Designing Trust in Online Experiences

A new approach for authentication between users on Share Economy platforms  

project bachelor thesis

tasks research, ux strategy, concept, design

year 2015/16

prototype mobile, desktop service

Trust and the resulting security is a foundation for interaction between people in our society. Since a physical encounter does not occur online, levels of interpersonal communication are largely eliminated.

The restrictions in online communication create new forms of trust between users. So how can users build a trustworthy relationship on a purely digital basis for the purpose of exchanging goods/services in a short time? 

Acting like a moderator, provides a service to authenticate users between each other. Focus is the users' ability to control their data and their willingness to share parts of their (online)identity. 



»Trust is the glue of life. It‘s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It‘s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.«

- Stephen Covey


The Status quo

When people are communicating for trading online in any kind of form, one or more of the following concepts will be used. 

Reputation systems

Chrysanthos Dellarocas describes reputational systems as "oral propaganda" online. Thus, users are able to evaluate their interaction partners and to evaluate them in written form. Mostly this 


Intermediaries represent a trust institution which is known by both interaction partners and mediates between the two (e.g. PayPal). Mostly the actions of the provider are intransparent (e.g. freezing accounts) and taking control of the user data.


One of the most common methods for promoting trustworthiness are profiles. They are intended to describe a section of the person with whom they are interacting. However, trust factors like profile pictures, contact information and review profiles are easy to manipulate. If they are poorly designed they don't provide the information which is needed in the interaction. 


In 2013 Airbnb began the implementation of an ID authentification for their hosts. People must now prove (authentification) their identity (verification) via scanning of their ID Card or via webcam. The problem with this method is, people are feeling uncomfortable to give out such sensitive information to a private company, without knowing how their data will be stored or handled (given to third party partners?). The platforms needs high level of trust from people.

»[...] keeps us up to date on who to trust, who other people trust, who is important, and who decides who is important.«

- Rheingold, 2003

The Approach

The following concept provides a new service which helps people to assess other people's trustworthiness online by keeping them in control of their data and classify information in context



The platform works as an independent moderator system. Free to be used as a third-party. Inside the platform, -       transparently designed to show users how and which part of their information will be used. To create a long term trustworthy relationship with them. 

Users in Control provides users with as much control over their personal data as possible. Users are mining their own sources of information from social media Platforms (e.g. Facebook, twitter, Xing), authentification information (e.g. full name, address, personal id) to create temporary profiles to match the value systems of other users in the trust building process of online communication (trading). 

Multiple Identities, Multiple Contexts

Different platforms, different identities. Users can create different identities for different platforms to match their information.


The following scenarios show how someone may use the service to check the trustworthiness of a potential online vis-a-vis. In the first scenario, the person creates an account as well as a profile for the platform 'ebay Kleinanzeigen'. In the second scenario, they receive an inquiry and want to check the authentification. Selecting important parts from the information of the new contact, they create a profile. If the selected information matches with the user's own value systems a first, reliable step has been made towards a successful online tradeThe following scenarios are showing how a potential person is using the service, to check the trustworthiness of a potential online vis-a-vis. In the first scenario, the person is creating an account as well as a profile for the platform " ebay Kleinanzeigen". In the second scenario, the person receives an inquiry to check the authentification. She creates a profile of the information of her opposite, which are important for her. If the information matches with her value systems, a trustworthy first step is created to go on on their online trade.  

Scenarios 1:  Creating a new account and a new profile

Scenario 2:  Creating a temporary profile and matching 

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