The reason you want to build a website is to reach out to some people, so they can get content and possibly interact with it. Think of it as a building that your visitors will enter with a specific 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 target audiences.
It's safe to assume that:
- Your visitors will enter your site voluntarily
- They have a specific motivation for visiting your site
- There is an alignment between their motivations and your goals
The key in conceiving a successful website is to figure out how to structure the site so that it responds both to your visitors' motivations and your goals.
In the post where I talk about setting clear goals, I stress the importance clearly describing them, and aligning the site features with them. If the features of the site don’t respond to the described goals, then they may be superfluous—or perhaps your 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 first need to identify by name and describe the target audiences of the site. You may have one or many audiences, and they need to be as specific as possible. You shouldn’t have more than three audiences.
Some examples of audiences are:
- Researchers. They need to get specific technical information. They already know the basics and are just looking for 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 details 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 target audience is clearly defined by name with a description of their profiles 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 on who your target audiences are. 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, you may need to reduce or merge some until you have no more than three. Eesigning 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 it's now time to think about their motivations, your goals, and how they can all connect through your website.