Do you know how to effectively reach your target audience?

When developing a site we should keep in mind one thing: How well can we get our message across? The site is for the audience after all. With the specific needs of a client, we often come across many problems which require much attention. We must try to reach a balance between site usability and accessibility for our audience.

A website has two parts: It is communication, and it is a technical achievement. Both parts are interrelated in any given site.

Initially, if we can narrow it down to our target audience then we've accomplished perhaps one of the most difficult parts in the development process. Let us assume that we are building a multi-media site and expect our users to a certain degree that they will have the necessary tools - a suiting browser with the proper extensions as well as the user being capable of physically experiencing the site as intended. At this level it makes sense to use extra features such as Javascript, Flash and so on to bring more life to the site in addition to proper markup and design.

Now, you might ask, what about every other site? Why should we keep our extended futures to a minimum, if at all offered? This is where the majority of sites reside. We are faced with any possible browser, with a range of platforms and numerous devices whom wish to access our site, as well as diverse users.

We see countless sites out there with all the bells and whistles without the consideration of the audience - an information based or even an e-commerce level site with all the unnecessary work into it. It is evident that the developer merely made the site for the client. The client finds the site sexy, and the site is passed down to its final state. What just happened here? Not only did the owner/developer of the site did not consider the target audience, they undermined the importance of accessibility and usability. Since, it is difficult to determine how and with what our audience is viewing our site, we must take the proper precautions.

First thing first: Make sure the site is readable! This is a loaded statement. A site 'at-worst-case' must be readable in text. There is no ifs or buts about it. If a user can't access the information in its simplest form, then a chunk of readers are lost. All the intended information on the site, should be presented to the user as if they were reading a newspaper. Afterall, this is the internet, and our mission is to deliver the information first, then worry about the possible design futures.

The remaining development process is perhaps more complex. We are not completely certain if Javascript, or Flash be present in this stage. There is always a percentage of users which will be left out since they do not support (or have enabled) such technologies within their browsers or use other devices (i.e. PDAs, cellphones). Are these extensions necessary to our site? Is it usable or is it troublesome? What are the chances of these extensions failing us? The answer to these questions are not alarming, since we've come to an age where the average user is prepared to view most web sites. However, there is still a good portion of users whom are either not up to it with the required technologies, or capable of experiencing the fancy. Therefore, it is yet best to consider how we can effectively build our site without suffering too much on the aesthetic level. Which brings us to one remaining node: What is at stake here - accessibility or aesthetics?

Keeping in mind that our goal here is greedy. We want to minimize our loses and try not to leave a group of audience behind. This is the most affective way of developing a site while carrying the site goals.

Every user counts!



6 interactions

Tom replied on

I like the new look too, and the message, and the spelling.... :) I'm a little unsure about the paragraph letter starters, but I imagine they'll grow on me...

Gjermund replied on

I agree, but you're obviously writing for people that has experience in communicating(if not I guess you wouldn't have written about the sites doctype in the Colophon-section), and then it's a bit like stating the obvious.

What I find interesting is that every article about the subject is written by people who is really good at just one of the two's; css or flash. On one hand we have people like Eric Meyer. He is a crappy designer and an even worse animator, yet he holds deep knowledge on web-standards. On the other we have flash-gurus like Luke Whittaker, who knows nothing about doctypes, but is nevertheless very good at communcating visually. To get the slightest touch of objectivity, I think the articles has to be written about someone who really knows both techniques.

Just my two cents.

Sarven Capadisli’s photoSarven Capadisli replied on

Gjermund, thank you for your comment. The article is not necessarily written for developers that have experience in web communication and the Colophon section is independent from this article. The idea behind the article is to make sure to identify the target audience, as best as one could before picking a technology over another for site development.

I am not suggesting any certain technology should be used over the other, unless the developer is aware of their target audience, as well as making sure that they deliver the information effectively. I am merely leaving the choice up to the reader/developer.

Objective articles are more difficult to write then it may seem. Therefore, we have to settle for some subjectivity since we are dealing with author's perspectives, otherwise we only need to read the W3C documentations and leave Flash behind - as it is not an acknowledged technology by the organization.

Frank L replied on

I think the statement "Afterall, this is the internet, and our mission is to deliver the information first, then worry about the possible design futures." is at best incomplete and at worst incorrect.

For many clients, the design is more important than the information because the design *is* the information. Think Apple iPod. Think Nike. The text info is irrelevant; it's the emotion that the design invokes that matters. To these people, a poor design (even if the text and image information is spot-on) is drastically worse than not having a presence at all -- that poor design would shatter their carefully-built, expensive image.