Custom Web Design: You Can't Please Them All

May 18, 2011
Know your target audience.

Any good marketer will tell you that the most effective way to communicate a brand is at a targeted audience. But ask a client who their audience is, and nine times out of ten they'll respond with an emphatic, "Everyone," followed by, "Seriously, everyone, I mean, everybody is going to just love our cookie tins. I think our website should appeal to everyone."

And they're right, to some degree. The web is undiscriminating, accessible by anyone at any time. Every website has the potential to be visited by men, women, children, the elderly, the deaf, the blind, the bowlegged, and my mother.

But too often we fall into the trap of trying to please them all. Just because sites have the potential to be visited by all these people, doesn't mean we should cater to everyone, especially my mother.

It may go against conventional wisdom, but in my opinion, there are a handful of features that don't belong on most websites. A few of my (least) favorite examples are:

  • RSS Feeds — If only 8% of users know what a browser is, what does that say for RSS feeds? I'm guessing somewhere around two out of 100 people would know how to use one. RSS feeds should only be used when we know the audience is web savvy, which is rare in my experience.
  • Print Page — Unless there is a good reason why your target audience would need to print a page, don't waste resources making sure the website looks good on paper? It doesn't make sense.
  • Comments — Here's the cold hard truth: people don't comment. It's better to have comments disabled than to show 47 blog posts with a total of 0 comments. It looks as though nobody reads your content, and those that do don't find it interesting enough to throw in their two cents.

Cut It Out

Instead of systematically allocating time and money to implement these features on every website we build, we should focus those resources on perfecting features that are important. Unless the target audience for a particular site specifically demands these implementations, there is no need for them.

Know your target audience and cater to them. If a client's response to a question about their target audience is "Everyone," it's our responsibility to help them choose a subset of people that represent the majority of their audience and cater specifically to those people. Throw the outliers aside and do a few things great instead of a bunch of things just okay.

Comments

Say, how do I print this

Say, how do I print this page? ;-)

Well, smarty pants, you can

Well, smarty pants, you can hold SHIFT + COMMAND + 4 and take a screenshot that way. :p