When we go online, we’re seeking a sense of safety and control…
Let the user choose
Too many social media and news website developers fail to understand basic human nature.
Are you like me in finding it irritating when news and social media sites push videos on you with the sound ON while you’re listening to your favorite playlist?. Why should we have to actively pause videos? Why should any video be allowed to play, especially with the sound on, if a person hasn’t chosen to view AND listen to it? When that happens to me, I unconsciously wrestle back my sense of control by closing the video even if the subject is compelling. If there’s text below the video, I’m also less likely to read it. –Research shows that my reaction is standard for most people.
While this response isn’t entirely rational, it is predictable, given the brain’s primitive flight-or-fight biochemistry. Modern life is a struggle with its continual challenges, including the overwhelming number of daily decisions we have to make in rapid succession. When we go online, we’re seeking a sense of safety and control, comparable to returning to our cave in prehistoric times after fending off multiple threats to life and limb on the savannah.
When we click a website for information and instead are affronted by a loud, bright video, our brain interprets those sensations very similar to the way our ancient ancestors would experience the terrifying sight of a charging, growling saber-toothed tiger. Of course, we ‘know’ these things are completely different, but we subconsciously rationalize our aversion to the video based on our ancient hardwiring, telling ourselves that the video isn’t interesting.
Help users navigate your website with a sticky menu
Similarly, if a visitor scrolls down a long launch page, with poorly differentiated segments, it evokes the primal fear of getting lost, also rooted in our ancient history as a species. –To prevent this, incorporate a ‘sticky navigation’ menu. More specifically, the website menu needs to move with the page as the visitor scrolls down.
Above all, remember that if you push content on visitors without their permission, it triggers a much more contemporary concern–that you are giving them an old-fashioned hard sell, something that works for few and alienates most.
In Part II of this article, I’ll investigate efforts to create sophisticated artificial intelligence interfaces that align with an individual’s values in a nuanced way to replicate a comforting, often ambiguous human perspective of the world.
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