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The "Establishing Trust" Lesson is part of the full, Web UX Design for High Converting Websites course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul stresses the importance of being open and honest with users. Utilizing social proof like adding testimonials from known sources, producing authentic content, and building a community of users helps build trust and strengthens a brand.


Transcript from the "Establishing Trust" Lesson

>> So that's a little bit about cognitive load. We're gonna explain cognitive load in a huge amount more depth when we talk about design later. But the third psychological pillar that we need to build if we are going to encourage high conversion is establishing trust and overcoming cynicism.

Trust is so, so important if we want somebody to take action, right? If you want somebody to do anything, that person is gonna have to trust you before they're willing to do it. And this applies in all aspects of life, but also applies online. If we don't trust a website, if we don't feel that it's reliable and it's gonna deliver, then we won't use it.

We won't enter our personal information. We certainly won't buy anything off of it. So we need to establish trust. The problem is that, increasingly, people are becoming incredibly cynical and so don't trust websites, right? We've learnt not to trust websites because we've been lied to so many times.

We don't trust marketing cuz we've been lied to so many times. So how do we do this? How do we establish trust and overcome cynicism? Well, the first thing you can do is be open, honest, and transparent. The best example ever of this, in my opinion, is Flickr.

I don't know whether you remember the photo sharing site Flickr. At one stage it was absolutely huge, it was one of those web 2.0 companies. In its very early days, it had a group of early adopters that were really into the service, but they had some really big growth problems, right?

Their servers would go down a lot, people would complain about it. And then the unthinkable happened, which is they lost a large number of people's photographs. You can't get much worse than that, right? So what Flickr did is instead of releasing a legal statement that covered their asses, they wrote a post saying sometimes we suck, right, and they just apologized.

They apologized, they said what went wrong, they said how they were gonna fix it, and they said how they compensated people. No trying to wiggle out of it, no corporate BS, nothing like that, they just were honest and open and human and transparent. And that paid off hugely for them, they turned those early adopters into advocates with their attitude and their approach and their honesty.

And so often we fail to do this basic thing on our websites, when we fail to connect with people as one human to another. Most of the things that we buy, we buy one human to another. There's gotta be a trust and a relationship there of some form or another.

Let me give you an example of how it can go wrong, right? So part of this is really about being human and showing a degree of empathy, right? I work with a lot of higher education websites, okay? And one of the websites I worked with was the University of Essex.

And I was helping them refine their messaging to be more engaging. And I came across this piece of text which is just a train wreck, right? As well as ensuring students make the most of their potential through their academic studies, the University of Essex provides an environment which caters for all of the needs of its students.

By providing a range of accommodation, catering facilities, an active student union, sports, and the arts, right? Now, set aside for a moment that that is one long sentence, right? What the real killer there is, is the fact that it's like Silence of the Lambs, right? Did you ever watch the film Silence of the Lambs?

In that film there is a serial killer, right? And the serial killer kidnaps people. And the way that he copes with the horrible things that he does to the people he captures, is he refers to them in the third person. She will put on the lotion is probably one of the famous lines from that film, right?

Not you'll put on the lotion, she will. And that's exactly what this bit of text does, right? As well as insuring students, not you, not the person reading it, but students, make the most of their potential through their academic studies. The University of Essex, not us, not we, right, it's all third person.

And it totally undermines any sense of humanity and empathy. And so often websites are full of corporate BS that is painful to read, is dehumanizing, and does nothing to improve conversion, it's just clever, slick lines. And we'll cover that in more depth when we talk about content. But then there's social proof, right?

Everybody talks about social proof is the best way of building trust, right? If this company and that company used it, then it must be good. Or if this person says it's good, this person gave it a five star review, etc. Yes, that's correct, social proof does work. And the reason it works is we prefer just to kind of, rather than having to think and make a decision ourselves, it's easier to say, well, what did this person do?

They liked it, therefore it must be okay. So there is a huge power in social proof. The problem is, is we've learned to become cynical. And that so often these days, we don't believe social proof anymore. We don't believe testimonials. We don't believe ratings. We don't believe reviews, right?

Cuz we've been fooled far too many times. So what can you do about that on your websites as you go about creating them? Well, the first thing you can do is use a known source, right? So if you're gonna use social proof, don't just use some random person.

But try and quote, say, a publication that they might have heard of, or a body that they might have come across, or a celebrity, or even try and link to something like a social media post, right? Because one of the common things I do is, if I post a testimonial, I try and take those testimonies from Twitter.

Then I can include a link to the person's bio where they say that particular quote and it shows that it's a real person. Celebrity endorsements work in part, partly because we wanna be like the celebrity. But part because they know that we know that, well, if they just made that up about that celebrity, the celebrity would have sued their asses, so we kinda believe it's something that's real.

So use a known source where you can. The other option is to rely on numbers. This is what Amazon does. When you see 5,000 reviews of a particular product, then even if some of them are rubbish, they're not all gonna be made up, so you get a sense.

Then the other thing is not to remove negative comments. One of the best reviews I ever had talked about the work I was doing and how great it was, but then went on to say things like, Paul's not afraid to challenge us and he can be quite provocative, right?

Well, actually, that kind of reads quite negatively, and I could have chopped that bit out and removed it, right, and just gone for the good bit. But actually by including those slightly negative comments, it made people feel like the whole thing was more likely to be true. If the reviews are too shining, if they're too perfect, if they're too great then people are cynical about them, they don't trust them.

I mentioned use social media already, which is take posts from places like Twitter and stuff like that. And when it comes to photos and video, make sure they real, right? The number of times I've been to a site, and it's like every single photograph of people that have got testimonials on the site, they all look suspiciously like models, and they're all very well lit, and they all look very much like stock photography.

And so instantly now I'm cynical about the actual review that I'm reading. So the images we pick to go with these things is really important. Make it a real picture of the person, even if that picture of the person is shit, it looks terrible. And the same is true with video, right?

Have you ever seen one of these videos introducing a product and then they have customers, using Acme has transformed my life. And there's some really interesting stuff that goes on there. For a start they're word perfect, they don't go umm or ahh in any of it. It's all very well lit, it looks very professional, it looks great.

But it also feels false, it doesn't feel real. They're obviously reading off the teleprompter, okay? So actually, some of the best testimonial videos I've ever seen were just recorded over Zoom. And you can see it was recorded over Zoom, it looks terrible quality. The person's umming and ahhing, their audio sounds awful, but he's compelling and believable because it's got real content, it's obviously a real person.

And the final way, the best type of social proof is if you can get into a position where you start connecting your customers to one another and they start enthusing about your product. Let me give you a really silly example of this. I collect paperclips. Now, the chances are, you're having a little snigger in your head at that point, right?

That's really sad, okay? Who collects paper clips? That's pathetic. I don't actually collect paper clips, I just wanted to get that reaction in you, right? But imagine now we're in a pub, right? And we're all sitting around and I announce that I like paper clips, right, and I collect paper clips.

Then people are gonna laugh at me, right? And everybody's gonna go, you got paper clips. And that's like, you have this kind of moment of, I'm gonna shut up then, right? I'm not gonna carry on talking about paperclips, I'm gonna stop. But imagine a scenario now where I go, I like paper clips, or I collect paper clips, and somebody else goes no way, you don't, I collect paper clips too.

And then we start enthusing with one another about paper clips. And everybody else is a bit more reluctant now to take the mickey of me, right, and to joke about it. And in fact they start going, well, actually, maybe there's something in paperclips, perhaps I'm missing something here, right?

It's like we were talking before we started recording about Ted Lasso, and about how everybody keeps telling you how good Ted Lasso is. And so that kind of word of mouth recommendation is really powerful, but it's so much more powerful when you bring together your customers and get them talking to one another.

And you can use this on your website, create environments where they can share with one another and interact with one another. Cuz it will create a buzz and enthusiasm around your product that actually attracts and draws in other people. So social proof is incredibly powerful at building trust, but only if it's done in the right way.

Another way I love building trust is through telling stories on websites. And there are all kinds of stories you can tell. You can tell stories about how the company was founded. So, for example, we all know Google started, not Google, Apple, started in a garage, in a suburban garage, right?

And we all know that early story, and that helps humanize the company and make the company feel not like the massive, gigantic, ridiculous company that it is. So talking about the company and its origins and its ethos and what was behind it, that helps to make connections with people.

You can also tell the story about your products and how they came about. Go spend a bit of time looking through Kickstarter, right? If you go to the Kickstarter, or Indiegogo, or whatever it is, those kinds of sites, they always have these videos where they tell the story about how their product came to be.

The process they went through for creating it, where the idea came from, all of this kinda stuff. And they do that because by telling this story, it starts to humanize the product and the service and encourage people to interact with it. Because we're programmed as humans to pay attention to stories, right?

Again, going back to the savannahs of Africa, if someone stumbles back into a camp mauled half to death by a saber toothed tiger, you wanna hear the story about what happened so you can learn from it and avoid it again. So we'll pay a lot of attention to stories, and stories help to make connections and relationships.

We can also tell the story of your customers and the cool things they're doing with your products and services. And then finally, you can tell the story of your people, the people behind the brand. I'll give you two quick examples of this. Number one was Apple, not Apple, Microsoft, right?

I don't know how many of you are as old and decrepit as I am and were designing websites in the late 90s, in what was called at the time, very melodramatically, the browser wars, right? And in this period of time, all the browsers were competing with each other with different functionality and support that they provided, except for Microsoft.

Microsoft released IE6 and then stopped, they did nothing with IE6 for years, years and years and years. And all the other browsers were moving forward and supporting more and more web standards, but then there was this steaming pile of turd sitting in the corner that was IE6. And everybody in the development community came to absolutely despise Microsoft as a result.

And in the end, there was a group within Microsoft of developers who got so fed up with this, so fed up with being the butt of every joke, being just persecuted for working at Microsoft that they set up something, I think it was called Channel Nine. I'm not quite sure, it was a blog, right?

And they did it behind the backs of all the corporate people and behind the backs of marketing, and they set up this blog, sharing what they were doing, right, in their day to day lives, and just talking about it. And that blog completely changed the dynamics of people's perception of Microsoft.

Cuz it was easy to hate on Microsoft, but it was really difficult to hate on Alex, who you knew from all the videos you were watching. So showing the people behind your brand really helps to create a relationship and build trust. Another great example is, I worked for a company that sold frozen ready meals to the over 80s, right?

Very niche product, but they were hugely successful. And we decided, they had a blog that they needed for SEO purposes, don't even get me into that. But as part of that, we did some video, which is well-known to help us SEO, I don't understand the logic of it, but anyway, we ended up doing it.

And we would profile different people. And obviously, we profiled the CEO, and we profiled the chefs that created the meals, and it was fair enough. But eventually we got a little bit more desperate of people to profile. So we decided to do a little interview with a guy called Alexei, I think his name was.

And he worked in the frozen area, the packing area where all these frozen ready meals was shipped out from. And he worked in minus 30 all day, this guy did. And he was a great guy, Polish guy, very very enthusiastic, really really lovely guy, and he literally had icicles on his mustache and his beard from working in these kinds of temperatures.

But he was so positive and upbeat. And we post this video of him, he got fan mail, right? And I'm not talking fan emails here, I'm talking real mail through the post, handwritten. And he was so good, he was such an ambassador for the company at building relationships.

So tell stories, I've gone on about that too long, but you get the idea.

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