User Interfaces: Design Elements
Judgments about the trustworthiness of a website begin as soon as the page loads. Even before reading the text, evaluating the sources, and otherwise determining the validity of the content, a user judges the interface of a website. Sillence et. al. found that during the first impressions of a health information website, early mistrust or rejection was caused mainly by design elements. The most commonly reported reasons for initial mistrust are reported in the chart below. The percentage on the right represents the percentage of responses that mentioned each factor.
As described in this chart, many of the factors are simply a lack of good website design (poor navigation/search, bad layout, too much text, etc.). Some, such as a poor website name or domain name, may not be as obviously untrustworthy. However, consider a situation in which you are looking for reliable information on cardiovascular disease. Which website sounds more trustworthy: http://www.nih.gov/about/discovery/chronicdiseases/cardio.htm or http://www.geocities.ws/ggmendoza20/?
Other characteristics vary depending on what the user is looking for. Corporate look and feel may not be appropriate for a health site, but it may be a superior design for a company website. Additionally, Bart et. al. found in 2005 that for website categories such as online retailers or web portals (like search engines or indexes), navigation and presentation are important in driving trust, but in other categories like automobile websites and community websites, brand strength was much more important.
Which aspects of design most affect trust differ across cultures as well. User experience research has identified three crucial types of design for information-oriented websites. As described in Garrett's The Elements of User Experience, these three are:
- Visual Design - visual treatment of text, graphic page elements, and navigational components
- Navigation Design - design of interface elements to facilitate the user's movement through the information
- Information Design - the presentation of information to facilitate understanding
All three components are important to good website design, but not all are equally important in promoting trust. A 2008 study of Canadian, German, and Chinese participants found that while Canadians were more likely to trust a website with good information design, Chinese participants were more likely to trust websites with good visual and navigation design, and Germans were unaffected by all of the three components.