We are often asked to evaluate websites. “What can I do to make it better?” or “How do I get people to read it?” are frequent questions.
The first thing I look for, beyond graphics or anything else, is an understanding of the intended audience.
Time and time again, the issues I find with a site are not tied to user interface necessarily, or even poor graphic design. It’s that the site does not articulate well to the target audience of the business it represents. When constructing a website, putting yourself in the shoes of your prospective audience and understanding how they use your site is vital.
Knowing who your people are cannot be set aside.
A website is essentially a tool for communication. There is a reason we look at prehistoric cave paintings with furrowed eyebrows and cocked heads. They were a communication tool used by a vastly different audience. If you don’t understand who you are communicating to, how they want to be communicated with, or what information they are seeking to learn, then your potential customers will be like tourists trying to make sense of ochre stick figures—and then they’ll leave. Another opportunity missed.
4 Steps to Know Your Audience:
1) Name your audience groups. Are they customers? Vendors? Investors? Prospective employees? List every single one—it’s important you don’t miss any.
2) Dig a little deeper and create a target audience persona. List all the key characteristics and motivators that define this group. What are their goals? What do they do for fun? What scares them? This is a combination of demographic and psychographic features.
3) For each audience group, name everything they may want from your website. What information do they value the most? Are they simply coming to your site to find a phone number and call for more details? Are they looking for specific documents to download? Do they need a list of products you offer?
4) Based on this, clearly define what message you must communicate to each audience group and what action (if any) you desire for them to take.
Now, with this information in hand, you’re prepared. Don’t make another change to your website without it. Use the answers you discovered to craft a website that speaks to your audiences.
When you tell your people what they want to hear, they listen.