There isn’t a lot of actual research on trust and website design. There are a lot of opinions, but not necessarily much real data. Research by Elizabeth Sillence and team (2004) provides some solid data, at least in regard to health websites. Sillence researched how people decide whether and which health websites to trust. Participants in the study were all patients with hypertension. (In previous research Sillence used the topic of menopause, and found similar results). In this study participants used websites to look for information about hypertension.
Design is the first filter — When participants in the study rejected a health website as not being trustworthy, 83% of their comments were related to design factors, such as an unfavorable first impression of the look and feel, poor navigation, color, text size and the name of the website.
Content is the second filter — Once the first filter was applied, if the website hadn’t been rejected, then participants mentioned content rather than design factors. 74% of the participants’ comments were about content being important in deciding whether they found a site trustworthy (after the initial design impression). For example, if the sites were owned by well known and respected organizations, advice written by medical experts, and sites that were specific to them and that they felt were written for people like themselves.
A One-Two Punch — People use both design factors and content in deciding whether to trust a website, but the design impression comes first. If the design is not professional and deemed trustworthy they’ll never see the content.
What do you think? Do you find that you do that initial first impression based on design?
And for those of you who like to read the research:
Sillence, Elizabeth, Briggs, P. Fishwick, L., & Harris, P. (2004). Trust and mistrust of online health sites. CHI’04 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference On Human Factors In Computer Systems. New York: ACM.