What is happening in the brain of your customers, users and clients when they interact with your products?

One of the aspects of user experience that most product design team don’t take into account or don’t think is integral part of UX design is the element of trust. We leave that to the business development team or brand strategist.

We want to design virality into consumer products. We want our b2b products to be intuitive. While most of the time we forget that we can and we should design trust into the experience that users have when they interact with our products too.

How can you design trust into a product? What do you do or should not do to facilitate the release of that extended oxytocin, which produces happiness, in your customers’ brain when they interact with your products.

After reading the work of Paul J. Zak ( a renowned neuroeconomist) about organisational culture, I set out to test the theory that an employee-centric organisational structure, built upon a culture of trust can be good for business, and how or if this can be replicated in a product user experience scenario.

Some of the questions are:

  • Do user uses our app, web or platform because they trust our product?
  • Do trust have much to do with human-computer-interactions?
  • If yes, then how can you build High-Trust Products? What is neuroscience of trust in User experience?

Within the general accepted definition of “hey that thing or person looks good or beautiful”, most times , you just know in you that it is not going to work between you and the said thing or the person. Most times you won’t be able to wrap your head round the reasons for that feelings and conclusions. Why can’t you trust that person or that thing? It is not that you do not like it or like the person, its just that the element of trust is missing and the relationship and interaction will be broken no matter how beautiful and good looking the person or the product is to you .

So I postulate, if UI is beauty or love at first sight, designing trust into your product through user experience — UX, is the pathway to a long time relationship.

These are some aspects of his findings in a recent article on Harvard Business Review that I brought down to design thinking and see how it is relevant to user experience crafting:

1- Reliability is the key to the trust doors:

Do not manipulate users. Does that step do what its says or seems it will do when I, as a user, go through with it. From your user on-boarding best practices through to the overall lifecycle of the experiences with your product, users trust should be earned on every steps and interactions. Remain conscious of that.

2- Information Architecture:

A percentage of trust in a product is generated via the brand, the look and feel UI (typography, colour …) the rest is solidified in UX. Such as what kind of information are you giving me and when and why are you giving it to me?

Airbnb exemplifies this so well. When you are a go-between, or “mutual friends designer”, as they called it, for two total strangers that will live together under one roof, meeting each other for the first time, a lot of thought and research into designing for trust has to be done to determine the amount and the kind of information that you will need to share between the two of them , for both strangers to be able to enjoy the experience.


More on that from Joe Gebbia: Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Airbnb, giving a talk on how they design for trust at Airbnb.

3- Can You Show vulnerability:

Can you or as an extension of you — your product- be human? Will you show to customers that you do not know it all?

Another example from the employee-centric research is that: “Leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things…..research team has found that this stimulates oxytocin production in others, increasing their trust and cooperation.”

You can build your product credibility by being open and show to your customers that you are open to suggestion and that you are not a “know-it-all”.

4- Intentionally build relationship:

This has a lot to do about your products motive. Motive is the thing that causes a person or a product to act a certain way. What is your product’s motive with each and every interactions crafted? For users to trust your product, they need to intuitively feel and know that your product has their best interest at heart. To do that you will need to intentionally design in ways that communicate this.

Are the experiences on your product consistent. This also has something to do with the reliability but differs in a way. In order to be reliable you must also show consistency through through.

5- Enable activity crafting:

Same as in employee-centric organisational culture, when you “enable job crafting” as much as you can as an organisation, the productivity level and trust increases. So also with user-centric product.

Inline with that, try as much as possible not to force an activity or a feature on users. When customers are giving discretion on how they use your products, they trust the product better.

In conclusion:

These above are just some pointers and directions but the most important thing is to bare in mind that you can also design for trust and look at different ways to do this. This will definitely depend on the problem that you are designing a solution for and most importantly the user.

Once again, if UI is beauty or love at first sight, designing trust into your product through UX, is the pathway to a long time relationship.

I am neither a social scientist, a psychologist nor a neurologist and we are yet to get to that point of user experience research that requires us to monitor users brainwaves when we do A/B testing to monitor where and when a product unintentionally becomes unreliable.

However a simple conscious thoughts about trust elements during the design and testing exercises will go a long way to direct us on the right path.

For without trust there is no relationship; and without relationship all experiences become a fling. Do not let your users experiences with your product become a fling.