Whenever I can, I experiment with new UX research methods and UX research share-outs.
And every once in awhile… I discover an unexpected by-product during my experimentation. This time, I was pleased to uncover accessibility insights in addition to answering my original research question: “what makes a website trustworthy or credible?”
So backing up a bit, I am currently helping one of my clients uncover new ways to improve the conversion rate of their lead gen forms. Through phone interviews, surveys, and concept studies, I discovered incredible insights about their target audience’s mind set, behaviors, motivations, and barriers.
In diving more deeping into their biggest barriers, one of the key insights was, of course, trust. Namely, what makes a website trustworthy or not?
Using the competitive, qualitative, and quantitative data we collected over the span of 3 months, the client team and I developed a prototype landing page with a radically different lead gen form and content.
To test the “trustworthiness” of this new landing page experience, I developed a research plan that looked a lot like a usability test research plan. But there were some important differences.
The purpose of validating this prototype was not to test usability. The prototype in question was already usable—100% of users are able to successfully enter their name and contact information into the lead gen form. Instead, I wanted to find out if it’s trustworthy.
To ensure as little bias as possible, I wanted to conduct a 100% blind study. So I recruited participants who didn’t know who the study was for or which brands they were evaluating.
It took a little extra effort, but in the end, it was worth it.
To pull this off, I recreated the key web pages of 3 competitor websites… stripping them of all color, graphics, videos, photography, logos, and brand identity—and left just the content and layout in tact.
Like a typical moderated usability study, participants and I connected remotely using screen sharing software. I also used the RITE method.
The discussion began in much the same way: an overview of the research topic, some ice-breaker questions, and then a review of the research methodology.
Next, I handed over control of my mouse and then showed the participant one of four websites (stripped of their brand identities). But instead of giving them a task, I asked them to instead talk about what they noticed on the page.
After a minute, I hid the website and asked 2 follow-up questions:
- What were their first impressions of this company?
- On a scale of 1 to 7, 1 being most credible, how trustworthy or credible was this company, and why?
And then we would return to the website for a few minutes so they could explore and comment on the rest of the site. We then repeated this process for the remaining sites, randomizing the order of sites for each participant.
At the end of each session, I asked participants to tell me which company was:
- most credible & why
- least credible & why
- most appealing & why
- least appealing & why
Over multiple days of testing, I discovered many unexpected ways that people judge the trustworthiness of a website.
For example, I learned cognitive psychology tactics such as social proof, limited duration, and scarcity aren’t the only ways to persuade behavior and build trust.
I learned brand personality matters a lot. When colors, graphics, videos, and photography are absent—it’s much harder for brands to reveal who they really are.
And this is when I realized that I had uncovered an accessibility insight: It’s critical to ensure the brand personality is accessible to ALL consumers, not just those who can see or hear.
We all already know this, but it’s important to reinforce: Messaging and word choice truly matters. When the visual cues are stripped away, consumers can much more easily tell when you truly care about them or not.
As of 2015, there are almost 7 million American adults who have a visual disability.
Don’t forget to test whether or not your brand and messaging connects emotionally to your target customer—even when they can’t see it or hear it.