Online, you can be anybody. Whether you’re a person or a business, you have the ability to control your online presence and look and feel. Far too many decide to leave this as an afterthought, and I think that misses out on one of the biggest advantages you can have when just starting out: the ability to garner trust at scale.
When starting out both my clothing brand and my agency, one of the major things that we did was to ensure that all visuals, content, and design, of any kind, was extremely high quality. We made this a priority as much as possible. The result was that customers and clients trusted us, regardless of the fact that we were a small operation. We always heard comments that people thought we were much bigger than we actually were.
Naturally, for a visual-heavy business like a clothing brand this may be more obvious than in other industries. And naturally, a creative agency has to look good in all ways, otherwise how will they create something good for a client? However, I think that this kind of thinking should extend to any kind of brand or business, even personal brands. One of the most important things that I’ve learned through this experience is that good design instills trust.
If you go to someone’s website, and everything is slick and well-made and easy to navigate, you are instantly much more comfortable with whatever they’re selling. How often have you gone to an e-commerce site of some sort and it looked like it was made by a high schooler in 2004? I would never buy something from a site like that, and I doubt you would either. Would you ever play a game that looks like something from a spam Facebook invite? Or eat at a restaurant that had a terrible aesthetic?
If your customer-facing assets (like your website and branding) look good, it tends to infer that everything behind the scenes looks good and works well, regardless of whether that is true. That leads customers to have trust in the business that they are potentially spending time and money with. If those assets don’t look good, then you just look amateur, and it should be your highest priority to fix that. Design is not an afterthought, and treating it as one will make an uphill battle of customer acquisition even harder.
The bar for good design now is so high, and good design is so ubiquitous, that customers have a much higher standards for what looks “professional”. If you don’t meet that standard, your competition will.
The silver lining here is that it’s not particularly difficult to get up to that standard. There are limitless resources online to figure out things like proper typefaces to use, colors, hierarchy, layout, and so on. You have countless references to learn from as well, whether it is the apps that you use or the websites that you visit every day, down to more formal collections of great digital design like Awwwards.
Focus on the design, and much of the trust will come. Even industries that traditionally have not needed to think so much about design are finding themselves in need of an aesthetic overhaul.
The main takeaway here is that being huge or deeply experienced is no longer a prerequisite to legitimacy. By prioritizing design (of course, while working on everything else), you will gain trust at scale at one of the most crucial points in your relationship with clients, fans, and customers. Your branding and website will do a lot of the talking for you initially, and let you take it from there with the actual product or service that you’re offering. Whether you’re new or have been around for years, this is invaluable.