Understanding the Mentality of Your Visitors

Understanding the mentality of your visitors is critical. Their opinion of your website is more important than having a pretty design . Why do they arrive at your website? How do they arrive? What are they looking for? What will make-or-break their visit? What will make them come back?

If you understand why someone is visiting, then you can do a better job of giving them what they are looking for and you can make their visit more fulfilling. To really understand why someone is visiting, you really need to have an idea of who they are and what situations surround them. Knowing your target audience is crucial and it should impact just about everything that you do.

The more you know about your target audience, the more you will know about why they are on your website and what they are doing there. If you have an existing site, how often do you analyze your target audience and why/how they arrive at your site? This is especially important for bloggers. As more content is continually being added, is it focused on the right people? Is it meeting their needs? How is it being presented to them? Can they find your best work?

Let’s take a look at a real-world example of the importance of knowing why your visitors are coming to your site. Imagine you run a website for a church . Almost every church now has a website, and most of them contain fairly similar information about the church, such as days and times of services, different groups that are in the church, directions, statement of beliefs, etc. But who are your visitors? Who does the site target? It could be targeting those who currently do not attend the church, in hopes of finding new members, or it could target its current members who come to the site for news, events, information, etc. In this case, these are two very different audiences that would have different needs from the website.

Another similar example is the website of a university. Is the target audience current students or prospective students? Most likely both will be targeted, but it’s critical to the usability of the site to recognize the different needs of these different audiences so that you can structure the site accordingly and provide the appropriate content.

How it Affects the Site:

Navigation

In the example of the university, if your two primary audiences are prospective students and current students, the navigation of the site should make it easy for each of these audiences to move through the site. Information for perspective students, such as financial aid, online applications, admissions requirements, etc. should all be linked together and easy to find. On the other hand, current students should be able to easily maneuver through sections of the site that they use frequently, such as webmail, class information, etc.


Message

Obviously, the message of your website will need to be specifically presented to your target audience. What do you want them to know about your website or your business? If you know why they are visiting your site and what they are looking for, you can craft your message accordingly to meet their needs.

Your Hook

The best websites will have a hook, something unique that draws visitors in and makes them connect to the site and want to come back. In order to develop an effective hook, you’ll have to understand you visitors, why they are there, and what draws a response from them.

Content

The content of the site if of course greatly impacted by your audience. If you know what your visitors are looking for you will know what needs to be provided to them. Going back to the example of a university website, if you are targeting prospective students, you know that you’ll need to clearly present information about the majors/degrees that you offer, the location and surrounding area of the school, the prices, scholarship information (because who can afford those prices?), an opportunity to request more information or a call from the admissions department, and anything else that you think will help you to “sell” the school to prospective students.

Delivery

The audience and their level of knowledge should affect the wording and the delivery of the content. Unfortunately, many times this is not considered. If you are targeting visitors with a lower level of knowledge of a subject, be sure that you avoid jargon and that you explain things in a way that will be understood. On the other hand, if you’re targeting a very specific technical audience, don’t word things too simply or they will feel out of place and they’ll get bored with your delivery.

What is Featured?

Every design has some element or some piece of content that is featured over others. Think about your visitors, why they are arriving at your site and what they want to find. Make sure that the most important things are being featured in your design. If people come to your site with something specific in mind, put it right in front of them when they arrive.

What’s Your Opinion?

How do you feel that your design is influence by the intentions and interests of visitors?

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads.

13 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • David Airey, June 19, 2008

    A timely article, Steven, as I contemplate a re-design of my own site. I know I can improve on what I have, but want to keep any change equally simplistic.

  • Vandelay Design, June 19, 2008

    Hey David,
    I’ve always really liked your layout. It’s clean, attractive, and easy to read. I think if you can keep those elements while making some improvements, you’ll be in good shape. You blog’s added so much content since it was designed that a re-design may help to make it easier to find stuff (although I’ve never had any problems at your blog). Good luck!

  • David Airey, June 19, 2008

    Thanks very much for the advice, Steven, and for the compliments. Always good to know that content is easy to find on my site. I know the custom Google search helps a great deal. I find it so much more accurate than the standard WordPress facility.

  • David Airey, June 19, 2008

    Oh, and regarding a possible redesign, what I was thinking is to have the homepage more of a logo design showcase, with perhaps a small section for latest blog headlines.

    I think that potential clients visiting my homepage for the first time might prefer to see less of a blog look, but that said, it’s not hurting business.

    You know what it’s like when you’re looking at your own work for such a long time, there’s always something you want to change!

  • Rizzi, June 19, 2008

    This article was really informative…will use it on my own site….and plan a redesign

  • Mothership, June 19, 2008

    David,

    I think what you are proposing with your site makes sense.

    First time visitors seeing a logo showcase will help drive business and is what ‘David Airey’ is about. For those of us who frequent your blog, a simple link from the homepage will suffice, as we’re visiting your site for the blog, and will go through an extra step to do so with no complaint, as long as that step is obvious, and simple.

  • Vandelay Design, June 19, 2008

    David,
    Yeah, the Google search is on my list of things to do. I hate how the WP search just orders results by what’s recent. And I like your idea about a slightly different homepage. That’s similar to the approach of this site, the blog is not the home page, but recent posts are linked. So, along with Mothership that’s 2 of us that think you could pull off a nice change to your front page.

  • David Airey, June 20, 2008

    Thanks for pitching in, Mothership.

    Steven, the Google search is very straightforward to setup. Doesn’t take long, and there’s a nice tutorial if you search ‘google custom search engine’ on Dosh Dosh.

  • Vandelay Design, June 20, 2008

    David,
    I’ve set them up before on other sites (not WordPress) and it was very simple. It’s just one of those things I never seem to getting around too. When I do though I’ll check out Dosh Dosh. Thanks for the advice.

  • matt, June 25, 2008

    I read your article and must say you have all of your priorities in tacked. The concept of keeping people in the site when visiting is important because your page rank goes up a notch the longer they are on the site. I have heard that the first thing people see when arriving at any site is the upper left hand corner. Put the most interesting design here first, like a logo.