As humans our sense of touch plays a huge part in gauging quality, authenticity and ultimately enabling us to place trust in a thing. Whether we trust what we are looking at, using or being told is core to all exchanges and it comes from the sum of the experience. However, for me there’s something intriguing around the influence of touch on trust. Does touching something help you understand it more even if that thing is virtual or abstract, such as a chart?
It seems counterintuitive - all you can physically feel is the glass. However humans have an amazing capacity to ‘virtualize’ their senses. I’ve often observed how people engage with touch-based UI. How they reach out to explore and are far more willing to try things out and experiment, to be curious. The way the UI reacts and the feedback is essential to the experience but it’s that natural act of reaching out and touching that is key. This experience can have a very real impact on the how people perceive and understand the activities that are taking place. I’ve heard how when a brokerage service shifted its customer-facing application for choosing a mortgage from laptop to iPad they saw a significant improvement for deals closed in-store, on the day. Prior to this, the company had a laptop-based tool that the broker would sit down with in front of a prospective customer and show them the various options and data on how different loans would work. When they replaced the laptop the results were astounding; they had a huge lift (30%) in the amount of deals closed in the store, on the day. I think much of this is to do with the shift in interpersonal dynamics that the iPad creates. How it changes from when an operator behind a machine reveals the results, to a person sitting with you helping you understand what you are doing. But here the big shift seems to be the fact that the customer is doing the exploring, the analysis, the ‘poking around’. They are simply more confident in what they are seeing because they are in control. There’s no ‘savvy operator’, no man behind the curtain weaving their magic and dazzling them with his skills, it’s in their hands.
We trust our hands. Being able to hold and touch helps us judge a thing; after all our hands have been our metric of choice since before we abstracted it away to rulers and scales. They are our most known and trusted measure.
The deep trust we have place in our hands translates to touch-based UI. Touching a thing allows us to qualify the content in a very natural way, one that taps into deeply human evaluative processes. We weigh it, turn it, flex it, stroke it, tap it and feel for notches and extremities that could be changed or modify its form. The more a piece of screen-based content, such as a chart, can support these forms of examination the easier and more natural it is to work with. This leads to a better understanding of it and more confidence in our assessment of what it’s telling us.
Touching is key to trusting.