Building Real Trust in a Virtual World

As of December 2009, Netcraft Web Server Survey purported that there are around 233,848,493 websites on the world wide web. With hundreds of thousands of new sites springing up each month, building trust in your website presents a complicated challenge.

How does one create a website that instantly creates trust among today’s incredulous surfers? According to an article in the Fall 2010 Visibility, there are four basic components of web page trust-building – appearance, transactional assurances, experts and media, and consensus of peers.

  1. Appearance. Looks matter – especially in the online world, and with brand development. First impressions only happen once, so be sure yours represents you in the best, most effective way possible. Ensure that your website design is cohesive, and communicates professionalism despite the nature of your business. Eliminate unnecessary clutter; take the Google approach and simplify your design instead of overwhelming visitors with too many unorganized links and graphics.
  2. Transactional Assurance. When buying online, what assurances are there that your financial information is safe? What forms of payment are accepted? What policies and guarantees are in place? Your site should explicitly present accepted forms of payment, return policies, warranties and guarantees above the fold on each page. Also, privacy policies and security trustmarks from well-known companies help to allay fears related to the privacy of the user’s sensitive data.
  3. Experts & Media. Unless you own a generally well-known company, you will need to build credibility. Reviews and rewards from respected publications give visitors second-hand assurance that you have a trustworthy reputation in your industry. Another tactic is to use paid endorsements and/or celebrity spokespeople. Listing your clients in plain view can also boost trust by showing that you have a broad range of customers.
  4. Consensus of Peers. Arguably one of the most powerful “pillars of trust” is having the consensus of your peers about a given product. This is a large part of the reason Facebook has enjoyed so much success – “social proof,” or the influence of people on other people. Use objective figures showing how many people have utilized your product since the start of your business. Never forget your customer – understand who the main market is for your product/service and show them that people just like them have had positive experiences with your company.