Problem summary

We adjust our personal behavior to reflect positively on how peers or the public perceive us


  • Use when building trust in e-commerce by displaying positive reviews and ratings.
  • Use when encouraging product adoption by leveraging the brand’s reputation.
  • Use when increasing social proof by showing user numbers.
  • Use when promoting content sharing by highlighting user reputation.
  • Use when encouraging user contributions by rewarding users for their contributions in community-driven platforms.
  • Use when influencing decision-making by emphasizing reputable sources in decision-support tools.
  • Do not use when the brand or product has a negative reputation, as it can discourage users.

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Reputation is what your audience knows about your knowledge of the subject.

Reputation depends on:

  • Achievements or acknowledgments from others in the area, such as, awards and testimonials.
  • Your experience and the amount of years you have worked in this area.
  • How involved you were with this topic – are you a key character?
  • Your expertise should be verified. Have you earned certifications or have other ways of showing off your proven expertise?
  • Your contribution to the area, perhaps through blogs, books, papers and products.
  • Your authority

Authority and reputation are usually predetermined before your users meet you, why it can be difficult to change the audience’s mind about it directly in the situation. However, it’s easier to change people’s perception about how trustworthy and how alike you are in the situation.

  • Let people build reputation. Let users share information, contribute content, connect to other people, keep a record of their personal activities, and perform other activities that are in line with the purpose of your community.
  • Encourage wanted behavior. Highlight how specific behavior on your platform can boost reputation growth, access, and capabilities. Similarly, discourage unwanted behavior by either not allowing it or making it harder to perform.
  • Promote track record. Provide easy access to testimonials, reviews, accomplishments, papers, and anything that can build on the values of honesty, ethicality, and compassion.

Using Aristotle’s triad of appeals to communicate Reputation

Reputation is a multifaceted construct, and its influence on persuasion is undeniable. While designers often tap into reputation as a singular entity, breaking it down through the lens of Aristotle’s triad of appeals – ethos, pathos, and logos – can provide a more nuanced approach to showcasing it.

  • Ethos is the foundation of reputation. When designers appeal to ethos, they’re emphasizing the credibility and moral character of an entity. For instance, when a financial platform showcases its certifications and regulatory compliances, it’s appealing to ethos. They’re not just showcasing their expertise but emphasizing their commitment to ethical practices and moral values.
  • Pathos, on the other hand, brings out the emotional dimension of reputation. A brand or individual might have a stellar reputation, but how does that resonate on an emotional level with the audience? By weaving in a storytelling that evokes emotions, designers can make their reputation efforts more relatable. Consider the story of a brand that started from humble beginnings or an individual user on a platform who overcame significant challenges. These stories don’t just highlight achievements; they appeal to the audience’s emotions, making the reputation feel more human and rea
  • Logos provides the logical backbone to reputation. In showcasing reputation, it’s crucial to have evidence that supports claims. An e-commerce site, for example, might have a seller with a fantastic reputation. Still, it’s the detailed product descriptions, transparent customer reviews, and clear return policies that provide the logical evidence supporting this reputation. It’s about ensuring that every claim made, every piece of the reputation puzzle, can be backed by clear, logical evidence.

It’s multi-dimensional and can be showcased in varied ways by appealing to ethos, pathos, and logos.

Getting a design that showcases reputation right

Reputation, in essence, is a reflection of what your audience knows or believes about your knowledge of a particular subject. It’s built on the pillars of achievements, experience, involvement, verified expertise, and significant contributions to a domain.

For instance, the manner in which awards, testimonials, years of experience, and the depth of involvement with a topic can shape the perception of reputation is evident in platforms like LinkedIn, where endorsements and recommendations play a pivotal role. On Stack Overflow, users earn reputation points by providing valuable answers, signaling their expertise and trustworthiness in specific areas.

However, the journey to building and maintaining a robust reputation isn’t just about showcasing past accomplishments. It’s also about the present actions and the avenues a platform offers for users to shape their reputation. Encouraging users to actively participate, share information, contribute content, and connect with others can be a transformative strategy. Such engagement not only amplifies the sense of community but also lets users carve out their niche, as seen on platforms like Etsy where sellers build their reputation through transparent transaction histories.

While reputation can often precede a user’s direct interaction with a platform, once they’re engaged, it’s pivotal to highlight how specific behaviors can enhance their reputation. For instance, platforms like LinkedIn and Etsy have embedded the reputation system within their core, allowing users to understand that responsible and commendable behavior will be rewarded.

Yet, in this endeavor, designers must tread carefully. It’s crucial to promote a track record that champions values like honesty, ethicality, and compassion. Easy access to testimonials, reviews, and accomplishments can solidify a user’s trust. Conversely, designers should be wary of and actively discourage any behavior that might tarnish this trust.

While authority and reputation might be predetermined before users encounter a platform, the design has the power to either reinforce or reshape these notions. By creating avenues for users to build and showcase their reputation, and by emphasizing values that resonate with the audience, designers can craft experiences that are not just engaging but also deeply trustworthy.

Reputation can be a powerful tool. However, there are pitfalls to avoid. One major error is the temptation to artificially inflate reputation, either by purchasing fake reviews or suppressing negative ones. This manipulation can quickly backfire, damaging trust when users discern the inauthenticity. Another common oversight is not providing a platform for users to voice concerns or report fake reviews. This lack of recourse can lead to frustration and diminish the overall trust in the reputation system.

Powerful pairings

  • Reputation + Authority Bias. Combining the power of reputation with the influence of perceived authority can be incredibly persuasive. A financial advisory platform, for example, could highlight its team’s qualifications and experience (reputation) and also emphasize endorsements from renowned financial institutions or experts (authority bias).
  • Reputation + Value Attribution. Users often attribute value based on external cues. A luxury brand can combine its renowned reputation with premium pricing, leading users to believe that the product’s value and quality are superior, even if they haven’t personally experienced the product.
  • Reputation + Social Proof + Rewards. By intertwining these three, a platform can enhance its standing. For instance, a fitness app could showcase testimonials of users (Social Proof) who have achieved significant milestones, and then incentivize other users to reach similar milestones with rewards. This not only solidifies the app’s reputation for effectiveness but also motivates users to engage more.


Allow users to build reputation by contributing content, sharing information, connecting people, and performing activities that are in line with the purpose of your community. Consider ways to draw in data from external social identities built up on other sites.

Reputation is a powerful determinant in influencing decisions and behaviors. It acts as a heuristic or shortcut for individuals when making choices, especially in situations with limited information or time. A strong reputation can instill trust, reduce perceived risks, and enhance the perceived value of a product or service. Conversely, a negative reputation can deter potential users or customers. Given its influential nature, reputation management has become a focal point for businesses and individuals alike.


When users perceive an entity as reputable, they are more likely to trust and engage with it. However, this power can be misused in several ways:

  • Fabricated testimonials and reviews. One of the most straightforward ways to artificially boost reputation is by creating fake reviews or testimonials. This not only misleads users but also undermines genuine feedback mechanisms.
  • Selective display of positive feedback. By cherry-picking and only showcasing the most positive reviews or feedback, companies can present a skewed representation of their reputation, leaving out potentially crucial negative feedback.
  • Exploitation of Halo Effect. If a company has built a strong reputation in one domain, it might be tempted to exploit this to gain undue advantage in another domain, even if their expertise doesn’t extend there.
  • Reputation laundering. Some platforms might amplify the voices of entities with questionable histories, allowing them to “clean” their image without addressing the root causes of their tarnished reputations.

While leveraging a good reputation in one domain is beneficial, it’s essential to ensure that claims in new domains are backed by genuine expertise and not just the halo of the existing reputation.

Make users aware of the mechanisms behind reputation-building on your platform. An informed user can better discern the genuineness of the reputation being presented.


1 Jebb, Richard C. (trans.) (1909). The Rhetoric of Aristotle. Cambridge: University Press.

2 Manzoor, et. al. (2020), Influence via Ethos: On the Persuasive Power of Reputation in Deliberation Online, Cornell Universitiy, arXiv:2006.00707

3 “Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking and Persuasion
": by Gini Bequiri

4 Designing your reputation system – a presentation by Bryce Glass from Yahoo on the competitive spectrum.

5 MacInnes, I., Li, Y., & Yurcik, W. (2005). Reputation and Dispute in eBay Transactions. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 10, 27-54.

6 B. Jiao, R., Przepiorka, W., & Buskens, V. (2021). Reputation effects in peer-to-peer online markets: A meta-analysis∗. Social science research, 95, 102522.

7 Standifird, S. S. (2001). Reputation and e-commerce: eBay auctions and the asymmetrical impact of positive and negative ratings. Journal of Management, 27, 279-295.

8 Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124-1131.

9 Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47(2), 263-292.

User Interface Design Patterns