Building trust between users and technology

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, technology companies expended considerable effort to convince people that it was safe to input their personal information on websites and apps. After years of being told not to share personal info online, consumers in the early 2000s were increasingly being encouraged to engage with e-commerce and social networking sites. Using these sites meant that people had to trust that the technology was safe. Families looking for deals offered eBay their credit card numbers, students applying to colleges input their social security numbers into online college applications, and almost all of us gave our real names, locations, and pictures over to Facebook.

Soon enough, it was normal to offer your personal information to a website that gave you no other confirmation that it was keeping it safe beyond a few badges on their site. However, in recent years, massive data breaches have shaken users’ trust in technology.

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Whether you’re a nonprofit, a design shop, a SaaS company, or a social impact organization, the success of your digital product depends on user trust. Luckily, despite the breaches of the past few years, practices like human-centered design can help organizations to foster consistent positive interactions between users and digital tools.

As the practice of human-centered design continues to grow, conversations are beginning to move beyond how to create products for what we think people want, and toward how to create products for what they truly need. This conversation is a fundamental part of building trust between users and technology. Keep reading for more ways your organization can strengthen that connection.

Questions over assumptions

When discovering your user’s needs, the best approach is to ask questions instead of making assumptions. Asking users what they want in a focus group or through a survey requires coordination and effort, but having to roll back an unwanted feature is worse. Major reversions can reduce users trust in a product’s ability to understand their needs, as social media companies like Snapchat and Instagram have found when they’ve had to quickly release changes to new features after extremely vocal opposition from users.

Of course, there are times when you have to add things, like two-factor authentication that users may find annoying. However, that dissent can open up a dialogue with users about why additional security measures are necessary.

Communicate directly

It is not surprising that many who experience data breaches feel betrayed when companies cover them up for weeks, months, and even years. Communication with your users shouldn’t be limited to sharing successes and generating sales. They should also be alerted when their information is compromised and acknowledged when they share their frustrations. Indirect communications like easy to navigate help and support sections are also essential for even the simplest web or mobile app.

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Focus on ease of use

Ease of use is a priority for any digital tool, but especially when building digital tools that are meant to educate or support users. A low barrier to entry is a defining factor in getting users to return to your product when it can’t employ the more flashy and instantly gratifying design choices of apps like Candy Crush and Instagram.

Prioritize human-centered design

It makes sense why technology professionals use the word “users” to refer to the people they are creating digital products for, but it can also be reductive. It’s important to remember that users aren’t just personas; they are people, with varied requirements, interests, and experiences. Employing human-centered design in your digital work encourages the creation of products that solve real needs and engage users in mindful interactions. This approach builds trust and product loyalty.

Encourage feedback

A crucial part of building trust with users is to encourage feedback. It can be challenging to embrace critiques of the product your team has spent months building. However, constructive criticism makes for a stronger product and relationship with your users. You don’t have to turn every suggestion into a release, but opening up a dialogue shows users that you care about their experience.

All in all, fostering trust with your users can be a battle, but the rewards are worth the fight. The success of digital tools, especially those tackling social impact challenges, is dependent on building a positive relationship between your app and the intended audience.

Want to learn more about how to create thoughtful, innovative mobile and web apps? Check out our free 4 Week Guide for Digital Innovation that teaches you how to kickstart and follow through on the design and development of digital tools, CauseLabs style.

Project Manager, Marketing Associate

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