Lentis/User Trust


What is User Trust?Edit

In a context of online activity, user trust is the level of confidence users have about the creditability of a website. Whenever users perform transactions through a website or login to their account, they are taking a risk and need a reason to trust the website.

Importance of User TrustEdit

Why does User Trust Matter?Edit

In 2013 Target was a victim of a cyber-attack.[1]. By the end of 2014 it's second-quarter earnings dropped by 62% and some suggest that has to do with consumers' loss of trust in Target's ability to protect their privacy. Users' trust is a key factor for the growth of a business and companies without it are less likely to stay competitive.

There are over 1 billion websites, so user trust is important more than ever for websites to grow and sustain the growth. When users visit a website, and share their private information they need reassurance that it will be handled with care and if they have the slightest inclination that that's not the case they hesitate to go any further and even when they do, they are less likely to provide honest information. Out of 95% of users who declined to provide personal information, 63% said it was because they don’t trust those collecting it.[2] Trust needs to be established before users feel comfortable with interacting with websites and this is especially true for shopping and banking websites.

PET DesignEdit

The PET design (Persuation, Emotion and Trust) is a term coined by Human Factor International and states that a good website design should be persuasive, understand how to leverage users' emotional response and establish trust. The PET design approach stress the importance of establishing user trust for a website's success.[3]

Gaining User TrustEdit

Techniques Used by WebsitesEdit

Websites use several techniques to earn users’ trust, such as a good interface design, upfront disclosure, displaying security certification, maintaining a high customer satisfaction, omnichannel marketing, etc.

Brand HumanizationEdit

Brand humanization is one of the many effective techniques implemented to earn users' trust. The idea is to give a brand a human like attributes to make it more relate-able.[4] One way of doing this is by showing users the brand is about more than just making money. In the context of a website, this will go in the "About us" page, which might contain a vision statement, the history of the wesite, employee profiles, etc., giving the user a more personal insight. Forbes explains[5] that not only does this technique establish user trust but also increases users’ loyalty, which would play a major role in the growth of a website.

Abusing TrustEdit

Advertisements and Selling User DataEdit

There is an increasing number of services and sites that internet goers can use/view without paying money. How does this make sense for companies? Entities that offer free service have other means of making money, primarily through advertisements and selling data gathered from those using their services/sites. Forbes notes [6] that in 2013 on average each user earned Google $10.09 in revenue through advertisements and gathered data per year; $1.63, $1.53, and $1.81 for Facebook, LinkdIn and Yahoo respectively. Online advertising revenue reached $59.6 billion in 2015 [7]. Users don't like advertisements, but advertising and using user data is a breach of trust. Trust is breached when advertisements aren't regulated and users don't know how their data is being used. To inform their users companies use a privacy policy that outlines what data is taken and how it is used. Google outlines how data is used for advertising in their policy [8], Google also allows their users a degree of freedom to control some of the data collected.

Ad-blockers are on the rise[9], they are primarily used to enhance the internet experience by blocking out advertisements but a growing number of ad-block users have them to protect their computers from malware that can be transferred to a computer through advertisements [10]. These users use ad-blockers to regain trust in the sites they visit with less regard for the site's reputation.


Trust gained from a user can be turned against them by fraudulent entities. One of the more well known scams that takes advantage of trust in a company is a phishing scam. The scam works by sending a user a message or link that looks genuine, the message will appear to be a person from a trusted company or the link will send the user to a page with assets copied from the company's site. The fake site can be used to redirect login or other sensitive information to the scammer while the user believes they are inputting information for legitimate reasons. The message contact will try to obtain similar data by asking the user to provide login, credit card, social security number, or other private information making the user believe that the data is needed for legitimate or urgent reasons [11].

To combat scams such as phishing attacks, companies are making it clear the method of interaction they will have with users so that users have more trust in who they are communicating with. Some recommend purchasing as many variations of a domain name as possible[12] as to avoid scammers sending links that look similar to a trusted site. Another way companies instill trust on their user-base is to have their sites and services certified by a trusted entity that will ensure the site being visited is the company they claim to be.


User Trust is a phenomenon that successful companies have studied from many angles. They need to find a balance between practices that gain their user's trust, making money off their platform, and protecting their users from those looking to exploit their trust.

Further research into how users take control of their trust, like what was done with ad-blockers, will be very helpful for individuals looking to feel less paranoid about internet usage as well as helpful for companies looking to expand their user-base. Additional research in how different demographics trust different parts of a company/site will assist in the design of sites both visually and systematically.

There is no definitive method for gaining user trust that will always work. The concept is continuing to evolve and research should be done to try and predict how the future interaction between company and user will change.


  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2016/12/06/samsung-wins-at-supreme-court-in-400-million-battle-over-apple-iphone-design/#46f5f3cd172c
  2. http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/300000/299175/p80-hoffman.pdf?ip=
  3. http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2009/01/beyond-usability-designing-web-sites-for-persuasion-emotion-and-trust.php
  4. https://transitionmarketing.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/from-brand-to-being-humanizing-a-brand/
  5. http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2013/02/17/dear-leaders-humanize-your-brand/#12b3d900167b
  6. [1],Louis, Tristan (2013, August 31). How Much Is A User Worth?. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/tristanlouis/2013/08/31/how-much-is-a-user-worth/#7db73ab192a9
  7. [2],Gjorgievska, Aleksandra (2016, April 21). Digital Ad Industry to Revenue Record. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-22/google-and-facebook-lead-digital-ad-industry-to-revenue-record
  8. [3],Google, (2016). Privacy and Terms. Google. https://www.google.com/policies/privacy/
  9. [4],Elmer-Dewitt, Phillip, (2015, September 21). Who are the biggest ad-blockers? Fortune. http://fortune.com/2015/09/21/apple-adblock-stats/
  10. [5],An, Mimi, (2016, July 13). Why People Block Ads (And What It Means for Marketers and Advertisers) [New Research]. Hubspot. https://research.hubspot.com/reports/why-people-block-ads-and-what-it-means-for-marketers-and-advertisers
  11. [6],Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Accessed:( Scam Watch. https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/attempts-to-gain-your-personal-information/phishing
  12. [7],Schenk, Linda, (2015, December 15). 3 Critical Reasons to Register Multiple Domain Names. Virtuallinda. http://www.virtuallinda.com/tech-tools/3-critical-reasons-to-register-multiple-domain-names/