Define Your Audience, Simplify Your Life

Whether you’re a designer or a business owner, defining and understanding your audience (who you’re talking to) will make your decisions easier and more effective.

In a recent meeting, a client and I were reviewing photos for their home page. These are prominent photos, so taking the time to consider our choice made sense.

We had narrowed it down to two photos. Here they are:

So how to choose between them? Here are a few questions I ask when faced with a choice like this.

Question 1: “Who are we talking to?”

In the case of this project, we had already defined that the bulk of our audience are women of middle age. It can be very helpful to think about one specific person (a persona), that represents your broader audience. So instead of simply saying that we’re talking to women in their 40s, we say we’re talking to Mary who is 45, has some health problems, and shops at Whole Foods.

Question 2: “What does he or she want?”

It also helps to consider what Mary wants. What is she struggling with, what motivates her?

Question 3: “What do we want our reader to feel, think or do?”

We want our reader to begin to feel a sense of trust and curiosity around our products and business. We’d like them to click to learn more, and then either join our email list or, ideally, make a purchase.

Side Note: I think that these questions should become second nature during the design process. Keep them in mind, and you’re less likely to end up in the la-la-land of personal biases and trendy design concepts.

Back to the photos.

While they are similar in many ways, the first photo is bolder. It’s almost in-your-face the way he’s pulling up that long seaweed. He’s also wearing a cowboy hat, which might appeal to 29 year old John who likes rock climbing, but probably doesn’t attract Mary, our fictitious customer.

The second photo is calm, serious and more professional. It’s still interesting enough (we hope) to elicit curiosity in our reader; and reinforce the fact that we harvest the seaweeds ourselves (implying quality, among other things).

Our cowboy seaweed harvester may find his way to another (less prominent) place on the website.

Keep your audience firmly in mind, and your decisions will be easier.

About The Author

Matt Stern is fascinated with design and created this site to practice, contribute and share. He also runs The Tool Merchants and helps manage the web presence of Naturespirit Herbs. When he’s not online, he’s probably in his garden or playing with his kids.

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