Maslow, Hunters, Gatherers, Homo Sapiens and Web Design

Cavemen are a well-known element in art, literature and popular culture.Almost everyone remembers Fred and Wilma, who a lived in the town of Bedrock in the popular TVcartoon The Flintstones.  This show was a wildly popular juxtaposition of modern culture with the Stone Age.

Johnny Hart developed the cartoon strip B.C.  He said he created  the cavemen characters “because they are a combination of simplicity and the origin of ideas.”

The classic caveman stereotype (in contrast to that  presented by recent GEICO ads) was bearded and covered in hair.  He lived a pretty simple life.  He was tired and he slept.  He was hungry and he hunted.  He was horny and he…uh…handled that too.

In 1943 Abraham Maslow developed a whitepaper outlining what is commonly called the “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” stating that humans (like the original cavemen), have basic physiological needs they must meet before they can begin to really think deeply. What’s now known as Maslow’s ” pyramid of needs” models the hierarchy.  At the foundation is the  very basic needs required for mere  survival. At the pinnacle is  individual self-actualization and transcendence.

According to Maslow’s theory, a modern, fully actualized, aware, deep-thinking human state of being requires  the following:

  1. Physiological Needs ( Food and Water)
  2. Safety (Financial security and health)
  3. Love and Belonging (Friendship, Intimacy and Family)
  4. Esteem (Self Esteem, Confidence)
  5. Self-Actualization (Creativity)

So what does all this have to do with web design? 

BlogcavemanlargeWe believe that every website visitor has different needs and desires when they visit a web site.  Although there are (supposedly) no cavemen lingering in our midst, most of us live in a fast-paced world and we want information FAST.   We hunt for information online to serve our needs, and we want to get this information quickly.  So even today, many  of us, like cavemen, are still  hunters.  A website has to solve the needs of human hunters quickly,  or they’ll leave to scour the rest of the web wilderness.

That said, there are a few of us who have more time to “gather” or browse websites.  The gatherers may be in between jobs or on vacation or raising a family or taking a break or in a job that requires research.  We call these website visitors “gatherers” and they are not to be ignored.  These wide-eyed site visitors often want a sense of belonging and so they join community forums, or sign up for membership, or simply sip their coffee and learn about something new that engages them and motivates them to either make a purchase or live a more fulfilling day.

Regardless of whether you personally are a hunter or a gatherer, The humans at Greenlight Interactive believe that your website should address both types of site visitors.  If we pull in Maslow’s theory, then your site should ideally provide the following pyramid elements:

  1. Physiological Needs:  An easy-to-navigate website that has appropriate and relevant information for your target market.  Site visitors don’t have to do      much hunting to find what they’re looking for.
  2. Safety: A website that offers security features including password encryption for membership access and online purchases, so your hunter and gatherers know their personal information will stay private.
  3. Love and Belonging: Well, maybe not love. But definitely belonging. A “sticky” website is a good thing; it offers content that  drives  visitors to return. Returning  visitors create a community around your brand.  “Sticky” content can include niche newsletters, social media, forums, membership areas, web video channels, interactive polls and blogs. Think of these electronic “community” content efforts as your campfire – a very welcome sight for hunters and gathers.

Greenlight Interactive offers a discovery process that will help you understand your customers and your key products and services; usability evaluations  to help determine the basic needs of your website visitors; and creative solutions to implement this research.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find out if some of your communication elements are still in the Stone Age, and how to push them to the top of the 21st Century pyramid.



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