People interpret everything and even when we think we are sharing the same language, it isn’t always true.
Successful marketers, writers, web designers, brand managers and other service-oriented professionals know that to become successful in any endeavour is to communicate well to your audience by understanding their story.
Understanding your audience’s language and what kind of information that interests them will help you write content they need in the words and the way they need it.
Here are steps to better understand your web audience:
1. List your major audiences
List your major audiences by asking “What about my site visitors will help me know what content the websites needs?” When you list down these user groups, refer to them as people and not departments or institutions. Remember, you are writing for human beings.
Examples of these user groups are:
- shoppers, browsers
- experienced travellers, occasional travellers
- local residents, tourists coming to town
2. Gather information about your audience
You must not write based on what you think your audiences are thinking. When you do this you will write assumptions and that won’t work.
Here are suggestions to gather information about your audience:
- Ask website visitors to fill out a short questionnaire from your website. Or you can ask them via social media.
- Watch and listen to people. If your website mirrors a brick-and-mortar equivalent, spend some at the physical location and observe your customers for helpful inputs.
- Do usability testing of the current content. You can watch and listen to participants while they work with your website. Ask them about themselves, their needs, and their ways of using content.
- From your website’s contact form, note who are writing and what they are asking for.
3. List major characteristics for each audience
As you find out each person who come (or should come) to your website, you can list relevant characteristics based on the following categories:
- Key phrases of quotes. If you ask your web users what they want you to keep in mind about them as you write for them, what would they say.
- Experience, expertise. Consider your site visitors’ experience and expertise in both the subject matter and the web.
- Emotions. There are situations where people’s emotions are important user characteristics. Emotions are often considered the trigger to attract a user to a website. Are your users fun loving, passionate, curious, angry, nervous, anxious, etc.?
- Values. When you know what matters to your site visitors the easier for you to empathize with their situation and come up with better content to provide solutions.
- Technology. Do you know which resolutions your site visitors are working at? Do you know their internet speeds? Even if we are aware of the tremendous broadband growth, it is not universal. There are other parts of the world with slower internet and this might affect loading time for your content. Are some people reading your content on small screens? Your content might be cut off in smaller screens so you need to observe those.
- Social and cultural environments. Knowing social and cultural background of your users maybe important for you to consider as you decide what and how to say something online. Will they likely to be alone or interrupted? Are they going to be doing research on your site the whole day? Are they likely to be interrupted while reading your information? Are there terms you need to avoid for cultural reasons?
- Demographics. Age and gender may matter for your site. It is different to write for a particular age group. Writing for teens is different to writing for seniors. You can’t have seniors stay long on a site with small fonts because of their poor eyesight. Males and females have different insights.
4. Don’t translate your data
When you gather your audiences’ questions, tasks, and stories, keep the user’s words. It is important to understand the words your users use to describe what they need. These data will provide you with the vocabulary to use in your web content and attract more users.
5. Use your information to create personas
A persona is an individual with a name, picture, specific demographics and other characteristics. A persona isn’t a real person. It will be a composite of characteristics of many real people.
What information goes into a persona?
- key phrases or quotes
- experience, expertise
- social and cultural environments
- persona’s goals and tasks
There you go! In 5 steps you will find information about your audience to which you can focus your writing on. A persona is very helpful to help you focus on what is important to your site visitors, to write in their own words and provide solutions your audience are looking for.
As you plan your web content, always ask: “Who will use it? How will my content help them?"