In order to prevail in the general oversupply, your website must be designed to inspire confidence. But how does that work? In this article, you will learn how you can easily convince with your own website, which elements have proven to be concrete proof of trust, and which typical mistakes ensure that the “bridge of trust” is broken on the way to the purchase.
You probably know websites where you immediately have the feeling: Something is dubious here! Loud colors, a restless layout, and best of all music that plays automatically, plus three pop-ups. You closed the window as quickly as you came. phew Better to go back to Google and search again…
Other sites, on the other hand, are simply instantly compelling and trustworthy. You don’t know why, but you spontaneously feel very attached to this (just discovered) company – and want to immerse yourself further.
If you have ever wondered in fascination how you are supposed to manage to belong to the second category with your website with your online presence, this article is just right. Because most websites that inspire trust follow a proven pattern, the underlying system of which you can also use.
First, let’s start with what’s easiest: the facts about trust and why it’s such a vital part of your website.
An often-cited study by Google found that users rated the aesthetics of websites in less than half a second. So this is how much time you have to make the first impression: less than a moment!
The same study also revealed that websites are rated better the simpler they are designed. The subjects perceived pages with too many elements as less appealing. In the study, this was called “visual complexity” and means something like: Too much going on here!
Although the results are from 2012 and are therefore somewhat outdated, all current developments suggest that the period of time is becoming shorter and shorter. Meanwhile, the desire for calm and a recognizable layout runs through all areas and is consistently implemented by the successful larger websites in the world.
The trend is clearly towards clarity, simplicity, and structure. The less “out there” in the world is in straight lines, the more your website should be a place of order. So much in advance.
Of course, that’s not the only factor that determines whether your website visitors will quickly trust you.
In addition to the degree of peace and order, the above-mentioned Google study also determined how much “prototypicality” creates positive impressions. So: how much do the pages correspond to a known pattern structure. This prototype nature of the website applies not only to the overall structure and layout but also to individual elements. You may feel restricted in your creativity or you may think: “Sounds good!” and use the tried-and-tested building blocks for your own website.
The best elements you can incorporate for better results are specific snippets that show: I/we are a trusted vendor. When I talk to my clients about “proofs of trust”, I roughly divide them into “hard” and “soft” proofs. What that means and which of them you can use for your own site, I will show you below:
I call “hard” evidence anything that revolves around facts and verifiable performance, certificates, or documented results. The main aim here is to underpin your competence and to show that you are an “expert”.
Examples of such evidence include:
This second type of proof is a little more subtle. However, it often helps to convince with more personal features in addition to the “exchangeable” elements such as a trust seal.
These trust-building blocks include, for example:
As you can see, successfully hitting the subtler nuances is a lot harder than the hard evidence and facts. This soft evidence is often a tiny nugget that may go unnoticed at first glance, but can ultimately make up the final reason for a posting.
The better you know your customers, the easier it will be to add soft evidence to your website.
Now that we’ve looked at each of the elements you can use, it’s time to take a look at the big picture, which is the concept behind your complete website. Simply using individual building blocks will only lead you to your goal to a limited extent.
The true value of a website isn’t in the page itself, but in the relationship, you build through it. Of course, that sounds obvious at first. However, most people are not aware of how this relationship can be built up in concrete terms.
In reality, every functioning website is an overall concept made up of the following three parts:
In these three parts, you can manage to build trust or mercilessly miss the opportunity. If this sounds a bit abstract to you, let’s take a closer look at these three points:
The source of their visit is more important to the trust your website visitor has from the start than many people think. A well-known and respected blogger who refers to you can already ensure that a potential customer is 90% convinced by his description of your company. And that’s before they’ve ever seen your website.
The origin of the traffic that you get on your site alone, therefore, determines the level of trust with which the visitors start in the second 0 of the website visit.
Personal recommendations or links always have a completely different quality than ad leads bought cold. Everything that happens before you click on the page has more impact than many would like to admit. Because here your website visitors are “primed”, i.e. tuned in advance.
You can do this:
After users land on the website, the process begins, which you have complete control over. The website itself is therefore also the point that almost all website owners regularly tackle, because here (so the general opinion) it is decided: buy or not buy.
In fact, some points are set here that is crucial for building trust and thus for the purchase decision – but by no means all of them (see point 3).
You can do this:
For many entrepreneurs, optimization ends with the website. True to the motto: “I brought people here and convinced them on the website – duty is done!”
In fact, the follow-up, the process of staying in touch with the visitor, plays an extremely important role. People are often interested in principle (or could become so) but simply don’t have the time when they visit the website. Or no resources. Or the phone rings.
Here you should not let the trust-building process break down, but try to stay in contact with them. Whether you invite users to a newsletter or bring them to your social media channels is up to you. But: If possible, don’t let the contact break off on the website when the window is closed. Trust also comes from your brand/name gradually becoming familiar to the customer. This is only possible through repetition.
You can do this:
Of course, with all three parts of the overall website concept explained above, you can always find small things that can be improved. However, much more often than errors within one area, I see an entire piece of the puzzle is left out!
Many website owners only care about the website itself but don’t think about how to increase traffic. Or he is just concentrating on optimizing the “approach” (e.g. via SEO), but then doesn’t know what to do with a large amount of traffic in part 2 (website) and 3 (follow-up).
If all three parts aren’t thought through and your links worked out, you won’t achieve your website goals. Let alone building trust step by step.
These errors of omission are particularly common:
The website is up, but it has no or not enough visitors. But you need this in order to build up a sufficiently large current.
Work out a plan to get new people to your site on a regular basis, preferably even with a “leap of faith” from preferred sources.
Little or no thought is given to the trust elements of the site.
This is particularly noticeable on pages that aren’t exactly the start page or are called “About me”: These are often found under “Further running” and don’t look particularly convincing.
Always assume that every page is a “start” or landing page. Blog posts and subpages should also always be able to pick up and convince any visitor without the user having to look at five more pages from you.
I contend that this is one of the most common mistakes unlucky website owners make: once the website is closed, there is simply no follow-up and the user disappears forever.
Don’t forget: only a maximum of 3% of people who visit your website are basically in the ready-to-buy stage. Most of the others are somewhere completely different and need a lot more time to get to know you or your company.
If you don’t build in a follow-up, limit yourself to a maximum of this 3%. But there could be a lot more! Most people only trust companies or businesses that they feel they “know better”. You can’t do that with a single moment of contact.
Testimonials are real quotes or videos from your customers. This so-called social proof proves that there are real customers who are satisfied with your services or your products and are happy to recommend them. Have you ever recommended a service that you were not happy with at all? Would you advertise something like that with your face? Probably not.
We encounter testimonials in many places: The best friend with a recommendation, the ratings on Google Maps or a product review on YouTube. You have several options for working with customer testimonials. You can include a quote on your sales page or even take it a much bigger step with videos.
Avoid nameless customer voice at all costs. These quickly give the impression that this is not a real quote, but was created by yourself. If we give a testimonial a name and a face, this increases trust immensely. Caution: Do not use stock photos to give your customer voice an identity. This is dubious and many people will quickly notice this.
Our world is surrounded by certificates and standards. In many countries, there is a standard for almost everything. Street signs, for example, look the same in almost every country in the world. When we buy toys for the godchild, we (hopefully) pay attention to the most important seals of approval.
These certificates ensure security and trust because the products have been extensively tested before they are launched on the market. If you sell software in a specific area, you should familiarize yourself with the most important certificates from your industry and meet these requirements. During my time as a designer in the construction industry, we worked a lot with different interfaces and certificates. In some cases, they also decided on the purchase of the software.
So ask yourself which certificates and standards are suitable for you and your company and make an effort to obtain them. Your customer will thank you because they can rely on you to meet certain criteria and standards.
In many sectors, membership in an association or club can also be useful. They are committed to standards and the entire industry. If you run a hotel, membership in the hotel association would make sense. Associations will advise you if you have any questions and in many cases also offer legal assistance. The website visitor, in turn, knows that he is dealing with a committed company.
Success stories have a similar effect to the customer testimonials already mentioned. In a direct comparison, however, they will take up significantly more space on your website and are also more extensive in their creation. They accompany the customer through the entire project process. For example, there are three case studies on my own website. The aim is to give the reader as much insight into the way I work as possible.
Of course, you are not tied to a service. As a software company, you should also rely on the success stories of your customers. Did the introduction of a product go particularly well and is the success sustainable? Then you should definitely feature this story on your website. Again, pay attention to a transparent representation of the customer.
Tip: Start the success story with the current status at the start of the project. Where were the problems? Why is the customer switching to you? Document your work steps and show results. Particularly satisfied customers are happy to answer questions from potential new customers.
You come to the website and you know immediately that something is fishy here? Hats off! It seems that you have already visited a lot of websites on the Internet and you can recognize such traps very well. Scam websites are rarely really well thought out or even designed. Most of the time it’s just about making a quick profit before the site is taken offline. Unlikely that someone really bothers and puts together a well-thought-out web design with a goal-oriented strategy.
So if the alarm bells go off when you visit a website for the first time, you should check out additional content before you seriously consider a purchase.
As a site operator, you can use simple surveys (user interviews) to find out what the target group thinks about your web design. This way you have the opportunity to get feedback and make improvements to the design. Working with an external web designer or UX designer can also make sense here.
You should deal with current trends on your own and acquire knowledge in the areas of typography and color psychology. Test your site with real users and leave your own opinion out for now.
You have found a comparatively cheap shop. Product in the shopping cart, personal data entered, then the disillusionment at check-out: payment only by credit card. This is rather unusual in German-speaking countries and should already cause astonishment for many.
Reputable retailers always offer their customers a choice of different payment methods. These include, for example, the good old invoice, PayPal, vouchers, or payment by debit card. An overview of the accepted payment options can usually be found in the footer, in the general terms and conditions, or in the FAQ area.
As the operator of an online shop, you build trust in this way. Don’t leave your customers out in the cold with a single option, but offer the full range. Especially PayPal with its buyer protection is a safe bank and is used with pleasure.
An encrypted connection to the server is simply mandatory in 2022. It has long been clear that a secure site is a positive ranking signal and therefore has the potential to rank better than a website without appropriate security measures. A secure connection ensures encrypted transmission of data from the server to the browser. This means that attacks by hackers can be almost completely ruled out.
Such certificates are not expensive, on the contrary, there are free alternatives with Let’s Encrypt.
As the operator of an online shop, you should definitely purchase a high-quality SSL certificate. These must be verified in various ways. This can happen, for example, via domain or company validation. This is to ensure that the registered company is really behind the certificate.
You can recognize unsecured connections by the lock icon to the left of the accessed URL in the browser window. Google Chrome flags websites without encryption with a “Not Secure” notice.
For whom is an SSL certificate worthwhile? The rule of thumb is: If sensitive data such as personal data, payment information, or passwords are exchanged, an encrypted connection must be available.
The perfect example from my life: I was looking for a Zeiss lens for my camera last year. The new price is around 2200 dollars. The good piece was offered by a dealer for 1699 dollars – the original price of course. Not even the Hong Kong shops could match that price, so something must be fishy. I looked at the site and found extensive information about the website operator. The web design was also fine. Everything was also encrypted.
As the next step, I chose the tried and tested Google search. With the search query “company + experiences” I quickly came to the Trustpilot page. On this platform, users have the opportunity to share their experiences with a shop. In fact, there were over 80% negative reviews here. Positive customer testimonials were present but were peppered with many spelling mistakes and atrocious grammar. Customers complained about the shop, counterfeit goods, or no goods at all.
Another step can be the search for the address. Does the company present itself as a big shop, but the company headquarters only shows a dog kennel in the middle of nowhere? Then you should reconsider your intention to buy from this dealer and look out for serious alternatives. An intensive search of social networks can also give you an overview. Nowadays it is almost inevitable to do without social media.
The logos of common companies give your website a similar trust bonus as real customer testimonials. A web designer who has already worked for leading brands such as Apple, Google or Mercedes Benz will know what he is doing. This strengthens your expert status with the website viewer.
It becomes difficult to verify these works. In most cases, corporations insist on a non-disclosure clause. Tip: Ask the project manager for a customer vote after the end of the project. So you kill two birds with one stone – testimonial and brand.
Another common example is the “Known from:” binder. Here you can shine with publications and articles in trade magazines or even TV shows. The logos of the magazines or broadcasters are usually shown there.
Who doesn’t know him, the Hide the Pain Harold. This unassuming Hungarian has been hailed as an internet meme for his stock photos in recent years. What do we learn from these images? Avoid them. Necessarily. In most cases, they look inappropriate and hide the personality of your company. Or when was the last time you spoke on the phone with a big smile and thumbs up?
Invest in a professional photographer and provide your site visitors with high-quality photos that reflect your team and your vision – because this also strengthens trust in you and your company. Regular video and audio content can also strengthen your expert status, for example in the form of a podcast.
“5 tricks with which you can earn more money in a week WITHOUT ANY KNOWLEDGE than others in a whole year” – UFF! Surely you have come across a similar lurid headline in the endless expanses of the Internet.
Some self-proclaimed marketing gurus want to sell us their “best tricks”, offering their online courses for thousands of euros. The blue of the sky is promised on the sales pages. The reality often looks different. If something sounds too good to be true, you should always question it (see the heading above). Another trick is to apply pressure: “Only 1 hotel room left” or “Three places available at this price” should urge us to make a decision.
How does that affect you? Would you trust someone who keeps pushing you to buy? A lot of trust can be built with well-chosen words, but with the wrong ones, a lot can be destroyed. Get professional support in the form of a copywriter in the team to reach your target group perfectly.
Probably the highest form of recognition for excellent work are individual awards. Every entrepreneur likes to be told they’re doing a damn good job and we shouldn’t be afraid to share it with those around us. In English-speaking countries, it’s completely normal to call yourself an “award-winning web designer”.
Show your website, visitors, your successes, and how you achieved them. This increases the trust in you immensely. This topic is not limited to a sole proprietor. There are numerous company and product awards such as the Design Award, the Red Dot Award, etc…
To build a website that people trust, strive for the total package, parts of which are described in this article.
Once you have this basic concept in place and all three pieces in mind, you can work to build, grow, and improve each trust-building block on your site.
The following applies: It is better to have fewer really good elements than something of everything. As long as you keep the big picture in mind and work with selected, effective building blocks, you will be miles ahead of your competition. At the same time, you will slowly develop a relationship with your customers in which you will be the first consideration as a trusted provider when the need arises.