The Masterpiece Model
The Masterpiece Model
Last updated November 1, 2021


On the web, trust is visual. Studies have shown that a few factors play a role in users' trust of a website: quality of information, perceived ease of use, and perceived risk. [1

Perceived Ease of Use

To handle perceived ease of use, one concept should be prioritized when it comes to designing your website: the aesthetic-usability effect. Also known as the Halo Effect, the concept suggests that when visitors find an interface to be visually pleasing, they perceive it to also be easier to use.

Similar to seeing a well-dressed businessperson and, subconsciously or consciously, assuming they’re more professional, we make snap judgments about the websites we visit. 

Keep in mind that what we’re aiming for in the trust stage is the perception of usability. That doesn’t mean your website shouldn’t be usable (of course it should!), it means you need to make it immediately apparent.

The perception of usability creates a trustworthy first impression; consistent ease of use throughout the entire experience builds and maintains a trusting relationship. We’ll focus on overall usability in the next stage of the Model. 

Tealeaves Home Screen
PERCEIVED EASE OF USE // Tealeaves uses a familiar layout, descriptive navigation, and clear calls-to-action to make visitors feel right at home on their website.

Quality of Information

Experts have laid out a few characteristics of information quality that we can apply to eCommerce website design. Information should be: valuable, relevant, up to date, complete, and in the right amount.

This information should be presented in a way that's easy to understand, consistent, concise, and accessible. [2]

It may not seem like we can quickly assess the quality of a webpage's information, but our perceptions are formed in seconds. Misspellings and mismatching tone require a little more focus to spot, but amount of information can be assessed instantly.

Based on past experience, we've formed instincts around these two ends of the content spectrum—too little content gives the perception that the company is hiding something and a wall of text makes visitors feel overwhelmed.

Communicating value in a concise and consistent tone will help your visitors get to know your brand and see the value in your products.

Everdaily Home Screen
QUALITY OF INFORMATION // Everdaily instantly communicates the benefits of their product in their hero section. Just below that, they set the tone with an easy to understand overview of their offering.

Perceived Risk

Perceived risk is one that's impacted by a few variables that we can't solve for. Visitors who are inexperienced with the web may not have the same capacity for trust that an avid user would. They're more likely to be uncertain, which is the enemy of trust. Also, users who have had a bad experience (especially recently) may be more careful and unwilling to immediately set aside any perception of risk. 

“When making decisions involving risk, such as an online purchase from a website, consumers tend to rely more on intuition than on deliberation.”

- Derrick Neufeld and Mahdi Roghanizad in Harvard Business Review, 2018

With that said, a professional website with original imagery and content will ensure that the majority of your audience starts their visit on a foundation of trust. 

Incorporating the opinions of others (especially respected sources) also goes a long way toward starting a relationship on the right foot. If you’re unable to showcase press reviews, testimonials, or reviews, including contact information and images of your physical locations will show that you’re a real business that exists offline too. 

Snif Home Screen
PERCEIVED RISK // Snif uses social connection to reduce visitors' perceived risk. Using logos of well-known media outlets, just below excerpts from their reviews, lends credibility to their brand.

Instilling Trust in Your Visitors

Opinions about your website are formed in an instant. Trust is the foundational emotion when it comes to making a purchase, and getting it right doesn’t need to be difficult. Thankfully, trust has been at the center of consumer research for decades. We have seemingly endless research on the topic and technology continues to improve the depth of this collective knowledge. 

Like the other four elements in the Masterpiece Model, having honesty at the core of your company makes it easier to communicate that you’re trustworthy. The best websites don’t hide who the brand really is—they amplify it. 

Overall, the element of trust is constructed with three factors: design, content, and social cues from others. 

Guidelines for Trust:


Optimize your site to load quickly.

Your site should load in less than two seconds.

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Use a well-designed cookie consent solution.

Your cookie consent banner should be consistent with your design & brand voice.

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Use a familiar structure.

Sites that meet a visitor's expectations of a typical website are seen as more trustworthy.

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Present your brand professionally.

Your logo is the first thing most visitors notice. It should be high-res, well-designed, and properly spaced.

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Use only high quality images.

Professionally-shot, high-res imagery is the most important aspect of any eCommerce website.

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Use consistent spacing throughout your layout.

Inconsistency means uncertainty, which is the quickest path to a lack of trust.

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Use appropriate negative space.

A lack of negative space is associated with lower quality and it makes your sections harder to browse.

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Use appropriate visual balance.

The visual elements of your site should distribute visual weight evenly throughout the design.

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Use enough words, but not too many.

Too little words means you're hiding something. Too many is overwhelming.

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Link to your social media profiles.

Being in multiple places on the web makes you more credible; especially if you have a following.

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Show off your press mentions.

Displaying logos of well-known publications (that have talked about you) builds credibility.

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Display contact information in the footer.

Making it easy to contact you makes you more transparent and reputable.

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Link to your shipping & return policies in the footer.

Being open and honest about your policies shows that you're a legitimate business.

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Link to your legal notices in the footer.

Terms and conditions and a privacy policy aren't just good for your legal team, they make you look professional too.

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Highlight any certifications or awards.

Being recognized by credible organizations shows quality and leadership.

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