Usability tip – In case you aren't going to go read my full article (story below) here is the first tip.
Get to know your audience and design for themnot for yourself or your colleagues
But, guess what. People who visit the web pages that you create are NOT part of that elite. They are probably so much less knowledgeable of the technologies that you are working with that it is easy for you to forget how removed they are. Most of the people who visit your web pages are people like my motherboth in terms of the number of browsers that they are familiar with and in terms of the dollars that they have available to spend online. Remember that they get new browsers when they upgrade computersnot when one company or another decides to release an update. The people who visit your web pages know may nothing about plug-ins or Java or anything other than “www.” In fact, they may not even what “www” means.
If the majority of the people who are going to be buying your client's products are like my mother, then you had better reconcile yourself to the fact that they are the customers you need to please.
There are a variety of ways you can get to know your audience. One way is to use surveys. You or your client can also pay for demographic information about your market.
Perhaps the best way to get to know your audience is to get to know your audiencefirsthand. If you are selling bricks and mortar on your website, then spend a morning in the parking lot of a bricks and mortar store. Watch the store's customers as they go in and out of the store. See what they are buying. Do the same to see the customers of a service-oriented business. Sit in the lobby of a doctor's office or in a building with lawyers in it. Whatever the business, get to know the customers.
Here are some demographic considerations to take into account when identifying your target audience:
- If you see that your customers are all middle aged or older, think about type size. Make sure your text isn't isn't too small or difficult to read.
- If you have a primarily male audience, you have to think about color-blindness. If you are working with women, you don't have this concern.
- If your audience is younger, maybe you should have less text and more graphics (including Flash content).
- If your audience is likely to spend money easily, put a special offer on the front page of the site. If they are the thrifty sort, make the special offer a reduced-price special offer.
Even after you've considered the demographics and propensities of your likely audience, put yourself in the shoes of the business store clerk. Consider, for instance: where you would put the “on sale” items? If you open your eyes and get out of your technology-elite perspective, you might find out something about your audience and it just might surprise you.
How about an example of good design and great usability? One site I like is Joann.com, which is a chain of fabric stores. They have large type, easy navigation, and lots of specials. When I go into the physical store, the customers are predominately women who are 30 years old or older. Many of them shop there to make things for their kids and grandkids. Not that many of the customers are likely to be computer literate. That's my impression, at least, derived from talking to people while waiting in line. What I'm particicularly impressed with is the way the Joann.com website has loads of specials and features that tie in perfectly with their physical stores. The customers in line at the checkout stand talk about the website and how they check it weekly to see what is on sale. [Matt Brown's Radio Weblog]