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5 Ways to Build Trust with Your Website's Visitors

Henry Brown, November 20, 2017

As much as we might wish it wasn’t true, first impressions are crucial to any relationship. Getting off on the wrong foot with someone can be disastrous, and asking too much of them right off the bat might scare them away.

It’s the same with your website, which is often the first impression a potential customer gets of your business.

As a designer, it can be tempting to try to convince visitors to give up information (or money) right away, but first you have to persuade them to stay on your site for more than a few seconds. If you approach design from a visitor’s perspective, with a focus on gaining trust, it will be easier to turn someone into a client and progress into a lasting relationship.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

When attempting to turn visitors into active customers, your site has to consider the audience’s perspective and focus on their needs.

How do they know they can trust you? What steps can you take to inspire trust, so that a visitor feels comfortable enough to share personal information, or even banking details?

For instance, customers make quick purchases from sites like Amazon or iTunes because they already know they can trust these companies with their credit cards.

Assume initial skepticism. Most businesses don’t have the luxury of a big, well-known brand standing behind them. They need to build trust before doing anything else!

Writing and designing your website can be looked at like a sales pitch. You’re asking a stranger to buy something from you, and in order to do that properly, you have to establish rapport with them.

Understanding a client’s emotions, anticipating their objections, all while working to build a relationship without jumping too far ahead are all useful to building a site a customer can trust. The customer needs these things from you before they’ll offer you anything - but how do you do that exactly?

Climbing The Pyramid Of Trust

Much like Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, the Neilson Norman Group has come up with the pyramid of trust, and it’s an invaluable concept in site design.

Essentially, the basic trust-needs of a visitor must be met before they will be able to move on to more substantial interactions.

Like a personal relationship, the progress is gradual, as comfort and trust are built. Initial skepticism is overcome, a site visitor feels more at ease, and further demands can be made without scaring them off. Asking for information before providing any value could be considered too pushy and a breach of trust.

It’s impossible to attain a new stage of commitment without first climbing the level below it. There’s no skipping steps when each one is built on the last.

A visitor needs to trust a site with their personal information before committing to adding their credit card. Keeping your website’s demands and visitor’s needs in equilibrium is essential to maintain each level of trust.

For example, sites that immediately ask for personal info are pushing too hard right off the bat. The call-to-action can (and often will) be ignored, and if the visitor is required to give personal information just to access the site, there’s a good chance they’ll just leave. Demanding any commitment from first-time visitors is no way to deal with initial skepticism.

How Design Inspires Trust

So you’re ready to inspire trust in your visitors and build up to a quality relationship. There are four established methods for communicating trustworthiness in web design that the Neilson Normal Group came up with over seventeen years ago and although how we interpret them has changed, they’ve stood the test of time.

Design Quality

Your site has to appear legitimate and professional. Quality organization is required for the landing page, and the color scheme and imagery should be clear.

In fact, design-led companies win over customers by a large margin.

A site that is well organized and easy to navigate inspires confidence and trust in a user, whereas a site that is difficult to navigate might lead to frustration. The palette on a site can affect the perceived value of a brand, calling to mind a corporate or luxury feel. The colors should match the type of service.

Upfront Disclosure

No one likes hidden terms and fees. Being open about all information related to your customer experience will make it feel like you aren’t hiding anything.

Prominently displayed contact info, costs, and fine print can add to the feeling of transparency. If your site only offers rate information after a login wall or form, the interaction cost is too high. If your service is heavily dependent on detailed client info, it’s worth it to sacrifice specificity and initially provide a more general range of costs.

Comprehensive and Current Content

Focus on every step of your company’s process and keep your site updated. If you provide a service, show how it will be done, not just the finished product.

This is especially true if your site requires a lot of trust from potential customers (like financial information), because users want to know with whom they are doing business. Your site and photos should represent the full range of products and services offered, so that it doesn’t alienate users looking for basic features or services.

Web Presence and Connectedness

Visitors want to see who has done business with you. If your site is being reviewed on social media and external sites, it shows that you’re being recommended and held accountable to your customers. Borrowing elements from social profiles and embedding them in your page also shows that you aren’t afraid of your customers’ thoughts and reviews.

Non-Design Elements

The hard truth is that if you’re missing valuable trust factors on your site, you’re losing potential customers.

Wave product designer Gabriel Tomescu has come up with a list of components that make online credit card entry forms easier - and more enticing - with elements like lock images and proper logo placement that reinforce the idea of a comfortable and safe transaction.

Awards, Certifications, and Reviews

It’s always good to show any accolades, awards or positive reviews on your website. This isn’t bragging - evidence that your site is respected will make users feel safer when giving you their personal information. You can include the logos of big name clients who use your services, you can link out to awards or articles where your product is featured in “Best of” listicles, or you can simply highlight a few positive comments in a banner.


When done properly, a guarantee can go a long way toward building potential customer trust. A free trial or a satisfaction assurance is a good way to let the viewer know that you believe in your product.

Encrypt Your Site with HTTPS

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the application protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. It’s the foundation of data communication on the internet! Encrypting your website connection with HTTPS is a new prerequisite for building trust in a viewer.

About 85% of shoppers avoid unencrypted sites, and some browsers like Google Chrome show a specific “not secure” message when users fill out forms over HTTP instead of HTTPS. It can alarm your customers if you don’t encrypt their data, as over 50% of the web is now encrypted.

Remember - Give Before You Ask

Take the time to see your site from your potential customer’s point of view. Offer something before you ask for anything important. Focus on attaining the basic levels of the pyramid of trust before moving forward and it will keep customers from running away.

While there are non-design elements that will aid trustworthiness that you can highlight in your design, good design practices can inspire trust and begin a lasting relationship with your customers.

---Building trust online starts with a great website. Having complete control over your content makes it simple to switch messaging, and with PageCloud your site is always secure. 

Written by

Henry Brown

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