Understanding your target audience
If website goals define what the website purpose is, then understanding your target audience helps you decide the finer details of web strategy. Specifically, it helps you with the who, how, when, where of your web strategy.
Audience analysis is not unique to website planning. It is an integral part of business and marketing plans so hopefully you already have some knowledge of your target market. If not it is time to start thinking!
Step 1 – Define your audience or audiences in broad terms
First, are you catering to one or many audiences? A single audience makes focussing a website easier but few web properties have just one audience. If your web properties are targeted at more than one audience then list all of the significant audiences.
Examples of audiences
Primary Audience for The Smarter Website Owner
Small business owners who are new to website ownership and who lack the skills and knowledge needed to setup and manage a website. Website owners who purchase training.
Secondary Audience for The Smarter Website Owner
Web designers and web professionals who want to refer their customers to a resource that helps them learn more about setting up and running a website.
Step 2- Define your audiences in more detail
In this step you develop your audience profile in more detail. Web designers sometimes use the concept of the ‘website persona’ to help clarify the characteristics of the typical or ideal visitor. This involves developing a detailed character profile right down to including a name, age, suburb, job, etc. Doing so can make it easier to put yourself in the frame of your website visitor.
A visitor profile will likely include the following:
What are the age groups of your visitors? Do they match with commonly used generational terms, e.g. Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers, etc.?
Is your market bound to a specific area or are you targeting a broader geographical range?
Does each audience have a predominant lifestyle feature? Examples include new parent, home maker, car enthusiast, gamer, There are likely to be multiple of these lifestyle categories. These lifestyle considerations may influence how, where and when your visitors view your website. When is your audience most likely to view your content? This will determine your posting schedule and the tone.
If your website is intended for a particular gender then this will be reflected in your web strategy. Design, tone and focus of content needs to reflect the gender balance.
The language used by your visitor and their proficiency with it will influence your web strategy. This knowledge determines the type, style and complexity of language used on your web properties. Depending on the languages spoken by your audience you may need translation or localisation of your website.
The target audience’s education level will determine the complexity of the information and how it is presented.
Preferred ways of using the web
Does your audience prefer using mobile or desktop devices? What is the most common browser used by your audience? How capable are they with technology? What is their preferred device for accessing the web? Do they have good internet access? Regional areas and some mobile devices may experience slow speeds so this would need to be factored in the design.
Your target audience may tend to work in particular fields or sectors. They may be narrowly defined such as tradespeople or more broad such as public servants. This information can help you further fine tune the tone and appeal of your website.
What other sites do your visitors frequent? Do they expect certain features or a particular level of sophistication?
How does your audience find the information they need? What are their search patterns? What search terms do you anticipate them using to find this information?
Knowledge and relationship to your content
What does your audience already know about your product or service? Why is this audience looking for your content? What problems do they need solved? What is their relationship to your content? Is it for entertainment, buying, aiding the buying process?
Step 3 – Use the audience information to guide design decisions
All this information was gathered for a purpose – to guide your web strategy. Recall that the web strategy encompasses the things you do to engage with your target audience at three key points – Incoming, Onsite and Post-Visit. In a later post we will look at how you use these profiles to craft your web strategy.
Knowledge of your audience is an essential complement to a set of clear website goals. Without audience analysis you run the very real risk of creating a website that lacks appeal and fails to attract a following.