The value of trust

Never trust a man who says, "Trust me."
— Blaze Starr’s mamma

Thinking back on Jay Small’s discussion on user expectations, it occurs to me that part of the problem with doing cool stuff on news sites is that we confuse users because we (as an industry) have trained them to expect a crappy user experience. So when they get something cool — particularly if it is incrementally cool, as opposed to a complete re-imagining — it confuses them.

This concept was drummed home for me this week in a different context. I got a Blackberry 7100 smartphone to replace my SonyEricsson marginallysentient phone. (It’s already surpassing my IPod as my favorite gadget.) One of the 7100’s best features is its word-recognition software that makes typing a breeze, despite it’s small, doubled-up QWERTY keyboard.

But for the first few days, it was awful– not because of its design or funcionality, but because I didn’t trust it. I’ve been trained to expect that typing on a phone is a pain, and that word-recognition rarely works well. It was only when I got frustrated with my type-scroll-delete fumbling and decided to let the software do its thing that it started working, and I became a passionate user.

I think that’s one of the big problems for media in the early phase of Web 2.0. A few years ago we rushed online and started doing things that technology and usership didn’t support. Now it’s starting to, and our users don’t know what to make of it.

When that phase passes, and we as an industry (re)gain our customers’ trust — that’s when things will really get interesting.

By the way, for any of you BlackBerry blog-readers out there: Best add-on imaginable for the BB is Berry Bloglines. Exactly what it sounds like, and uses your existing Bloglines account. And it’s free.

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.