I’m currently reading a history of India and came across the ancient term “sitting dharna”, which involves fasting at the door of one who usually who owes you a debt. The exact same custom was enshrined in ancient Irish law.
I am an avid history reader and am struck by how common the world is. How royalty and religion have existed in so many cultures. How the sun has been revered in so many places (except in Ireland, that is, where we see it very little).
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years of working in almost 40 countries, it’s that humans are essentially the same. Of course, culture matters. We make small things matter because what humans love to do is create bonds and create barriers. We desperately want to belong and to exclude.
Humans have far more in common than we have that separates us. One of the things that we have most in common is that we desperately want to identify those that do not belong. We desperately want to show and create separation, no matter how trivial or absurd that separation may be. Because if we cannot show that ‘they’ are not like us, then what is ‘us’, how do we define us, how do we show that ‘us’ are special, unique, wonderful?
Think of how ridiculous the concept of ‘white’ people is. White people aren’t even white. They’re pink or cream. It’s like saying a banana is white, or that oranges are green or that grass is red. And isn’t it a bit pathetic to see white people going to sun-drenched places so that they can get a tan so that they can look less pink and more brown? But then there’s nothing more pathetic than humans trying to prove how different they are from other humans.
Essentially, humans think the same. For example, nobody has ever come up to me anywhere and said: “Help us become more organization centric. We’re too focused on our customers. Nada. Never. Nietzsche.
There is much that is fake on the Web. There is much that is real too. About common human patters. About the very basics of how humans think and behave.
For those that want to look, the Web is like a cloudless night sky. All the stars of human behavior and emotion are there. All laid out in intricate and consistent patterns to be divined and understood. The beauty (and the horror) of the Web is that human life is mapped there ready and waiting for those with the skills to read it.
If you’re working in customer or user experience, you’re a map reader. The Web is a map of human behavior and your job is to understand and design for the patterns that emerge on that map. Because if your design and content maps to human behavior then it is by definition intuitive, easy to use, simple. The great designer builds on the patterns that already exist.
What culture hasn’t thought deeply about death, and embraced religion as a way to overcome it? What culture isn’t searching for cheap flights or cheap hotels? And what culture doesn’t want a special offer—a 5-star hotel at a 2-star price? Life on the Web is a mix of the fake and the real, just like life has always been. And there are common patters everywhere.