Knowing Your Audience
The number 1 item on my daughter’s Christmas list this year is a ‘Whoopise Baby.’ For those of you who do not have a 4-year old daughter at home, and may not know what this doll is (the actual product name is a ‘Baby Alive’ doll), allow me to explain. A Whoopise Baby is a doll that pees and poops. You feed them some special ‘food’ (which is, of course, sold seperately) and a few minutes later it makes a mess in its diaper (also sold seperately).
Really? Kids actually want a doll that craps itself? I have two children at home and the honest truth is that life would be a whole lot easier if they didn’t need to use the bathroom...ever. So why would someone actually want to buy a pooping doll when so many non-pooping ones, which are much less work, exist? I just don’t get it.
This question reminds me of one of the key lessons in website design. Success is all about knowing who your audience is, learning what they want and then delivering it to them.
A basic marketing truth is that if you want your product to be successful, you need to have an understanding of who the product is intended for. You need to understand why they would use your product or what they hope to get out of it. If you design and market your product (websites included) with this understanding in mind, you have a much better chance at success.
The makers of Baby Alive understand their audience...little girls who want to ‘be like Mommy’ and ‘take care’ of a baby of their own. The concept of a pooping and peeing baby makes no sense to me because I am not the intended audience for this product, which brings me to another lesson.
You Are Likely Not Your Audience
These dolls are intended for little girls. I am not, nor have I ever been, a little girl. This is the biggest reason why I just don’t get the appeal of this toy.
When designing websites, we are often excited to get started and want to begin the actual ‘design’ process right away. We may think we know what the users who will eventually use the site we are designing want and need, but have we actually spoken with them? We may try to put ourselves in their shoes and design from their perspective, but unless we are part of the intended audience for a site, our understanding will only take us so far.
So how do we find out what users need and want? Simple, we ask them.
We need to question a site’s intended audience before we design, as well as afterwards. This doesn’t mean we have to do extensive user testing for each and every project (although if full-on user testing is in the budget, then that’s going to be very helpful), but we need something more than our assumptions (again, we are not the audience) or our client’s suggestions (they are likely not the audience either - although they may think they are) when we are designing a site.
Prepare to Be Surprised
When my daughter showed me the pooping baby doll she so desperately wanted to ask Santa for, I was surprised. I mean, how do you prepare yourself for your little girl saying “Daddy, I want a baby that goes poop for Christmas.”
The feedback you get from site users will likewise surprise you. You will learn things you never would’ve anticipated or designed for otherwise. This is the value in knowing your audience. The more you learn about them, their needs and how they will use a site, the better the experience you design will be.
Gifts Under the Tree
If Santa brings my daughter a pooping baby this Christmas, I know it will make her very happy. Similarly, when users go to a site and it meets their needs and works for them, they are happy.
Opening up a Christmas present, or opening a website, and seeing what you really wanted is always a special feeling.