January 2007 - 08:53 PM.


#15 swainzy

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 08:17 PM

I like the way you do business Garrick. :)

Once a b&b guest got a flat tire. I drove him into the nearest large town to get another rental - 45 minutes away. Also, a honeymoon couple got stuck here because a tree went down on the road while I was out and they couldn't get out to eat. I came home after the fact and felt so badly, I went out and got them dinner (on the house) and brought it back to them.

I have another story about a honeymoon couple that's hilariously but that's another thread. The things that happen :rolleyes: in that business. Oy. :wacko:

I found Stanford's Web Credibility Project if no one has seen it yet. It's dated 2002 but what the heck.

#16 A.N.Onym

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 08:37 PM

That's a very nice way of managing customers, Garrick. I suspect you may serve as an excellent example how to do that.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 24 January 2007 - 08:39 PM.


#17 Respree

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 08:49 PM

Thanks for the kind words, guys :) .

I think it's interesting to swap notes and see what others are doing, so I guess I'll should start it off. If anyone would like to share in some of their stories, please feel free.

I haven't converted this visitor to a customer yet, but think there's a good chance I eventually will.


Strike that. She just placed a very sizeable order. I guess it worked. :-)

Edited by Respree, 24 January 2007 - 09:05 PM.




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