Targeting your Audience with Web Design
In past articles like, “The Internet Battleground: What Makes A Website Successful?” and “Information Needed Before Building A Website” I outlined the importance of knowing your target audience and targeting them within your website design. So how exactly do you target a specific audience? There are many factors that improve experience for a specific demographic. Using targeted content, design, and functionality you can improve the efficiency and conversion rate of your website.
First, who is your target audience? You should target the demographic most interested in visiting your website and becoming a customer. Acquiring data on the age group, gender, ethnicity and location of your website visitors can help in determining your target audience. You can use Google Analytics for a lot of this. Once you figure out who is interested in your website, the next objective is to learn how these people think when visiting a website. What colors do they like? How technologically savvy are they? Are they connected on Social Media? What other websites does this demographic like? These are only a few questions that should be answered to learn more about your target audience. The more you know, the better. The best method is to find your average customer and ask them what they look for in a good website.
Once you know and understand your target audience, you are ready to build a focused, targeted website. The first step to building any website is branding and design. The layout of the website and the color palette both take your target audience into consideration. Typically with a younger target audience I prefer a more modern and trendier full-width layout with a strong color palette. Older audiences tend to prefer the more classic fixed-width layout with professional and comfortable colors. Some websites (retail sites, for example) may have a wide target audience range and in this case neutral colors and layouts are better. Learning what type of layout and colors you should use on your website will take some research. Taking a look at your target audience’s most visited and preferred websites will give you a good general idea of what route you should take.
I personally separate content into two categories – words and pictures. The words and pictures on the website are what actually communicate to the website visitor. Even though pictures typically don’t actually contain words, they still communicate to your website visitor’s subconscious. On most websites you will notice large images on the home page. This is usually the very first impression your web visitors get from your site. If your target audience is middle-aged family men, a high resolution image with a middle-aged man having fun with his son makes a middle-aged family man feel like he is on the right website. Of course, you’ll want to advertise your brand and what you actually do in the same image, but the general idea is the same. To accompany that same image you may want to include some word content. Even though the picture speaks a thousand words, it may still need some assistance in marketing your brand to your target audience.
Written content is important because each demographic reads and interprets words differently. For this reason, relating and speaking effectively to your website visitors relies on knowing your target audience. Speaking effectively to that specific audience is what sells your website to visitors. Not only must you know how your target audience speaks and reads (and correlate that to your written content), you must provide the interesting content that they’re looking for. Videos gamers on a website for the new Battlefield computer game probably have little-to-no interest in who developed the game. They want information on when the game is going to be released and why they should play it. On the other side of the spectrum, parents looking to buy a new playground set for their children may want to know exactly who built the play set and information about the safety features.
With such a wide-ranging population using the internet today, it’s important to understand the limitations to certain demographic’s knowledge of technology. Certain functionality pieces, normally obvious to a savvy user, may not be apparent to someone who is new to computers. So, it’s important to remember who your target audience is when looking to improve user friendliness. You do not need to accommodate via tons of how-to documentation on your website – that’s not what we call user-friendly. Things such as hover-over or drop down tips are effective and aren’t overbearing. The best and most effective method I have to found for determining what part of a website might be confusing? Find the most technically illiterate person you know and task them to use the website without telling them what to do or how to do it. Afterwards, I gather all of the confusing moments experienced by our test subject and find a solution to improve user friendliness. Typically this resolves any confusion our target audience may have with the functionality of the website.
Designing a new website can be a big commitment – make sure you’re considering your audience before you start building. It’s always easier to change it at the outset than once it’s already done!