Alex McGibbon06/02/19

3 min read

Engaging trust through user experience

According to public polling for the Charity Commission the overall level of trust and confidence in charities fell from 6.7 out of 10 in 2012 and 2014 to 5.7 in 2016. A charity’s digital presence is a key facilitator in rebuilding and maintaining trust.

Mistrust is a fundamental challenge in the not-for-profit sector, however, it is not confined to charities. The digital revolution has catapulted the volume and access to personal data and social media has facilitated a rise in ‘fake news’. It is becoming increasingly difficult to define who is telling the truth. In fact, the Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 suggests 60% of the UK public think ‘the system’ is failing.

There are a number of digital best practices that charities can adopt to improve transparency, encourage donations and build a network of advocates. Firstly, understanding your audience ensures communication is always relevant and contextual. Prior to developing a digital strategy, charities should invest time in researching the different personas that visit their website. Each persona will require a different user experience - understanding their user journey and expectations can significantly improve reputation and the success of objectives. 

Once outlined, intelligent tools such as Cognitive Services and AI can be introduced to engage with each individual on a case by case basis whilst taking sensitivity and culture into account. 

The second thing to remember is: be transparent. Why not publish your charity’s finances and tell your community how donations will be spent? This is often the most daunting step towards building trust but transparency can dramatically alter public perception. A great example of this is The Brain Tumour Charity that embraces transparency by disclosing how much it has invested in research (£18.3 million) and where donors money is spent (£250 donation covers a day of research into brain tumours). 

It is also paramount that charities are mindful that good design is just as important as good copy. Prior to GDPR, tactics such as dark patterns would trick users into ongoing communication from the charity. It is crucial that charities are explicit when engaging with users about communication to ensure they ‘opt-in’. 

Finally, embrace familiarity – do not make users think. User’s do not appreciate surprises, ensure your user experience includes recognisable features and navigation to guide users around the site. 

Trust can be improved by adopting these best practices, however, it should be maintained and reviewed on a regular basis. Charities should engage with their personas for feedback so they can ensure they are always ahead of the curve. 

About the author

Alex McGibbon

Solutions Architect at Giant Digital


Alex is Product and Innovation lead at Giant Digital. Having spent many years designing charity websites, Alex is a real advocate for user-led design in the creation of websites, donation platforms and bespoke applications. He leads the UX/UI research and development, ensuring that charities balance their own organisational needs with those of their target audience, to maximise engagement and deliver results.

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