How to Design Websites for a Target Audience

When you’re writing a paper or article, it’s important to remember that you are writing to an audience. Whether it is a generalized group of people or a particular individual, you are always writing to someone or something. The same practice should be used for designers who are in the process of creating a website. By keeping your target audience in mind you will be able to make better decisions about the look and feel of your website and how you want it perceived by your visitors.

When I think of target audience, it brings me back to English class. My teachers were always reminding me to choose an audience and write to them. I would just ignore their suggestions and write to whomever unconsciously. You know that saying, “When will I ever need this in the real world?”. Well now that I am here, in the real world, with a professional career, I finally understand how important it is to recognize your target audience. As a web designer I always consciously choose colors, select fonts and write appropriate content based on my clients target audience and how they want their brand perceived.

So how do you determine your target audience?

Research

I always start with research, not in the library or out on the field but with a client survey and my best friend – Google. I ask questions to find out who my client is, what they do, who’s their competition and how they want to be perceived. Then I google their competition and see what I’m stacked up against.

Next, I create personas for different visitors of the site. This can be fun! At Web Ascender, we always use characters from our favorite TV shows. As a team we determine their age, job title, gender, education and how the persona will be interacting with the website. It might be necessary to create several personas, because your target audience will most likely be a group of different people.

How to design for your target audience?

Once I’ve completed the necessary research for my project, I begin to design for my audience. Key phrase here: design for my audience. Although I might be dying to try out a new technique, I need to think about my target audience. Layouts, color choices, font selections and content are all important decisions that need to be made.

Content Layout

The information that needs to be display and the audience you are trying to reach will help determine what kind of layout will work best for your site. If I have a younger audience I am more likely to go with a full width layout because it will more likely appeal to a trendier crowd. However, if I have a more contemporary audience and lots of information to display it would be best to go with a more traditional layout.

Color Choice

Colors are powerful and play an important role in the world we live in. Colors can sway thinking, change actions and effect moods. Color can also play an important role in the perception of the target audience.  For example, I wouldn’t expect to see a black healthcare website, so I suggest that you choose colors that make sense to the market.

Font Choice

These days there are so many web safe fonts to choose from. My favorite fonts come from Google’s web safe font collection. But selecting appropriate fonts for your audience is also important. If I were designing for a younger group, I may use a fun scripted font whereas a corporate site would use a more conservative font such as Open Sans, Arial or Helvetica.

Content

Your target audience will also affect the content on your site and how the information is presented. If I am writing for professionals, I may use industry specific terminology more freely. Whereas if I’m writing for children, I would use different methods to communicate my message.

Now What?

Before you start your next website design, make a conscious decision to determine your audience. By keeping your target audience in mind you will make better decisions about the look and feel of your website and deliver your client with results they deserve.


WA Awards for Best Target Audience Website Designs

Bridals By Lori
bridals by lori- bridals by lori is the largest, full-service bridal salon in the country and the setting for the famous TLC show Say Yes to the Dress. This website's colors scheme says everything about it's audience. Pink suggests femininity while black evokes elegance. Not only do the color's hit spot but the thin weight of the font implies a more delicate touch. 

 

Michigan Virtual School

MVS - Michigan Virtual School - MVS is a non-profit virtual school for middle school and high school. Based on the bright color choices, hip textures and playful fonts, this website screams teenagers and evokes a modern learning environment. 

 

Michigan Dental Association, Smile Michigan

Smile Michigan -  Michigan Dental Association / Smile Michigan is the number one source for oral health care and home of more than 5,500 Michigan Dental Association members. This website hits many of the target audience design points. Hospitals and other healthcare industries typically use light green because the color is calming to patients, while browns combined with other subtle colors can create a great identity for certain dental practices. The website layout and content also played a major roll in meeting it's target audience needs. With 100's of pages this 2 column layout works best for navigating the site, and the industry based terminology used throughout the site caters directly to the Dental Association members.  

What websites have you seen that are best targeted to the audiences they serve?

Posted in: Design

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