Sam Vanhemelryck
Sam Vanhemelryck 22 August 2017

Why a shift in society is changing UX and how to adapt

At this year's WebTomorrow 2017 conference we were immersed in tons of inspiration and insights from the digital world. There was, however, one topic that stuck with me: how changes in society impact the way we look at website user experience (UX) and conversion.

The general idea is that digital technologies disrupt economy and society because of its fast-changing nature, but something strange is happening. Nowadays, society seems to be changing faster than ever and the digital world is often struggling to keep up.

One of the most prominent speakers at WebTomorrow was Gerry McGovern, widely regarded as the worldwide authority in increasing web satisfaction by managing customer experience. He gave a keynote about “Fake news and the new marketing”, where he discussed the best practices for building visitors’ confidence with optimized website user experience.


Edelman Trust Barometer – Percent trust in the four institutions of government 2016 vs. 2017

One of the biggest trends in society is a general feeling of distrust. Global trust is at the lowest level since Edelman started measuring it. So called “fake news” is getting more attention than actual news and the lack of trust in politicians is causing some remarkable political alternations. Consumers are growing suspicious towards sales staff and e-commerce websites. The use of AdBlock is growing strongly and almost exponentially year after year.

Fun fact: nowadays, you are practically as likely to ever get struck by lightning (0.03%) than someone actually clicking on your banner ad (0.04%).


Mobile AdBlock Usage – 2017 AdBlock Report


How should you tackle this trust issue as a digital marketer or user experience designer? Check the 6 vital tips:


1. Be honest

Honesty is crucial in gaining trust. Customers are sick of being fooled all the time so a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get message” is a very welcome change for most of us. The best mail open rates (60-87%) on campaigns in MailChimp came from subject lines that actually stated “Sales and Marketing Newsletter”. This shows that honesty does pay off and craftily deceiving your customers is a bad idea.

2. Be clear

When selling standardized products or services online, companies should make sure users know what to expect,  for example:

  • pricing should be clear and easy to find
  • answer questions like “is VAT included?” and “what shipping rates apply?” before the customer feels the need to ask them
  • be clear about what the next steps will be in your marketing/sales funnel – for example, describing the checkout process before users initiate it
  • describe the scope and periodicity of your newsletter before users sign up, instead of just displaying a “sign up” Call-To-Action (CTA) button
  • online stores are the perfect avenues to convey to the customers what value you can offer.

3. Be genuine

When using visuals for social media and/or blog posts, try to steer away from the endless libraries of stock photos you can find online – why not use real photos instead? Customers see right through the fakeness of these images and don’t feel the need to engage with the content.

Real photos vs. stock photos – user experience optimization


4. Be reasonable

The use of “gated content” on websites is a popular method to fuel Customer Relationship Management (CRM) databases. Basically, it means website visitors must fill in a form with their personal details (at least name and email address) to access information. However, you should be reasonable when using this strategy to get contacts.

See this as a transaction: the content is the product and the customer data is the currency. The more value this content provides to the user, the more information they are willing to “pay”. For example: a simple infographic will not be worth much information to an average site visitor, so you shouldn’t be asking for a phone number in this case (generally considered too intrusive). Whereas a complete ebook or document templates may be very useful and thus worth some more information in exchange.

Gating content raises the expectation of high quality and value. If the information you ask for and the added value aren’t at the same level, the visitor will be disappointed and your relationship and any trust you have gained so far will be damaged or even lost.

5. Show, don’t tell

When selling products or services online, including case studies and customer reviews is valuable to gain authority. This is a great way to show what you’re capable of and what customers think of your business.

Never consider publishing fake customer testimonials. As with any false information, it’s considered fraud and it’s one of the worst possible offences to potential customers, which will become lost sales opportunities.

6. Keep it simple

This is probably a classic, but so essential I had to include it. We are bombarded with information all day, every day. When a visitor is actually looking for something, he doesn’t want to plow through a never-ending website hoping to find the piece of information he/she needs. Get rid of useless site pages and provide visitors with answers to their questions. Set up your site flow to segment on buyer personas, to avoid overwhelming your visitors with content that’s not useful to them.


Website user experience is an ever-changing field of digital presence that consists of design, utility, marketing and behavioural insights. Shifts in society have a major influence on the behaviour of (potential) customers and user experience optimization should follow accordingly. As a result, it is essential to keep a close eye on these seemingly high-level changes to keep your visitors and potential customers engaged.

This article was originally published here

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