We’ve come a long way since the days when sabertooth tigers influenced our behavior patterns, but there are still a few things that can bring out the caveman in us when it comes to interacting with websites. If what we see triggers that ancient fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal, or the acute stress response), we’re outta there and on to the next website.

Even though websites have only been around for a few decades, we already expect them to behave certain ways. This level of comfort provides a feeling of control. You’ll lose prospects and even existing customers if your website viewers don’t feel they’re the ones in charge.

I’m in charge!

Website users want to be in control of their website experience. They equate this control with comfort. Do you have video with accompanying audio that automatically starts playing when a visitor lands on your homepage?

It might push them out of their comfort zone because they’ve lost control of the experience.

Any type of similar frustration or discomfort is a loss of control, and including a pause button doesn’t get you off the hook.

What’s in it for me?

Click or tap the button. Slide the slider. We’ve learned to expect certain behaviors online. Visitors quickly exit their comfort zone when your website moves away from these expectations. This might be frustrating if you’re seeking to infuse new design and experiences into a website, but they didn’t come to be challenged to figure things out. Give them a comfortable experience that also keeps them in control.

The reason visitors don’t want surprises is because even though we’ve evolved, there’s still a part of our brain that’s vigilant and ready to react when there’s a change to our environment. Our brains associate danger with things we don’t expect, even when it’s a website element that behaves differently than we’re used to. A change is a threat.

The best way to help website visitors keep their confidence is to ensure their experience always communicates what’s in it for them. You will be rewarded with this particular experience if you click on this button. You will always return to the homepage because of the sticky navigation at the top – or the mobile hamburger menu. A consistent experience helps them deepen their trust in you.

Closer to cavemen

We don’t have to worry about dinosaurs anymore, and we’ve upgraded our caves for houses or apartments with central air and heating. We’ve come a long way, but our brains are still using an ancient operating system that manifests itself in the form of instant frustration if we’re made to feel uncomfortable. Our inner caveman takes over to regain control. With a click or a tap, we’re done with that website and we won’t be coming back.

That’s why it’s up to you to make sure that your website behaves the way people expect it to. Learn how we can help with responsive website design and development.