Matching Your Website Design to Your Target Audience

By Andrea Ferguson, President, AndiSites, Inc.

Whether designing a website yourself or through an agency, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to please ourselves (or our boss) and forget that a successful website needs human visitors who use it, enjoy it, and buy from it. But unless your best customer is you, you’ll need to turn your focus away from what you like in a website design, and towards what your users need and want.

UX expert Zoltan Gocza says:

“When designing a website, it’s easy to assume that everybody is like you. However, this leads to a strong bias and often ends in an inefficient design.

You evidently know a lot about your services and your website; you’re passionate about them. Your users, on the other hand, are likely to not care that much. They have different attitudes and goals, and just want to get things done on your website.

To avoid this bias, you need to learn about your users, involve them in the design process, and interact with them.”

Four keys to matching your website design to your target audience

1.      Define your target audience. 

  • How old are they?
  • What are their problems–especially ones you can solve with your product or service)?
  • How busy are they?
  • Do they use desktop computers or mobile devices?
  • Put together some user personas that help you narrow your audience down to your most profitable targets.

2.      Talk to your target audience. Too often we turn into mind-readers, believing we know what our users want and how they’ll likely behave on our site.

  • The truth is that users always surprise us, and the only way of knowing what they will and won’t respond to is to talk to them.
  • Analytics help but don’t do a good job of showing human experience.
  • You can “talk” to users with simple online surveys, even if they only include one question: “Would this feature be beneficial to you?”.
  • You can conduct focus groups to walk users through your old website and get feedback on new design ideas. At a minimum you want to have a brief conversation with some representative customers who have used your old site and will be using your new one. They’re usually willing to share what frustrates them most, and how your new design can make their day better.

3.      Make broad design decisions to suit your target audience.

  • Older audience? Use larger, clearer fonts.
  • Busy audience? Limit the number of choices.
  • Younger audience? Use images in favor of text.
  • Geeky audience? Use charts, graphs, and tables for data presentation.

4.      Don’t sabotage your own web design. One of the most difficult parts of a web design project is keeping the focus on your users and not on yourself. A good web team will help you with that, but you must let them. A popular cartoon shows how a web redesign project can go off the rails without proper collaboration. So work with partners you trust, and take their advice. Once the site is launched, don’t let it creep back to what it was before the redesign. Keep your users involved, and learn from them what changes to make.

Only through intentional design can you assure that your website will speak to the users you want and need most.