The adage, “the customer is always right” holds a lot of sway. Your audience dictates their needs. You, in turn, need to convince them that your product or service can comfort, fix or improve their situation. If your proposal does not fit their needs like a glove, your potential customers will click away. So, where do you start when carving out a website for your target audience? I advise adhering to the following rules:
- Scale down and streamline your features and functions
- Create user friendly navigation
- Match your design to your audience’s taste
- Formulate content and tone to compliment your audience’s inclinations
These rules will place you on the right path to understanding how to craft an interesting and effective site for your target audience.
On a side note, I’m not expecting you to magically guess your audience’s behavior. But, I am expecting you to test it. Use analytical tools like, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads Page Insights, surveys and other tools to discover your visitors’ behaviors. As you discover what your audience responds to, modify your site accordingly. With analytical tools, your options are many. However, one tool I suggest you install is Page Analytics by Google:
This tool is only available for the Chrome browser and requires a subscription to Google Analytics (which is free). However, once you install Page Analytics, the tool will begin revealing visitors’ selection behaviors by exposing mouse-behavior hot spots (see above snapshot) on your monitor. Visual tools like this greatly elevates a site owner’s understanding of how current visitors behave on the owner’s site.
1) Scale Down and Streamline Features and Functions
Every business owner’s first instinct is to give his/her website all the bells and whistles. However, the human mind only picks up a limited amount of information at a time. When designing a website for your target audience, remember that too much information may confuse. Consider only the few features and functions you know your audience will appreciate and respond to. Does your audience like grid galleries, sliders, finance calculators or extended forms? Do they want to purchase your product or services as soon as they land on your site or are they still on the fence about becoming a customer and need further convincing? What features and functions are a turn-off? Once you begin to understand your audience’s behavior, focus on what they like and dispatch what they ignore. For example, Bills.com attracts a motivated crowd that wants to reduce their debt obligations as soon as possible. On its landing page, Bill.com presents a question and offers choice selections in a pull-down menu that when answered leads to a contact form.
The combination provides an immediate first step for visitors that need assistance with their debt problem. This technique will not work for most shops. A business with less motivated clientele such as a furniture store or car lot, would need to utilize a different set of features and functions to attract buyers. If you can get your target audience to zero in on only a few essential features you know they will respond to, the steps to converting them into a customer will be shorter and more effective.
2) Create User Friendly Navigation
Because navigation is a major function of a website, you need to consider the capability of your audience and understand what they expect. If your audience is not tech savvy or not always on a desktop or phone, they may not identify symbols and images as navigational options on an icon-driven menu bar. On the other hand, a tech-involved audience may appreciate and respect a cleaner icon-driven navigation system. Review the hotspots left on your site. What does it reveal about the buttons, icons and links your audience gravitates towards? Which ones are not popular and remain untouched? Can you deduce why? Can you make your buttons, icons and links more visible, simple or understandable? In a personal example, I used a hamburger icon on a particular website. When visitors select the icon, it reveals the site’s main menu.
After two weeks, Google Analytics disclosed that many visitors landing on the site where not finding the menu navigation. Concurrently to this situation, I used Facebook Ads to boost posts on the website’s fan page in order to fish out the audience demographics. I found the average age to be 45+. Studies have shown that a younger audience, that spends more time on their phones, readily recognize popular mobile-related symbols like the hamburger icon. Conversely, an older audience that heavily utilizes the traditional desktop to explore the web, do not. After deliberating, I decided to add the word “Menu” next to the hamburger icon to notify my oblivious visitors that “navigation is located here.” This action immediately increased the audience’s use of the main navigation bar and thus increased the site’s conversion rate. Build a navigation system that your target users can understand and appreciate. Use symbols, icons and language that are familiar to the genre, industry or culture you focus on. If any animation you use confuses your target audience, simplify it or refrain from using it at all.
3) Match Your Design to the Audience’s Taste
What type of design does your target audience appreciate? You will need to consider a myriad of elements including the following:
- Graphics and images
- Color scheme
- Font size and style
Graphics and Images – Style types for graphics and images cover a wide range of genres and classes. If you own a playhouse, your audience may prefer artsier and more dynamic imagery. A law firm may utilize business and professional archetypes. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes and wonder what might appeal to them. Color Scheme – Colors and the overall color scheme provides atmosphere for your audience. The wrong color scheme can automatically repel viewers. For instance, A pink background for a truck driving institute or a brooding, dark scheme for a baby items supply store both do not work for the audience they wish to cater. Font Size and Style – Similarly to color scheme, an audience can respond positively to agreeable font sizes and styles . Large, smooth readable fonts visually compliment image-driven websites such as photography and graphic design sites. You may also choose Times New Roman-type fonts for period pieces or historical sites to establish a sense of “yesteryear” or “time passed.” Layout – Finally, an appropriate layout will be important to your audience’s appetite. To the chagrin of many designers, a conservative audience may appreciate a layout with borders, lines and large padding between the screen’s edges and the content. A more avant-garde crowd may react positively to a borderless layout that takes up the entire screen. Design to your audience’s likes. Look at popular websites in your genre as well as your competitors’ sites. Take notice of the designs they use. You can also use forums in your industry to grasp what your target audience favors or dislikes.
4) Formulate Content and Tone to Compliment Your Audience’s Inclinations
Your content and tone has to match your audience. Content for a children’s toy store will sound much different than content for an accounting agency. Think about what phrases, adjectives and action verbs move your audience. What level of seriousness or fun do they react to? Carve out your copy to match that. For example, a business owner owns a pole-fitness studio and wants to write convincing content to persuade her audience to come in and try pole dance. Her first attempt at a copy produces this: “Get fit quick with pole dancing.” Running it passed a sample of customers, she discovers that although the phrase is catchy, it doesn’t entice her core audience. The conservative audience may be in some way turned off by the stigmatized roots of pole dancing and find difficulty seeing it as a respected fitness venture. The owner tries this instead: “Try our pole fitness class and tighten your core, increase your stamina, boost your self-confidence all in a strong, supportive environment.” Although a little long, the owner is now on the right path to creating convincing copy. Action verbs and fitting adjectives now trigger key appeals in her target audience that work to override what the audience perceives as negative stereotypes in pole dancing. Specifically, “tightening” the body, “increasing” energy levels, building self-confidence and being around great people more closely align with the audience’s inclinations about safe and inviting workout environments. Experiment with your content and tone until you discover a winning formula. Its okay to ask opinions through surveys or in conversations with friends, customers and community. Just remember, that you’re never done writing.
Pleasing your audience is like trying to mind read a finicky date. To a lot of us, it’s the most difficult step to master. It requires you to analyze online behavior, collect surveys, sample your industry or community and try anything else to gather information. But more importantly, it requires you to decode that data and use that information to create an online environment that your audience will enjoy and appreciate. My rules are not absolute, but they provide a strong start to building a website your target audience can relate to. An engaged audience leads to better customer conversion down the road.