Apple, the FBI, and UX Tips for Designing a Website People Can Trust


You probably heard about Apple’s decision to oppose a federal court order to aid the criminal investigation of one of the San Bernardino shooters by unlocking their iPhone. Opinions are coming down on both sides of that news, but one thing is very clear: Regardless of where individuals stand on Apple’s announcement, people are definitely wary of how their privacy is impacted when personal data is collected and used online.

In a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, researchers uncovered a few important overarching trends in consumer feelings about the collection and use of their personal data. Let’s look into the key findings of the research and see how this transitions into the UX tips for your business website.

First, the study found that people dramatically underestimate the amount of personal data that is being collected about them. Although consumers are generally aware of, and sensitive about, the information collected about them, many people simply don’t realize just how much information is being collected. For example, only 1 in 4 people know that information about their location is readily available to many companies. Even fewer understand the ease with which companies might access their browsing history.

Second, they noted that people are more concerned about protecting their government identification and financial information than personal details about themselves. This is good news if you run a social media site, but bad news if you sell products directly to your customers. In particular, customers from the United States and the UK are particularly sensitive about the risk of losing personal identification and credit card information.

Third, they found that people expect more value from websites that collect more personal data. This relationship is also sensitive to a customer’s understanding of how their personal data is used. For example, most customers feel comfortable sharing personal information if it is used simply to enhance the site experience. If, however, the same information is used to allow targeted advertising, or if the information is being sold to third parties, consumers expect more and better product improvements to offset the financial benefit the company receives by having access to their data.

So how can these insights help improve the user experience on your website, web or mobile app when it comes to dealing with sensitive information?

  1. Be transparent about the manner in which you are using any personal data you collect. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t be overly technical about it, and, when possible, give your customers the opportunity to opt out of sharing personal data – even if it means that they won’t be able to take advantage of a cool site feature. Make sure the forms are well designed and tested and that all form fields are appropriately labeled.
  2. When possible, use trusted third parties to act as personal data brokers. Take advantage of services like Stripe instead of creating your own payment collection back-end and use security best practices (like Laravel’s built-in encryption services) to improve the overall quality of your site’s security. Allowing users to log in with their existing account (e.g. LinkedIn or Facebook) is a good idea too.
  3. Help your customers learn better habits: Simple practises like encouraging your customers to choose long passwords; including clear, jargon-free explanations of how your business uses personal information it collects; and actually sticking to your data use policies will help establish you as a trusted brand. It’s also a good idea to encourage users to use their email address instead of creating an additional username.

What brands do you trust most – and least – with your personal data? Share your voice in the comments! Need to improve the transparency of your business’s personal data collection strategies? Contact us.

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