Design Your Site for Your Users, Not for the Critics

Who were you trying to please when you designed your site? It’s a question that needs to be asked of all of us who have websites. When designing a website, our motives are not always the purest they could be. We want to show the public:

  • How technical we are
  • How smart we are
  • How trendy we are
  • How creative we are

Of themselves, these things are not bad. You wouldn’t want to hire a website designer who had no technical prowess, was not smart, creative, or who was behind on the latest trends. We would consider the lack of any one of those things a giant, red flag.

But when we are really honest with ourselves in those quiet moments of reflection, we can admit that the real audience for our web design was, in fact, ourselves. We wanted something we could be proud of. And we got it.

Unfortunately, the audience for whom we nominally designed the site may not fully appreciate our brilliance. What good is a nice looking site if it doesn’t display correctly on the device they are trying to Use? What good is a widget that morphs a graphic into text if it bogs down the system, making it sluggish and unresponsive? When placing the user first, you will have a different set of considerations. Here are just a few:

Optimize for What Your Visitors are Using

Often, developers have the latest and greatest, high-end gear available. In addition to a 12 core CPU, they are sporting dual (sometimes quad) 27” monitors. They build designs appropriate for the system they are using, not for what their target audience will be using.

If your niche site is aimed at Android users in India, you have to understand that they will not have anything like what the average system is here in the States. You have to make designs that will both look good and function well on different systems. Forget about large, retina displays. Forget about A7 performance. You have to design for phones and tablets that cost less than $50. That’s what it means to design for your users.

It is similar to how you choose a web host that is optimized for how you work. If you are a WordPress person, you will choose a wordpress hosting solution. If you manage multiple sites on the same domain, you will choose a provider that offers unlimited websites. Just as web hosts are optimizing for their niche audience, you have to optimize for yours.

Optimize for Mobile

No matter who your audience is, they are very likely using a mobile device. Google knows this, too, and now favors responsive websites. An update on April 21, 2015 improved search rankings for sites that provide a mobile-friendly experience.

Essentially, a responsive website is one that can be easily scaled to any size monitor. It will look different on a 20” monitor than it will on a 5” screen. It will change its look according to the screen on which it is viewed. Facebook is now making more money in mobile than from the desktop. At this point, one should be creating experiences for the smartphone, then scaling it up from there, not the other way around.

Know Your Audience

Let your audience be your guide when it comes to design. Once you know your audience, you can target your efforts more effectively. If your audience is young, use short paragraphs that get to the point in a hurry. They think in 128 characters. You don’t have much more than that to get your message across. If seniors, go into detail to demonstrate value. And for goodness sake, use much larger fonts.

At the end of the day, your site might be a critical disaster. But if it works well for your target market, it’s a masterpiece.

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