Before finalising any decision about the content of your site, it's important to consider the people who will be reading it.
Breaking down this target audience into several groups helps you to work out whether your planned content matches up against the needs of the audience.
Try to divide the people who will use your site into different categories. Begin with any obvious groupings, then divide those further. The trick is to divide your audience into types that will need slightly different things from your site.
Depending on the topic of the site, different ways of dividing your audience might be useful. Some general examples are:
- Experience with the site's topic
- Experience with the Web in general
- Disability (blind, deaf, can't type, can't use mouse, etc.)
- Nationality or location (Europe, North America, Asia, etc.)
- Disposable income
- Political beliefs
What to consider
Not all the categories I suggested above are useful for every site. In general, you should probably pick three or four important ways to divide users and work with those.
There are two main reasons for considering a certain division irrelevant:
- because it doesn't make any difference
- because your site isn't intended for that type of user
Consider a site which provides a technical reference to a computer programming language.
Based on the first point above, you would not generally need to differentiate based on the sex, age, political beliefs, or disposable income of your users. They will all want the same content regardless of these factors, so those categories can safely be ignored.
As an example of the second point, your site might be designed for experienced programmers and you are not going to include content for novices, so that division might also seem irrelevant.
However, when you exclude users like this, you should be sure to keep it in mind during the design process. Your final site should inform users of these categories that they are not catered for here, and preferably give some suggestions as to where they might go instead; if you like, you could consider this as one small piece of content for those users. (In the example site, this might result as a link in the front page such as 'This is an advanced resource. Beginning programmers should check out The X Tutorial instead.')
Example types of users
We'll take another example: a site including cake recipes.
The basic site audience is:
- People who want to bake cakes
This can usefully be divided into the following (overlapping) types:
- Experienced cooks
- Inexperienced cooks
- People from the same local region as you (i.e. those who live in Britain)
- People from elsewhere in the world
Some other common ways to divide users are not helpful in this case; for example, it doesn't make much difference whether users of that site are male or female, or whether they are rich or poor.
Users of your own site
Try to work out types of users for your own site. It helps if you can do this in a group (taking turns to consider each person's site) because other people may think of relevant divisions that you missed.