Your Amazon shopping screen has just told you your payment has gone through and the order was successful. What do you do next? Do you believe it and go on to your other tasks? Or do you sit by your inbox to see if there’s a confirmation email just to make sure? Well, I am not afraid to admit that the latter is my typical shopping behaviour!

Why? I don’t really know, I just wanted to be sure Amazon has got everything. I am seeking final reassurance that my human actions managed to communicate to the payment and order processes to the system. I crave reassurance from it.

And I’m not alone.

Elevator CloseIn our daily lives, how many times have we repeatedly pressed the elevator close door button, hoping the doors would close faster than they already are? We do it because it gives us the belief and satisfaction that it will actually close faster, when in fact it doesn’t – like an elevator button placebo effect.

While physically closing a elevator door button is not possible in your digital design there are other ways to provide reassurance to your users throughout their experience.

Here are 3 reassurance patterns to consider in your designs to satisfy your users craving:

1. Password strength

In recent years, when creating a password for an online account it will show you the strength of a password indicator of how ‘secure’ that password is (example: Google). Have you thought about what it really does though?

I have used the same password for different accounts (as I’m sure many of us do!) and I’ve noticed that while it says ‘strong’ in some instances, other times it says ‘weak’. So, who’s really judging the strength of our passwords?

By saying the password is ‘strong’ it definitely gives me additional reassurance that my account will be more secure than the ones that said ‘weak’ – even though that may not be the entire truth.

2. Save button (in an auto save form)

With the introduction of web-based applications, such as Gmail and Google documents, the ‘Save’ button becomes redundant as information entered is saved automatically.

On a recent project we observed that when we don’t show our users the ‘Save’ function, the users were all asking for one. This was even after we explained the form was automatically saving their data anyway.

Much like the elevator example, people are craving for the perception of control which a save button gives them. Apple found this out to their cost after removing the ‘Save as’ in OS X Mountain Lion.

3. Accepting and declaration check boxes

SignatureWe all know that feeling. You get to the end of a process and you need to confirm, accept or declare everything. Recent user research we conducted shows that people can abandon the process around this point and either never return or switch to other channels such as telephone.

This is when users have already put in the time and effort to complete the entire process. People drop out because they don’t get any reassurances on the digital channel in the same way they do by putting a physical signature on a piece of paper.

A recent blog post by GDS illustrates this point. By simply rewording the declaration and conditions the users felt better and could trust the process again without perceiving it as too “government” or “scary legal”.

In our research we discovered that users feel better about what they are agreeing or declaring against when there’s a checkbox involved. Again this creates the illusion that this is doing something and it’s final – even though only the confirmation button counts.

Don’t leave your users waiting till the end of the process to see if what they have done has been successful. There are ways throughout the process to provide them with reassurances.

Images courtesy (OvO)Tom MaglieryJuli


Chris Mears

Chris is co-founder of UXmentor.me. He has worked with clients such as the UK government, Just Eat & Which? with a focus on service design and transformation.