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Who is visiting this website?

If ever I’m asked to help plan out a website, the first question I ask is: “Who is going to be visiting this website, and what do we want them to do?” Once that question has been thoroughly discussed, a really effective structure starts to fall into place.

It sounds like a vague question. But it’s actually quite the opposite. Very few websites start off with the visitor in mind, even though I’d bet their ‘about us’ page is full of unsubstantiated marketing BS about the company always putting the customer first. Most sites are just me, me me.

If you list groups of potential visitors, you soon see how many of them you’re not catering for. The people who are wondering how something could be done better, and went to Google for suggestions. The people who want to urgently buy something, today. The existing customers who want some background documentation. Most of us could brainstorm a dozen potential visitor types.

Now we need to put ourselves in the mindset of each one in turn, and see if the website makes it clear what it can do for them. One excellent exercise is to create a document with a list of the visitor types, and link each one to the page where they’re most likely to enter the site, or be directed to from the home page. Then get other people to click on the links as that type of visitor, and ask them to comment on whether their needs were met. The results can be uncomfortable, but are always constructive.

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