All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips


What’s confidence got to do with it?
July 1, 2009, 4:54 am
Filed under: confidence, scent, usability basics

What’s confidence got to do with a website?  Everything!  The more confidence your visitors have when they use your site, the more likely they are to be able to quickly and easily do what they want to do.

Confidence takes many different flavors, but the two biggest ones are confidence that you won’t abuse me, and confidence that the site works the way I think it should.

  1. Confidence that you won’t abuse me.  None of us would ever set out to abuse our customers, but many site policies do exactly that.  Customers are especially wary of sites they haven’t visited before and are looking for reassurance about some of the most basic privacy/respect issues.  Some good practices are:
    • State your email policy (no selling of email, no spamming, no sharing with others). 
    • Make sure pages that ask for secure information are https pages (yes, people look for that ‘s’ in the url). 
    • Don’t call a customer who provided his phonenumber on the site unless he’s agreed (a controversial policy, especially in tough economic times when every company wants to maximize their leads — but will go a long ways towards building trust with your customers.) 
    • Make sure your prices online are the same at checkout as they were on the product pages, and don’t pull any surprises.  
  2.  Confidence that the site works the way I think it should.  Not the way the company thinks it should work.  The more predictable a site’s behavior, navigation, and content are for a visitor, the easier it is for that visitor to quickly find what he needs.    This is why consistency across a site is so important — the customer only has to “learn” your site once and can then use that learning to navigate throughout the site.  Some best practices here are:
    • Make sure your links clearly state where they go.  If a link called “women’s shoes” goes to all shoes, or women’s sale shoes, customers lose confidence and start to doubt whether they’re clicking on the right links.  A link called “related products” is less likely to be clicked on than “women’s shoes” because it doesn’t have as strong a scent — ie, the customer isn’t as confident about where that link will lead, so is less inclined to click it.
    • Don’t use duplicate links (in most cases).  If having one link to “support” is good, two must be twice as good, right?  Wrong.  Duplicate links slow the customer down and force him to wonder whether the links are the same, whether they go to the same place, and why it’s on the page twice.  In some cases link duplication makes sense (eg if customers are equally split as to whether “uesr guides” should be found under “library” or “technical support”, it’s better to put that link in both places).  But for the most part, duplicate links on the same page cause confusion and lowered confidence in your customers’ minds.
    • Ensure similar links/buttons/calls-to-action/processes behave similarly.  If a button called “checkout” takes you to the checkout screen from some pages, but to an upsell screen from other pages, customers will lose confidence that they understand how the site works. 
    • Ensure similar pages function similarly.  If some gallery pages allow sorting or comparison and others don’t, customers’ confidence in their ability to predict how to use the pages will decrease.

Confidence is a big topic and this list only cracks the surface.  They key is to ensure your design reinforces customers’ thinking that this is a safe, good, professional website and that they can easily predict how to get around it.  A confident visitor is more likely to be a successful visitor (or at least to persevere a bit more in the hopes of being successful), and a successful visitor is a happy (and hopefully repeat) visitor.

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