Transposing the intangible and very human notion of trust into the rigid world of digital products presents an especially difficult challenge for experience designers. In an environment constructed of absolute building blocks – 1s and 0s – how might we reflect the subtle sliding scale most humans apply to the concept of trust in the physical world?
Rich Clayton facilitated a design challenge at MEX/14 to explore this question and produce a set of principles guiding the industry’s approach to crafting trusted digital experiences. After talks and some stimuli from the MEX user modes, Rich’s group took a field trip to nearby Euston Station to conduct user interviews, seek inspiration from physical world examples of trust and translate them to digital.
One of the most productive was with a train company representative, who was able to talk about the role of her uniform, the physical tools of her job (e.g. a clipboard), digital services and electronic station signage in establishing her trusted credentials with rail passengers.
The team then conducted an intense series of 4 x 1 hour design workshops to work through the 29 insights resulting from their field trip and whittle them down to 6 core principles for their overall response to the challenge.
Identify a set of design principles for establishing user trust in the digital environment. Pay particular attention to exploring which visual techniques & interaction flows reassure users and create a trusted bond.
- Communicate clear affordances. People trust things they immediately know how to use.
- Visibility of system status. Keep users informed of every action within reasonable time.
- Create authoritative appeal. People seek guidance from domain experts.
- Facilitate social proof. Build confidence, driven from like minded communities, through endorsements.
- Set expectations and verify. Establish your brand promise to create understanding, communicate purpose & encourage a cycle of validation.
- Culture trumps everything. Speak the user’s language with familiar words, phrases and symbols.
Rich Clayton’s team was supported by Jara Alvarez Masso and Rory Southworth, who were final year design students at Brunel University at the time, part of an ongoing scheme to introduce undergraduate designers to the MEX community. Rory subsequently returned as a MEX/15 speaker in his own right, conducting a series of 4 lightening session to update the MEX community on the latest user research techniques from his new role combining academic research and commercial insight at the University of Central Lancashire’s Innovation Clinic.
Watch the team present their findings during the concluding session of MEX/14.