how professionally done design can help businesses gain trust from customers

A guide to building customer trust through the power of design

So, you’ve developed a groundbreaking product that’s garnered great traction before its launch. You’ve also likely found a brilliant team who believe in your product and who’ll leave no stone unturned to launch it. You might have even built a robust marketing strategy to start promoting your product. But is that enough to ensure your product generates the desired revenue? Will your business be able to flourish?

Worry not, we’ve no intention of leaving you on a cliffhanger. Having earned more than a satisfying sigh of relief, you may be forgiven for thinking the most important work is over. But if you’re launching an entirely new product, potentially from an unknown brand, you’re asking your consumers to take an enormous leap of faith in trusting you. And like any relationship, customer trust isn’t usually handed out freely (especially when you keep getting ghosted—not writing from experience here).

Design is the first thing the consumer sees when looking at your brand. Design fills in all the blanks that the written word misses out on; it communicates your brand’s personality, values, and overall identity to the audience. Design is invaluable for all your marketing assets; when done efficiently, it sets you leagues apart from competitors. The choices you make about your brand’s design can establish long-lasting emotional connections with your target consumers, yet it can also totally alienate them.

During this article, we’re going to walk you through the simplest ways to establish customer trust by using design. But first, let’s dive into why customer trust matters in the first place.

Why does customer trust matter?

Fox reading newspaper and drinking tea

By Mad pepper via 99designs by Vista.

In today’s competitive and consumer-driven market, your potential customers are spoilt for choice.

Even for something as simple as enjoying a cup of mint tea. There is a plethora of branded bagged options and that’s not even including loose-leaf or fresh. How do you convince someone to choose your tea if they’ve never heard of it before?

Assuming your tea is fairly phenomenal, how do you convince them to continue coming back to you when there are so many other tea(m)s playing the field? The answer is—alongside retention and loyalty—customer trust.

1. Trust drives conversions

You cannot build a successful business without earning and sustaining the trust of your potential and existing customers. This is all the more crucial when you’re running an online business and don’t have the means to directly communicate with consumers.

Trust is the key factor that helps you convert website visitors into leads and active leads into customers. It helps you rise above your competitors and encourages consumers to give your brand a chance.

2. Increased retention

Ideally, your customers will keep coming back to you to purchase more products/upgrades. Gaining the trust of your existing customers is essential for retaining them as it helps you build a strong and enduring relationship with them. This is particularly crucial considering that the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times more than that of retaining an existing one—yikes.

3. Improved loyalty

Also, it boosts loyalty and transforms customers into devoted advocates, which can be huge when you’re establishing your brand as an industry authority and distinguishing it from competitors.

If you have a network of loyal customers who are all telling their friends about how great you are, it’s likely that your popularity will increase. This, in turn, helps you attract more paying customers and further skyrockets your revenue.

In today’s competitive market, simply prioritizing customer trust is no longer an option. Every aspect of your business, from product development and marketing to sales and customer support, should focus on reinforcing trust. Diverge from this approach and you risk falling behind.

So, how do you build customer trust?

trust fall book cover design

Book cover design by armin_design via 99designs by Vista.

When you think of building customer trust, content marketing and search engine optimization are two of the first things that come to mind.

What’s more, it goes without saying that meaningful, valuable, accurate and well-optimized content is essential for bolstering your reputation, authority and, ultimately, trust. However, it’s equally crucial to present the content in a manner that’s professional-looking and aesthetically pleasing to your target customer.

Whether you’re writing a blog post or a product description, you need to make the right design choices to identify with your consumer and build up their trust. As we mentioned earlier, this is paramount for establishing a brand identity and connecting on a deeper, emotional level with your consumer. But, how does the perfect appearance incite customer trust? Are we all just really shallow? Let’s find out.

The Aesthetic-Usability effect

The “Aesthetic-Usability effect” is a term coined by the Nielsen Norman Group in 2017. Simply put, it states that aesthetically pleasing things are perceived as easier to use and more valuable than seemingly “ugly” things. In other words, beautiful things generate positive emotional responses and even help mask usability issues.

Now, think of the aesthetic-usability effect in the context of your website. If it’s visually appealing, consumers will perceive it as easy to use. This, in turn, will make them view your website as valuable and trustworthy. It’s natural for consumers to think that if a brand has invested in good design, they’re less likely to end up duping their customers; it immediately grabs their attention and instills faith in them.

aesthetic-usability example

via UX Collective

They will even be more likely tolerant of any minor usability issues on your digital designs or products. Yet, if you now visualize a clumsy design slapped across branded content, platforms, or products, you can imagine how this would achieve very little apart from singing sweet high notes of unprofessionalism to the user.

One key point to remember: functionality is fashionable. The aesthetics of your website/product should be consistent with its purpose. If you create an awesome-looking product that doesn’t operate efficiently, there are no prizes for guessing who/where your consumers will be turning to (hint: it’s not you). Likewise, an awesome-looking website with mediocre and/or plagiarized content is not the dream combination for achieving high conversion rates. Quality information must be teamed together with outstanding design to communicate with your audience effectively.

In other words, excellent visual design improves the perceived value and usability of your brand. It influences your reputation and is key to making a great first impression on your target consumers. But, what about design techniques? How can you use them to boost your brand image and inspire customer trust?

Using design to inspire trust

Yolo book cover

Book cover design by Mila via 99designs by Vista.

Regardless of its bad rep, judging a book by its cover is profoundly human. Beautifully—and appropriately—designed websites and products inspire a positive emotional response in target consumers, without which it’s impossible to drive conversion. With so many elements involved, including color, fonts and imagery, just how do you get it right?

1. Show that you care

The first step in creating a high-converting and trustworthy design is to make sure your customers feel valued and cared for. In other words, you need to empower them by putting their needs first and creating a seamless customer experience. Even if you provide top-notch customer support across various channels, you must ensure that it’s easily accessible to visitors.

HuSpot web page

Image via HubSpot

Also, you should allow your customers to easily find key information about product pricing and company policies on your website. Including an accessible and navigable knowledge base or resources section on your website is a really good idea.

Likewise, you can optimize your product design to help users/customers explore different features and use them to the fullest. If you’re providing them with explainer videos and tutorials, make sure that users can find them in just a few clicks.

Gainsight web page

Image via Gainsight

2. Prioritize transparency

Today’s consumers have zero tolerance for brands that try to conceal their privacy policies or have dubious payment and shipping terms. With “fake news” and climate change haunting much of our current climate, brands are starting to own their individual social and environmental impacts.

The more difficult it is to locate this information on your website, the more likely consumers are to distrust your brand. That’s why it is essential to ensure that the design elements used across all your marketing assets should facilitate transparency.

Branded infographic for health foods

JPSDesign via 99designs by Vista.

Even if you’ve already drafted customer-friendly policies, an effective design will help you bring these policies to the forefront. This, in turn, will instill faith in first-time website visitors as well as active leads who are contemplating making a purchase.

3. Highlight your humanity

In line with a need to know about production processes, consumers want to know who they’re buying from. They want an authentic brand narrative they can relate to, buy into and support; they want to know that the company is “real” and trustworthy.

Charm your consumers with a heartfelt, inspiring “Our Story” section. Illustrate your brand’s journey, mission, team and core values, including imagery and potentially even “behind-the-scenes” video footage.

About section of web design featuring collaged images

By Brent and Jo Studio via 99designs by Vista.

Adding a physical address and contact number to your website and product catalogs also boosts credibility. It demonstrates that you are a real company with an actual office. This, in turn, encourages consumers to trust your brand.

Takedown Czar website

Image via Takedown Czar

4. Leverage borrowed trust

When building a brand from scratch, you can’t expect consumers to trust you right away. In such a scenario, you could creatively feature social proof, case studies, and client testimonials to support your legitimacy. If you’re prone to boasting, now would be your time to shine. Let everyone know what awards your brand has won or what your biggest fans have said about you (so what if that’s only your mom so far). Optimize the website layout to ensure that visitors can easily find this information.

Kinsta website

Image via Kinsta

It’s also a great idea to display logos of your clients, investors, media partners and other stakeholders on the homepage of your website. While consumers may not be familiar with your brand, these logos will help grab the right attention, reinforcing your credibility and instilling confidence in potential or new customers.

Natalist website

Image via Natalist

5. Focus on accessibility

Your brand aesthetics need to promote inclusivity. If differently-abled consumers can’t use your website, it immediately creates an impression of a brand that doesn’t care for its customers (and quite rightly so), meaning you lose a huge portion of potential conversions.

A few minor tweaks in your layout, typography, and color scheme enhance accessibility tenfold. Be sure to implement keyboard-friendly navigation and judiciously use videos on your website and landing pages. Moreover, clear and descriptive error messages work wonders for ensuring your content can be enjoyed by all.

Mathematics app design using braille

App design by Destiana Yeo Via Behance

6. Highlight security features

Today’s consumers are becoming increasingly wary of how different companies use their personal information. If your website doesn’t look professional and credible, your target consumers might think it isn’t secure, which would dissuade them from purchasing your products and making any payments on your website. Needless to say, it’ll drive potential customers away and take a toll on your revenue.

mailchimp website

Image via Mailchimp

While you might be using the right security enhancements on your website and app, it’s important to show these off to woo your customers. A simple security seal from your security service provider can act as a stamp of approval; you should also highlight your privacy policy and make sure it’s easily understandable.

7. Maintain consistency

However simple it sounds, a strong design across mediums creates consistency in brand identity. If it’s not coherent when all your marketing materials are consolidated, what will your consumers think? They need to recognize your brand, understand it and relate to it. Anything else risks looking sloppy.

Illustrated brand identity pack

Logo and branding pack by Artlokus via 99designs by Vista.

Final thoughts

Establishing customer trust is one of the most crucial aspects of building a successful business. It’s key to driving conversion, retaining customers, and amplifying your revenue. In the absence of trust, you can’t build a strong and loyal relationship with your potential and existing customers.

Design plays a key role in creating the perception of a trustworthy brand. An aesthetically designed product or website is more likely to be perceived as valuable and easy to use. Great design helps strengthen your reputation and authority and creates a consistent brand image across different platforms.

Design also proves instrumental in showcasing your brand’s human side and forging a personal connection with your target consumers. Ultimately, this boosts customer trust and ultimately, takes your business to greater heights: trust me.

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About the author

Jeremy Ong is the founder of HUSTLR. He has been running several online businesses behind his laptop for the past 5 years and he has worked as a freelance web developer previously. A trained marketer by profession, he also has Ruby on Rails and web development knowledge. His forte lies in eCommerce, SEO and content marketing. He’s been featured on Vice, Thrive Global, YFS Magazine, Forbes and several other publications. He prefers to connect with people on LinkedIn and Twitter.