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Would You Trust This Face

January 1, 2001

Want to know what it comes down to for lots of folks out there? Sim D'Hertefelt, author of an interesting study on trust, states, "The feeling of security experienced by a user of an interactive system is determined by the user's feeling of control of the interactive system."1 Or, in Grok-talk, they feel secure because the process is easy!

Don't take my word for it. Read what regular consumers have to say about their feelings of comfort and trust when online purchasing is a positive experience:

"It tells me what to do and it's clear even though I am not familiar with computers. I feel confident that I'll get what I want and that nothing strange will happen. I don't mind giving my credit card number in that case."

"I feel secure about giving my credit card number because it's simple. I trust it because you see what you get. There is nothing hidden or obscure."

And here you thought security was all about technical issues such as 128-bit encryption, secure transactions, authentication, digital certificates and secure socket layers. Sure, they matter, although we still don't know how these things contribute to feelings of trust (128-bit encryption is only good for the duration of time it can't be hacked … and what sort of untrustworthy environment is it that requires 128-bit encryption anyway? … you can see how these things might work against trust).

But for the customer, this stuff doesn't seem to be the crucial issue. What they most want is to feel in control of the online process. If they feel in control, get what they want and are fulfilled, they are more likely to conclude with feelings of trust and security. Just what you want them to feel.

So think about designing for trust. Put your user in control. D'Hertefelt has these suggestions:

Make sure your interactive system is comprehensible. The client needs to know what can be accomplished, how to accomplish it, and confirmation that it actually has been accomplished.

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