One thing we’ve started to do in the early stages of site building is documenting the audience. Before we write anything, design anything, develop any features or even brew a pot of coffee and think about doing those things, we develop a document that outlines the exact audience for the site.
We do this for two reasons: first, so that Kobot and our clients are on the same page from the beginning and, secondly, so we have a document we can refer to to help make design and content decisions as the work progresses.
It’s important to know exactly who you’re trying to reach from the beginning because–for the most part–we build websites that have only one audience.
That’s not to say we build rigid websites for a slim subsection of people: we think of our sites as having a single purpose and we build features, make design decisions and create content that serves that purpose.
For example, if we’re building a website that sells pencils, we need to know who is buying pencils. We do research into pencil buyers, their occupations, their socioeconomic status, their age, gender and race and sexuality. If we find that young, female artists buy significantly more pencils than do older, male accountants, we present our findings to our clients and, in collaboration with them, make design and content decisions that skew the site toward that audience.
Of course, we don’t want to cut older, male accountants out of the site, we don’t create banners that say “Artists rule, accountants drool.” But when trying to decide what tone to use, what design elements to include, or what navigational approach is best, we refer to the audience document we crafted and say, “What would our largest audience think is best?” Every other audience is secondary.
If you know the story about the miller and his son walking around the village with their donkey, you’ll know what I’m getting at: you can’t please everyone. It’s important to us that we craft websites that please a particular group of people, sites that they can see themselves in. Our goal is to drive loyalty by being a reflection of that audience’s needs–but if you try to be a reflection of everyone’s needs, you’ll end up a reflection of no one’s.