The first crucial step in designing a website for any business is to list its business goals and identify how to achieve them for all website visitors. Wire-framing, graphic design, and writing brand messaging come second. Establishing what a website must accomplish both for the organization and the visitors becomes tricky business, though, when there are multiple target audiences with distinct needs to consider.
Identifying these audiences and then building behavioral profiles and conversion goals for each of them therefore becomes one of our first steps. This is more difficult than most would expect. When asked, a client will readily tell you all about their customer profiles, target verticals, different markets, and more; this information is only a starting point when it comes to defining actionable visitor segments for a web design.
The goal for this article, as well as the upcoming parts 2 and 3, is to create a plan for a website that successfully caters to all the requirements of different visitor groups. Let’s get started.
Identifying Different Visitor Groups
The process begins with listing customer groups the client is currently aware of. Groups may be distinguished by many reasons depending on the business in question, but here are some common criteria:
- Product category of interest
- Service of interest
- Relationship to the company (eg: employee, prospective employee, client)
- Goal of visit
- Stage within sales process
Already at this point, it is best for the developer to be working through this with the client, as some of these attributes are likely not major considerations in offline strategic planning.
It is then a matter of prioritizing these visitor groups on the basis of their value to the business. It is a misperception that all users will exit the website if they cannot find what they are looking for right there at the home page. As long as the website is easy to navigate with a well-thought-out design, many users will spend time exploring and navigating the site until they find what they are looking for. That said, with constant attrition the longer visitors have to search, ensuring a swift and easy path for high value segments is the goal for this exercise.
Identifying Problems with The Current Design
The reason that your client is looking to revamp their website design is, in all likelihood, that the website is failing to achieve what it was intended to. That doesn’t mean, however, that analysis of user behavior on the current site is of no relevance to the design of a better organized and more effective new website.
The next step is to put the current site under the microscope and analyze visitor behavior with a fine tooth comb to identify the following:
- Distinct visitor groups that move through the site in the same way and to the same goal
- Current barriers those groups are encountering on their path
- Major entry points other than the homepage and what visitor groups land there
- Bounce rates across landing pages, and peculiarities on those pages that contribute to higher or lower than average rates
- Pages that present a high drop-off rate vis-à-vis meeting their conversion goals
- Superfluous steps in the flow of visitor groups from entry point to desired conversion point
- Website sections that aren’t being used voluntarily by any significant visitor groups
With this information to fall back on, you are better poised to remove the roadblocks and better structure the web design in order to effectively cater to different visitor groups. Next, it’s time to explore how best to capitalize on this research.
Creating Target Audiences Out of Visitor Groups
Treating each segment of visitors to the website as an individual entity and trying to develop a website that caters to each of these varied segments is a recipe for disaster. The end result of such a design is most likely to be a chaotic layout that confuses all and speaks clearly to none. Confining landing page navigation options and branding to simple and straight-forward language that resonates with all target groups is the eventual goal, but that is getting ahead of ourselves.
It is first imperative to condense the number of distinct groups the website needs to cater to individually. You need to identify a few core groups of primary audiences. This is done by the following:
First, by using the analytics data gathered to identify behavioral archetypes.
No doubt in the course of the research described in the last section, a small number of major audiences that exhibited roughly the same flow from entry point to exit were identified. Going back to the original list of target visitor groups, link those groups to behavioral paths based on their likely objectives for their visit to the website. The result should be a handful of audiences made up of visitor groups with common needs and objectives, who can be effectively moved through the new website from landing page to conversion goal together.
One important note — the differences between visitor groups within audiences established in this step are important to note. Brand messaging on new landing and conversion pages will need to resonate with all disparate visitor groups within audiences flowing through those pages. Beyond that, it is very likely that certain groups within these audiences are more valuable than others, such as demographics with greater spending power, or industries that are heavier users of a service than others. We will dive into this deeper in the next section.
Second, by determining the relative value of these audiences
It is unlikely that all of the audiences identified above are worth giving major design consideration to. Start by researching the relative values of identified audiences to the business. What audience(s) generate the most revenue?
The most important audience may not be the highest revenue or the highest volume one, so consultation with the client is important. Ask the stakeholders to explain who they think are the most important audiences. This may result in some conflicting results, but even if you have four to five frontrunners based on this feedback, this is still valuable.
The goal with this step is to identify the audiences which will be focal points of website organization and user experience design, as well as those that will be of secondary importance.
Building Audience Profiles
At this point, it is time to take everything we’ve done so far and put it together into actionable audience profiles. Following this, website organization, messaging, branding, and even page design will be much simpler.
Given our audiences are made up of a number of different visitor groups, likely with distinct demographics and industries, these profiles need to take into account both similarities and differences. A useful audience profile should include the following details:
- Goals. Both for the audience and for the client. What is the audience looking for, and what does the client want from the audience?
- Commonalities. What demographic and professional attributes do all members of the audience share? Establishing this provides clear direction for messaging that will resonate with all members of the audience.
- Differences. What major factors do different groups within the audience not share? As with commonalities, defining differences illuminates what to avoid in content and messaging when speaking to this audience.
- High value segments. Are particular demographics, industries or other groups within this audience responsible for a disproportionate amount of revenue, or particularly valuable to convert? If so weight should be given to the peculiarities of those groups in designing content and messaging.
- Current behavior. How does this audience use the website right now? Where do they want to go within the website? How do they get to the website in the first place?
- Ideal behavior. What would an ideal website visit look like for an audience member? How could the client take better advantage of the audience, either by catering to them better on the site or by interacting with them differently off the site?
With these profiles completed, we’re almost ready to start planning and designing a website that can effectively meet the needs of many different audience groups. Just one research task remains before we get started.
Analyzing Points of Entry
When creating a web design and optimizing a website for multiple user bases, it is important to consider the various points of entry through which different audiences groups may approach the website. As we will see in part 2, creating separate entry points for different audiences is one of the best ways to cater to multiple groups without sacrificing user experience or the potency of messaging.
At this point, it is important to examine traffic channels and entry points for each audience on the current site. Are the audience members specifically searching for the website on search engines or clicking on it from the many results provided after a relevant keyword search? Are they visiting your website by clicking on sponsored posts and links on social media platforms? Are they arriving on your home page or directly onto specific landing pages? Considering the potential secondary points of entry can help you foresee how different visitor groups may access the redesigned website.
On the other hand, if a single audience is entering the site on multiple landing pages, planning visitor flow for that audience will be more challenging. A visitor landing on a page intended for a different type of client is a lost opportunity, and it is difficult to harness traffic going directly to informational pages like blog posts. The later example is likely too high in the sales cycle to convert, but pages should still be designed to move visitors entering on those pages to the top of the conversion funnel.
A website that seeks to please everyone at once ends up serving no one at all. The last thing you want to do is create confusion for your valuable web visitors. As long as you keep the different dynamics of your varied audiences in mind, you’ll be able to create an intuitive web design with a cohesive home page that appeals to a primary or universal audience base and specific landing pages that effectively meet the needs of distinct visitor groups.