Things to Consider

The most important thing to remember about this article, is understanding the reasons behind WHY you want a website, brand, or logo. We’ve all read a lot of brochures; quick simple singe pages that provide ‘targeted audiences’ with specific information. Websites are no different,  in the sense that you want to communicate information on a much larger scale. But have you stopped to examine some very important questions as to WHY?

“What are you wanting to communicate? To who is your target audience? What is your purpose? Who benefits? And, What is the ultimate goal?” What it all boils down to is clearly, “How do you define  your audience?”

Defining a Target Audience

Defining the target audience will make all the difference in the world with how the website, logo and brand is created and what type of content (articles, graphics, examples, photographs, etc.) should be included, is of the utmost importance before you decide how to frame it properly. Depending on your answers and all things considered, it would be the most logical and reasonable approach to take before selecting a working title that includes the basics of design; from Social Media, to HTML5, WordPress, or other media management software. Preparing for the inevitable; safeguarding against the possibility that software hackers for creative thieves by managing and using effective management tools to analyze your website’s direction, as well as verify the target audience has been reached.

Why a Target Audience Matters

Creating a website without a clear strategy or of your audience is a bit like a captain of the high seas setting sale without a destination and no navigational tools. Good planning will provide important direction by setting in motion a specific plan to meet a specific goal. Not mention all the milestone markers (the buoys) to keep reach your ultimate goals. Otherwise you could be spending huge amounts of time and money, without clearly defined goals.

Whatever goals are desired thought it is essential that they are well-defined and clearly articulated to the design team(s), with specific milestones from concept to deployment, before your vision can be fully realized.

A solid plan should include a profile that begins with an educated understanding of who your target audience is. Demographic profiles can help, but are limited in that they do not uncover what motivates visitors and/or buyers surfing patterns. Yet they provide a basic point of discussion for engaging the designers. For example, consider the following five types of people:

•   Single men, early twenties, making more than $100,000 a year.
•   A family of four, with a stay-at-home parent, and a total family income less than $40,000 per year.
•   Divorced single men, living in rural areas, with a net worth over several million dollars.
•   A couple, living in an urban area greater than 250,000, mid to late thirties, no children, and unemployed.
•   A retired couple, in their seventies, with more than ten grandchildren, on a fixed income.

Granted, these examples only offers a few details about what’s important about your target audience and having a starting point is critical to gain a better insight as to the overall picture. Knowing your target audience will provide valuable information about content and design and what is relevant (photography, graphics, visuals and multimedia). Consider it much like the scaffolding around a foundation of a building that is about to begin construction. Choosing what tools will be used to deploy your message is absolutely critical:

•   What are the reasons for publishing and sharing your content?
•   Has a logical flow been established?
•   Will a ‘brand name’ provide you credibility to a much wider audience?
•   How important is a high-ranking on the search engines for your website?
•   Are you targeting ‘potential’ or ‘existing’ customers?

Let’s focus on the last one: writing great content that achieves our goal of connecting us with the right people requires…..publication where those people spend time. So how much do you know about your audience’s content consumption habits? For example; Do they read blogs? Are they email newsletter subscribers? Do they religiously download podcasts to listen to while they work out? If they do read blogs or newspapers or other publications, which ones do they spend time on? If they’re looking for reviews on products similar to yours, who do they trust? As you move down this line of inquiry, a whole litany of questions will open up for you. Before you move to the next step in your process, be sure that you can answer how your prospects get their information in a holistic and meaningful way.

Beware of Setting Off a BS Detector

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” — Abraham Lincoln

Face it, we all live in a world full of skeptics and we all know that bullshit is rampant, especially on the Internet. It hits us every day, from nearly every angle, both directly and indirectly. Yet it’s funny in a sad sort of way, knowing that a lot of people believe everything they read on the World Wide Web. Don’t be fooled however, into believing everybody does!

There is no guaranteed strategy to avoid everything one reads on the Internet, it’s impossible! But BS is just that, and most people can detect a mile away. As a society we have been constantly bombarded by wild marketing claims through advertising, weird relationships while dating, slanted news, crooked politicians, schemers in business, and conspiracies in government; add to that all the SPAM we fall victims to daily, it’s everywhere we go. So naturally people are on alert for evasive pitches filled with wild claims that are difficult to verify and often filled with outrageous lies.

Credibility is Critical

FIRST — How do we, as content creators for a website, make sure that we don’t ever run afoul with our visitors and prospects; many of whom have highly a developed BS detector? The answer is simple. First and foremost ALWAYS act with HONESTY and INTEGRITY! Because once your brand has been detected for being dishonest, and unethical, you will never ever be considered to be trusted resource. Trust that takes years to build can take seconds to destroy. FOREVER. So consider this you warning when including any content or claims in your website.

SECOND — You’ll need to understand the dynamics of your target market well enough to identify all the rhetoric they are familiar with, and avoid the same mistake at all cost. When it comes to a SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you often see many crazy claims about how to get the top of a Google Search page in under 30 days. Then there are those weight loss promotions, where a person can experience extreme weight loss rapidly with NO EXERCISE. If that were true wouldn’t everyone already be doing it? Take the time to understand all the factors involved by creating a list of the terms, claims, and other ‘bad triggers’ you should never ever use in your content.

FINALLY — Put your money where your mouth is by offering eempirical proof to back whatever claims you make proof. The power of proof cannot be emphasized enough here, a proof can be in a number of forms; outside studies, testimonials, endorsements from trusted sources, and others just like them. Everything you include as content should be carefully thought-out and well written. For the better the proof you have, the more your brand will be trusted and respected. Getting to know your audience in real depth takes time, but it will be well worth the effort. Because, as anyone who’s ever surfed the Web knows, there’s nothing ‘captive’ (even though many sites try by disengaging the back arrow on the browser), so if there is even an inkling of deception, wild claims, or confusion . . . visitors will leave and most likely never return.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many website designers do not consider these issues when building websites, preferring instead to concentrate on the “design” aspects of their work and letting their clients come up with the actual marketing. While design may be the most “fun” aspect of web design for many web designers, the fact is that you’re then relying on clients to know what is the best way to approach their target audiences.

The other fact is that your clients are often relying on your expertise without, perhaps, understanding that marketing is not what you do — and somewhere between the two of you, the real understanding of and approach to the target audience falls between the cracks. And, sooner or later, the client comes to realize he’s not doing as well as he should, make no mistake: in his mind, it will be a reflection on your product as a website designer.

This is actually an opportunity in disguise, whether you’re a web designer or the in-house company webmaster. I would suggest that learning something about marketing and sales, and building websites for same, would greatly benefit your clients, add to your arsenal of skills, and give you something more to offer.