Designing for Trust – 8 UX surefire ways to help build the new currency

Author: Amirul Nasir

Building trust online is no easy feat.

Everyday we work with brands to create the best digital experiences online and on mobile.

A massive part of building those seamless exceptional experiences is the sum of the many interactions the brand has with the user that helps you build trust.

It’s a feeling… a human emotion that emerges when we interact with another person with common values and beliefs.

Simon Sinek, First Why and Then Trust.

For our inaugural Lunch n’ Learn I tackled this challenge and pulled together eight of the key principles we use when designing for trust.

I have also included a few of the stories I have experienced along the way that have shaped my journey to leading with UX when designing anything.

Three key concepts to note before I start…

Don’t talk to strangers.

Isn’t it ironic that right now, we are comfortable living in a stranger’s home? Riding in a stranger’s car? Going on dates with people that we just met online? This new sharing economy has changed the way we live and work.

The growing Sharing Economy

Technology is disrupting the way we trust and interact with one another. In fact, it is enabling trust between strangers.

Platforms such as EBay, Airbnb, Uber, Deliver and Airtasker make it so easy for anyone to be a ‘Micropreneur’. What separates these products is how well they’re designed for trust among users.

It’s easy to decide if a stranger can be trusted when you meet them in person. You can be superficial and make your judgment based on first impressions. But how do you convey this feeling of trust online?

The currency of trust

Rachel Botsman suggests that the currency of trust in a sharing economy is based on a person's online reputation.

We often leave a trail of comments/reviews on the web and this gets to be the deciding factor of how trustworthy a business or we are perceived to be when interacting with another stranger.

Trust definitely can be designed for and here’s how.

8 principles to consider when designing for trust.

1. Trust can be borrowed

Borrow from your customers, piers or reputable brands.

Believe it or not. Trust can be borrowed to improve credibility through social proof, as we are more likely to trust a person through influence from our peers, through testimonials, case studies and recommendation. How many of us actually use Tinder? And start swiping right when we realise that another person shares a common friend?

2. Judge a website by its cover

Appearance is key. The visuals you use, the tone and language you use all impacts how your brand is perceived. Having strong cues like the lock from SiteLock or the tick from Norton would really help in providing assurances of your product’s security.

3. Be obsessed about your customer

Being customer-centric should be the foundation of everything that you do.

It’s about putting your customers needs first before your business. It’s not about building a product that they want. It’s about building a product that they need. And provide more value to them.

Map out your customer's emotional journeys. And celebrate their accomplishments. Factor in your customer in every decision they make and ensure that it always delivers more value to them.

MailChimp is a great example of this. Sometimes if can be really stressful for a user to click on Send button. Mail chimp actually recognises this and gives the user a high five after they click that button. 

4. Be transparent

Be transparent about the people who work for you, about your customers, who else is using the platform, about your motives, beliefs and pricing. Don’t make it difficult to find information, as people don’t have a shot attention span to look for what they need and will quickly go to the competitor if it is a better experience.

Humanise the user experience. Make it seem kinder, gentler, more relatable and transparent to the customer. Build emotional connections.

5. Empower your customers

Always provide a way out. Do not force your customers into doing something that they don’t want to. Give them as many options as possible and help them to where they want to go. It is so important to build trust through choice and verification. Give your customers the option to verify where possible.



6. Disempower your marketing team.

The conversation has already started. Customers are already telling brands who they are.

Trust is now moving sideways. Customers are starting to judge companies through collective experiences. No longer can marketing teams control the conversation in a top down way through social media.

“You can tell me this is good for me. and I’m gonna look at other information and recommendations and decide for myself.”

It no longer matters what you say, it matters what we do as a company.

7. Believe in the power of recommendation.

Trust is transferrable. If users are recommending you, another user is more likely to trust or recommend you. In fact, 87% won’t buy from a company with negative reviews.

8. Design for the social pressure that comes with trust.

Recognise the social responsibilities that comes when you’re designing for trust.

Imagine you are having a bad day and you get in an Uber and you have to make small chat to ensure your rating stays positive.

We are now always being judged based on everything that we do. Constantly rated and reviewed. How can we design to cope for this social pressure?

So here is a summary of my key takeaways when designing for trust:

  • Trust is a human emotion and establishing it is important in this new sharing economy.
  • We have the power to design for them. And they can be designed.
  • Let’s start thinking about the issues surrounding social responsibilities that comes with designing for trust.
  • I strongly believe that the next big thing that will be coming out soon is a platform that aggregates your online reputation from various online sites.


Trust can’t be treated as an after-thought in any UX project.

Trust is the bedrock of any good relationship.

Trust, once lost, is impossible to regain again.

Long-term relationships equal long-term success.


At Bourne Digital we love to create, innovate and share. 

If you liked what you read and are interested in other ways your can harness design thinking to create awesome experiences then join us at our next Lunch n'Learn Friday 28 October 2016. Send us an email at and we can keep you updated.