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Design for (dis)trust

Did you know that, when we talk about first interactions, the most important element of a website is its design?

What does an owner want in terms of design?

First of all, an owner wants a design that he likes. We have noticed that their preference usually comes first, even before considering principles of usability.

What about users?

Usually, a customers won’t spend time to analyze the design. However, it can influence them even without being aware of it.

The visual part has a great impact on users. It can influence them to continue their visit on the website or to trust the brand and its products and services.

Website design, (dis)trust and research

A study conducted in April 2015 by the Center for Cognitive Psychology and Methodology from Basel has identified which elements of design make a person trust a website.

Users have been asked about their navigation experiences on different websites. Below there are some answers of users that didn’t feel any trust while surfing:

“The design was out of date, the background was static and the color aggressive.”

“The website had the .info extension and I have never used one before. I decided to visit it, but I was very stressed. I found 3 links: for paying, writing a question or sending a request. I decided to take the risk and I made the online payment. Everything worked out well in the end, but it was a strange and stressful experience for me.”

Types of web designs

So what elements does a user keep in mind when actually assessing a website’s level of trust? The study says there are 4 types of design that must be considered:

Graphic Design – elements that help in creating a first impression

Design for the informational architecture – how the info is organized, how intuitive it is, how graphic elements signalizes it

Content Design – logo, links, the name of the domain, how relevant is the info

Design for social elements – chat, phone number, person of contact


Other testimonials from users


Visual design

“When I visited the website, I got a feeling that it was made in a rush, at low costs. The visual aspect of the website and its products didn’t make me trust it.”

Security signals

“I feel safe when, while logging in my back account, I am asked for a username and password and they tell me it’s a safe connection.”


“I felt I have no privacy when I heard about social media websites selling personal data to third parties.”


“There were a lot of coupon numbers that were not working and also a lot of products unavailable. The links were broken and the images not loading.”


“The moment I access the website, a lot of pop-ups, different sounds and banners appear out of the blue. I feel like they want to manipulate me.”

Social proofs

“I was greatly influenced by positive reviews.”

    You can read more about the findings of this study here:

Revista Computers in Human Behavior (45/2015), articolul Seckler, Mirjam, et al. "Trust and distrust on the web: User experiences and website characteristics." 45 (2015): 39-50

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