Four Kitchens

Your website’s Hierarchy of Needs: An introduction

5 Min. ReadDigital strategy

So, you have a website. It could be brand new, several years old, or well into its maturity. Now ask yourself:

  • Is your website aesthetically pleasing?
  • Does your website function as you intended it to?

Easy? Now ask yourself this: Does your website’s design and user experience satisfy the psychological needs of your users? Not so easy to answer, right?

This question has inspired me to create a content series to help provide answers to this deeper riddle

In 1943, American psychologist Abraham Maslow conceived of a behavioral sciences framework that outlined basic human motivations. This model, named Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is a fundamental concept in psychology, and is depicted as a five-level pyramid:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

In this model, basic physical needs at the bottom of the pyramid are normally satisfied before an individual can address higher, more psychological, or spiritual ones. (However, updated iterations have acknowledged that the order of needs can be flexible due to numerous factors.) This series of posts will delve into the five stages of this framework and how it can help improve your website.

Websites and the Hierarchy of Needs

Your website’s short- and long-term success is measured by how well it serves your audience — not only from an aesthetic and functional point of view, but also from the perspective of your users’ needs. As such, Maslow’s framework can be a valuable tool in improving websites and prioritizing what should be enhanced at a given time during a website’s lifespan. So, as an introduction, let’s explore how you can use each level of the Hierarchy of Needs to enhance your website.

Infrastructure (physiological needs)

The human motivations at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid center around what is needed for basic survival, such as food and shelter. Without these priorities being satisfied, it is difficult for someone to focus on satisfying needs at higher levels in the pyramid

Establishing this bedrock is similar to making sure that your website has a solid foundation to build on and thrive on. This means having the proper platform to create a stable and healthy development environment, including:

  • Using a broadly supported and updated content management system (CMS) like Drupal to create content and write to databases
  • Employing a CMS where code changes are deployed without affecting performance
  • Housing the website with a reliable hosting provider and server
  • Making sure that the correct PHP version is installed and SSL certificates are enabled

Defense and reliability (safety and security needs)

The next level of the Hierarchy of Needs is focused on the innate human motivation to preserve one’s health, property, safety, and security — which is a concept that is as essential to you as it is to your website

Once your website is up and running, it is exposed to myriad threats, both online and off. As such, your website should implement security measures that help protect it from nefarious entities. These include:

  • Scheduling security updates and implementing spam filters
  • Backing up the codebase, database, and user files regularly
  • Implementing version control to safeguard yet-to-be-approved modifications
  • Making sure users have secure options for financial online transactions
  • Clearly communicating website privacy policies

Human connection (love and belonging needs)

In addition to satisfying one’s needs for safety and security, creating meaningful relationships can be just as vital for one’s self-preservation. This desire for a sense of belonging and connection is a basic human need that forms the third stage of Maslow’s framework. It can also provide the basis for a successful website — both from an internal and public-facing perspective

As such, your website can create a sense of camaraderie, positive rapport, meaningfulness, and a strong human connection by:

  • Creating an easy-to-use backend to increase efficiencies for content editors and website admins
  • Writing targeted content and messaging that is relevant and meaningful to visitors
  • Making sure that information architecture and navigation are intuitive, and content is found easily
  • Encouraging visitor interaction via social media content sharing, webforms, and clear CTAs
  • Embodying Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) accessibility best practices so that the website can be used by visitors of all abilities

Quality (self-esteem needs)

The previous three stages form what Maslow categorizes as “deficiency needs.” These include deprivation-driven motivations, such as the need for survival and safety, as well as the pursuit of love and belonging. Included in this category are needs related to one’s self-esteem — that is, the drive to gain confidence and ‌respect from others

From a website point of view, your site should feel likable while keeping the trust of your visitors. To help instill this sense of confidence in your website, we recommend the following:

  • Establishing internal checks and balances, such as a peer code review process
  • Maintaining a collaborative culture that documents and practices a consistent workflow for changes
  • Implementing tools to evaluate website quality — load speed tests, broken links, and an accessibility checker
  • Updating designs and layouts to improve UX and UI, page load speeds, and responsiveness

Continuous improvement and innovation (self-actualization)

Growth needs is the second major category that Maslow groups his hierarchies into — and it makes up the top level of the pyramid: self-actualization needs. In theory, once all of the deficiency needs are satisfied, a person can devote more time and energy to finding their true purpose, while realizing their full potential

From a website perspective, fine-tuning your site’s overall purpose is vital to protecting both its growth and its longevity. This may include regularly reviewing your website to make sure that the right features and continuous improvement efforts are being prioritized that align with and reinforce your stated purpose and long-term goals. These could be business- or revenue-related, or tied to more altruistic efforts — and may include:

  • Empowering visitors to help them make decisions, reach goals, and fulfill tasks
  • Maintaining a pulse on users and stakeholders to make sure the right efforts are prioritized
  • Using SEO data and analytics tools to track and adjust your website
  • Making sure website goals, purpose, and brand align with business and visitor goals, objectives, and values


So, where does your website currently stand on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Perhaps your website, with its reliable, safe, and secure infrastructure, has the fundamentals down pat, and you’re looking to take your site to the next level

Maybe you have ideas for a new website or your website is in its infancy, and you’re looking to establish a solid foundation from which to grow and improve your site

Whatever stage you’re currently in, I invite you to join us on our journey, as we continue this series and delve further into each level of Maslow’s pyramid. In doing so, I’ll highlight ways in which Four Kitchens can help you at each stage to improve your online presence, while forming a deeper connection with your audience

Are you ready to climb the pyramid with us?