Designing for Trust

How to make trustworthy apps when nobody trusts tech anymore

1. Try Starting with a Handshake (or High-Five)

When meeting a new person, you’d probably shake their hand rather than launching in to kiss them; a handshake is the norm, it’s what your new acquaintance expects given social niceties and context. If you tried to get too close in that first interaction, you would subvert expectations, and not in a delightful way, but in a way that would make your new acquaintance feel wary if not outright alarmed. The same principle applies to design. While “be human” might seem obvious, it can be easy to forget that it takes time to build a relationship. You need to confidently and appropriately lead your users through a journey that starts with the digital equivalent of a handshake and then sequence interactions like you would in real life, or in a way that conforms to our shared expectations for appropriate behavior.

2. Go Beyond a Padlock Icon

Trust can’t be earned with some visual shorthand like a padlock icon next to a payment flow. It’s important to think holistically and design with the full user experience in mind so that trust can be imbued at every step. This will ensure that your users’ experience is cohesive, enjoyable, and continues to exceed their expectations beyond day one.

3. To Oxford comma, or Not? It Doesn’t Matter, Just Be Consistent

Similarly, you’ll want to keep things consistent across the users’ experience. From colors to style conventions to typography, standardizing the look and feel of your design is crucial to creating trust. These standards will immediately create an impression, and this impression will become an expectation. Deviating (unless you’re rolling out a major rebranding) will suggest some instability or amateurism–none of which screams “trust me with your personal data.”

4. Don’t Wear Sweats to a Wedding

Just as making an effort with your personal presentation can be a mark of respect for others–you wouldn’t wear sweats to a wedding or job interview–ensuring that your design is thoughtful and appropriate demonstrates your respect for your users. Don’t forget spell check or to otherwise polish all your work. Your high standards and attention to detail signal that you take your users’ needs seriously, which in turn engenders trust.

NerdWallet Design

Building experiences to help you make the most of your money.

Michael Chanover

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NerdWallet Design

Building experiences to help you make the most of your money.