I was at THE MALL, (Definition: Where teenagers are most willing to exercise, pretend to be shopping and hang at Starbucks), the other day. Calmly and acting really cool so as not to be uncool with my even cooler daughter, Arielle, I handed over my credit card to the funky cool bracelets-jingling girl behind the counter.

Awaiting the transaction to finish, Arielle saw a form where she could fill out her information and the store would send her discounts, cool stickers and other stuff to impress a teenager. I didn’t want her filling it out and handing over all her private information so quickly without thinking about it first. As I was giving the mini-mom lecture, (In a cool way, of course. We were in THE MALL.), the girl behind the counter said,“Oh, this form is much safer than using the Internet. I won’t buy online because I hate entering my credit card and personal information.”

I refrained from saying anything to the store clerk, but I think I looked surprised. She was young and from the “Raised on the Internet” age group. And yet, she was afraid of it?

The Big Bad Wolf

In online privacy conversations with developers and from usability studies, I see and hear more conclusions that older persons, and those new to the Internet, are the ones who don’t trust the ‘Net. I wonder if the demographics are bigger than we thought?

One standard practice websites are getting away from is the one where you had to register first before being able to add to the cart. Nowadays, you can shop-till-you-drop on an ecommerce site and when you go to complete the shopping cart process, this is when you are asked for your personal information and often a login and password. It’s thought that at this point the visitor is ready to make a committment and complete the sale.

But, you would be wrong.

Shopping cart abandonment still occurs after registration in cases where shipping costs are now displayed for the first time, taxes are added, and any hidden costs like rental or shipping insurance are finally mentioned. These “surprise costs” were unknown and not shared with the site visitor until AFTER they entered their private information. Many are angered by this and abandon the sale.

Some online applications and shopping carts chase away people because the form can’t be filled out accurately due to how its designed (International usage being a biggie here). Some forms ask for FAX numbers as a requirement. Some ask for a phone number but offer no reason. (It’s usually for credit card purchases, but never assume everybody knows this.) Sometimes the phone number fields make no extra field for international calling codes, on sites where this is important for global sales. Some don’t indicate they don’t accept cash or checks until AFTER you’ve entered your personal information. These are all reasons to leave a site. They are also reasons to not feel warm and fuzzy about shopping online in general.

Most of this could be solved with user instructions that communicate, calm fears and create confidence that the next step is logical, considerate, and necessary.

Do You Trust The Internet?

The demographics in an online forums for website designers and online marketers may be skewed, but I wanted to get an update on how people feel about purchases online and entering private information into forms and shopping carts?

Do you enter bogus information to get a form to work? Do you shy away from entering your birthdate and credit card information? What do you find scary, even with trustmarks and signs of secure servers (and, do you believe they mean security or are there just for show?)

If you would like to share your thoughts or read the comments by those who have, please visit Usability and Trust: How do you feel about credit card and private info? (You don’t have to register to read, but to post, you do.)

One thoughtful, clever quote from the thread that I felt especially productive for designers is this one by Ammon Johns:

“Credibility and trust are given, or not, to the particular site, the particular form.”

Related article:

Contactless payment proves popular with users

“Philips and Visa International have released the results of a new usability study of near field communication (NFC) and contactless payment technology, which showed that consumers like the convenience, ease of use and ‘coolness’ of making transactions with their mobile phones.”

Jakob Nielsen's New Usability Book is Now Available
Usability Lesson For Ecommerce and Phones


Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

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American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)