Aesthetic plays a part for enhancing safety and trust in a product design

When we hear the word aesthetic in design context, our minds usually go directly to the visualization of that design. We think of something unique, edgy, or artsy that differs one product from another.

For me personally, designers should consider user experience as well in creating aesthetic designs. Good aesthetics would improve user’s convenience, trust and the credibility of the product.

The end goal of improving convenience and trust in user’s experience is to motivate them to be engaged in transaction at the end of the process. It would consider the amount of time that users have to spend to complete the process, the number of clicks, and several other things.

One experience that I had regarding aesthetic and user experience happened when I was working with design team in Bukalapak.

Bukalapak is one of the biggest e-commerce in Indonesia. They have hundreds of people working as engineers and product team that serve almost 20 million users.

The best team ever! 🤘

One day, my colleagues, Rizaldy Gema, Tommy Anugrah and I were invited to a meeting with a product team who is in charge of the checkout page. In that meeting we were discussing about how we can improve the checkout page to provide more convenience to users, hoping to increase conversion rate.

Old Check out page

I have always been sure that fixing issues related to certain UI components is what we need to do to increase conversion rate. However, this time my gut feeling says otherwise. It tells me that we simply need to improve the visual of the checkout page, make it simpler and cleaner. The display in the checkout page should convey trustworthiness, safety, and comfort all the way to the end of the checkout process.

However, I still doubt my own gut feeling. I was thinking

“Is it really possible to increase the conversion rate simply by changing how the page looks and feels? Okay, I know it will make users more convenient, but would it really impact the conversion? I guess it will not.”

I was skeptical, yet excited to try this idea at the same time. So before I proposed this to the product manager, I tried to convince myself first. I began searching for literatures to see findings that will support my idea. I also gathered opinions from the UX researchers and designers in the team.

One of the most convincing thought came from my friend, Disky Chairiandy who said:

Disky Chairiandy
“Think about when you pass through a fancy restaurant and some rundown food cart by the street. Just a quick glance and we can decide which of the two is more trustworthy in terms of hygienes.”
Left — Food Cart | Right — Restaurant

Well, that’s a very logical analogy! I didn’t think of it that way before.

My research also led my to this book by Scott Hurff, Designing Product People Love.

In page 212, he discussed about the correlation of aesthetics and trust which affects the success of a product. He said, and I quoted

“Aesthetics have a significant bearing on our levels of trust.”

He provided an example through the following pictures:

Curtis hotel — Seedy Joint #1” by George P. Mackli | Room at the hilton hotel, Bath,” by heather Cowper

From both pictures, we can directly tell which room is more trustworthy and more comfortable.

His book also provides several studies/research over the years that confirm how aesthetics play an important part on usability and credibility of a product.

  1. Aesthetics and Apparent Usability: Empirically Assessing Cultural and Methodological Issues
  2. The Impact of Design and Aesthetics on Usability, Credibility, and Learning in an Online Environment
  3. Emotion as a Cognitive Artifact and the Design Implications for Products That Are Perceived As Pleasurable

The hotel room analogy reminds me of the story of AirBnB.

AirBnB was about to go bankrupt, Gebbia & Chesky asked Paul Graham for some insight. They spent hours on the site using the product and found out many listings that do not provide good pictures of the room. So, Graham suggested them to travel to New York, rent a camera and spend some time with the hosts to improve their listings. At the end of the story, the idea pulled AirBnB from the edge of bankruptcy. Their revenue multiplied within one week of the use of new pictures.

After gathering insights from my research and discussion with my colleagues,

I encouraged Rizaldy Gema (the UI designer of the checkout page) to propose the change in checkout page be made in terms of the visualization only, not the functions or the flow. We wanted to be really sure that improving how the page looks alone can improve the conversion rate.

Product manager agreed to this and did the a/b testing.

The result?

The new look of our checkout page succeed in improving the number of users to complete the checkout process (Sorry — I can’t tell the numbers). The number of user who completes transactions manually through bank transfer even increases! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

I‘ve double checked again to the designer and Rizaldy Gema said, he even made a couple of tweaks after the first attempt, and the raise was higher than before. 👏🏼 Congrats!

The new check out page — Shipping & details
The new check out page — Payment Method

In conclusion, changing the visualization of the checkout page increases the number of users who complete the checkout process. What’s more is the number of users who use manual bank transfer as their transaction method also increases. FYI, manual bank transfer option requires longer and more complicated steps in Indonesia. Unlike credit card transaction which is just a few clicks away, when users choose manual bank transfer, they have to go to the bank or use online banking to confirm their payment.

Is this because of the aesthetics of the new checkout page design which conveys trustworthiness and convenience? Considering what Scott stated in his book, the story of AirBnB and my own experience,

I believe it does play an important part.

But you should take it with a pinch of salt.