Ghost in the Pixel: Intimacy and Arrogance in UX

Reputation and trust is essential in a world where we don’t meet the people we do business or trust our information with. The reality of this world is that many companies have much more information about us that we prefer to have (or, what does VISA know about your buying habits online or at a physical adult bookstore?).

But that’s different, because we’re making a conscious choice to share information by making that purchase. Only when companies don’t disclose their intentions (like downloading our entire address book, for example, and then explaining that since it wasn’t required in the TOS, we didn’t notify the user) is our trust broken. And rightfully so.

Companies like Southwest Airlines have built trust with their customers by offering plainspoken terms of business. It’s essential that online companies (especially startups) do the same. When we expose our lives online, it’s essential that we know the parties at the other end have the best intentions.

From Ghost in the Pixel:

Trust  is an absolutely fundamental element of a user's experience and core to the creation of a viable customer relationship, even the business model itself, embedded in the value proposition. Yes, trust is a cornerstone of the business. It ensures a healthy customer – provider connection with positive multiplier and viral effects. Trust is infectious as "good word of mouth" spreads, and transactions increase, usage grows, value is augmented. It's a virtuous cycle.

But just as infectious is  distrust. A violation of the customer's sense of identify, privacy, and sense of their own dignity. But especially their sense of pride in a brand they enjoyed and believed in and defended, trying to persuade friends to participate and join in. All of that gets eradicated in a few seconds.

The "path" (ha!) from success to disaster is a quick and easy route. And saddens everyone, including it's fan base of faithful users.