The reason you want to build a website is for some people to reach it, get content and possibly interact with it. You might think of it as a building that your visitors will enter, with some purpose in mind.
It makes sense, then, to make that building as adequate for your target audience(s) as possible. To do that, you need to picture the visitors you want to attract and serve: your audiences.
We assume that:
- Your visitors will get to the site voluntarily
- They have a motivation for visiting your site
- There is an alignment between their motivation and your goals
The key in conceiving a successful website is to figure out how to structure the site so that it responds to their motivations, while working for your goals.
In the post in which I talk about having clear goals, I stress the importance of having them clearly described, and aligning the site features with them. If the features of the site don’t respond to the goals, then maybe they are superfluous or the goals need to be reviewed.
The same kind of alignment needs to exist between your audience(s) and the features of the site.
Imagine a version of the Osteria Francescana (Massimo Bottura’s acclaimed restaurant in Modena, Italy) with Sesame Street-themed, children-sized furniture. Even if the food and service were great, the target market will not go there because they won’t feel connected to the Sesame Street theme, nor will they find the tiny chairs comfortable.
Before designing the features to be developed we need to find, name and describe the audiences of the site. You might have one or more audiences, and they need to be as specific as we can get while still having no more than three audiences.
Some examples of audiences are:
- Researchers. They need to get technical, specific information. They already know the basics and are looking for the details.
- Policy makers and politicians. They have little time and attention, the information might be sent or presented to them by someone else. They need short, concise explanations and the ability to find more detail if they want to dive into it.
- Concerned citizens. They may now know the basics and need to be informed. They are not specialists but might get involved. They need concise, entry level explanations and clear calls to action.
As you can see, each of them gives them a clear name and offers a description of their profile and motivations.
Your goals might point you to your target audiences. For example, if one of your goals is “To inform policy makers about the existence and importance of the biodiversity in our deserts”, you already know that policy makers are one of your target audiences. They might be merged with some other audience and given a different label, but they should be there.
Take some time to reflect upon your audiences. Make notes about the audiences you can’t quite put your finger on. All notes will be useful.
You might end up with a long list of audiences. If that’s the case, they will need to be reduced or merged until there are no more than three; designing and producing content for more than three different audiences can be hard, and there is the risk of confusing everyone and serving nobody.
With your audiences clear, it will be time to think about their motivations, your goals, and how they can be connected through your website.