2023 ISCAP Proceedings: Abstract Presentation
Designing Trust: The Impact of Website Design on User Confidence
University of Pittsburgh Greensburg
In the contemporary landscape, the influence of website design on an individual’s responses to businesses and their offerings is readily apparent. Corporations invest billions pursuing the perfect logo, the most effective website design, and the best color scheme. The ultimate goal of these investments is to produce specific emotions in consumers, guiding them towards an idea, a product, or a service.
The creation, or destruction, of a website’s credibility begins with a nonverbal exchange between the individual and the design; it is an exchange based on the page’s appearance and person themselves and is based on the concept of surface credibility, where – essentially – what the individual believes they see is what they get (Fogg, 2003). This dynamic implies a degree of passivity on the viewer's part and casts the design itself as the active agent in the interaction, telling the individual what to feel.
Understanding how design affects credibility has been studied extensively in the last two decades, particularly in marketing. Hagtvedt’s 2011 study on complete vs. incomplete logos revealed that a “complete” logo was more likely to inspire trust and help mitigate the feelings of risk that might discourage a person from purchasing a particular product or service. Lowry, Wilson, and Haig (2014) built on those findings, applying source credibility theory (SCT) to logos and website design, finding once more that specific design elements will shape a consumer’s perception of the firm itself and thus influence their willingness to engage with it.
Using design to influence emotions is an effective strategy. However, certain exceptions exist, most notably in the realm of healthcare goods and services, which not only tend to have a negative demand but are also considered credence goods (Schenker, Arnold, & London, 2014). Healthcare purchases are typically conducted out of need rather than necessity, and when it comes to healthcare services, evaluating quality is difficult.
With healthcare, a paradigm shift in the viewer-design dynamic emerges, reframing the viewer as an active participant rather than the passive recipient of design influences. Fajardo, Zhang, and Tsiros (2016), contend that consumers' prevailing needs at the point of need or purchase affect how they view, and understand, design. Work by Li, Liu, and Li (2022) found that, when it comes to design, a one-size-fits-all approach may not be as effective as once thought as it leaves out the role of emotion. With healthcare, the emotions an individual experiences while seeking care will likely impact how they interpret the page design and judge the healthcare provider or system.
This proposed study aims to understand the dynamics between design, emotion, and credibility by extending the work of Hagtvedt (2011) and Li, Liu, and Li (2022) and understand how webpage design – with a focus on white space and logos – influences trust in a healthcare organization.
Keywords: source credibility theory, website design, trust, credibility, preconscious process