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Shot Through The Heart (Or Why Using Audiences For Target Practice Might Not Be Such A Good Idea)
Yesterday I was told that this website should not be in existence.  Well, that is not quite the whole story.  The more honest version is a bit more complicated than that.  I was told that I was not the "Target Audience" for the website which actually made me realise that I needed to turn the original "Inkyworld" Blog into a website - by the Brainiac behind it.  The website was (and still is) my favourite when it comes to the layout of the pages and the ease with which I can get around it.

Not only that but the aforementioned Brainiac was actually the biggest inspiration behind the whole "Inkyworld" idea in the first place (for several reasons).

I have a big problem with the whole concept of "Target Audiences" for websites.  When you start focussing on "Target Audiences" you are in danger of mistaking your website for your own private physical domain (your home, your place of work, your hobby group, etc) - as in somewhere you can physically bar people from.

One very good example of this is from when I went for a job interview some months ago and was left feeling angry and frustrated all because of interviewer's attitude to me and their website.  (I blogged about it on the original "Inkyworld" blog but I will give you a summary of what happened below.)

When you go for job interviews you are supposed to research the company.  One of the ways to do this involves going onto their website and reading it.  That is if you can navigate your way around it easily.

This particular company (whose name I have managed to erase from my brain) had what I would consider to be the worst website I have ever come across bar none.

Forget the weird setup with the pages themselves (no menu at the top of the webpage - and no clue as to where on the website you were at any given moment - so you had to go through their website whether you wanted to or not in order to find the information you wanted) - I seem to remember the font was microscopically small and in a faint blue-grey type of colour - in other words almost impossible for me to read.

I attempted to point out the problems I had had with the website and their attitude astonished me.  Apparently it was an award-winning website (something tells me that the RNIB were not part of the judging panel for this award) so they were not prepared to change it.  Their next statement made me thankful that it was the end of the interview (physical violence would have occurred if I had been forced to stay in their presence after that point) - "You are not our Target Audience".

Whilst I will admit that I was not likely to ever be in the market for their products or services (I think they were a firm of Accountants) their "Target Audience" at that moment in time did in fact include me for one very simple reason.  I had applied for a job with them and needed to find out about their company because they had offered me an interview for said job.

If you think of a website as an extention of a company's "shop window" and doorway you should realise that the website needs to draw people in - whether  they deliberately went to your website thinking you had the answer to their question or they were looking on Google (other Search Engines are available) and your website was suggested as a likely source of the information they required.

Instead of thinking that your website should only cater for people who want to find out how to translate Ancient Egyptian writings, for example, and concentrating all your efforts on communicating with that group of people to the exclusion of everyone else, it would be a very good idea to have a hook to grab the rest of us in.  Even if we aren't interested in Ancient Egypt we might know someone who is.  If us mere mortals who are not interested in Ancient Egypt find your website interesting and/or easy to use we are more likely to recommend it to people we know who are.

Let's just say that it is as counter-productive to bar people from your website just because they do not fit the profile of your (self-appointed) "Target Audience" as it is to advertise the Sale of the Century in a physical shop whilst locking all the doors and putting steel blinds in all the windows.

However, the observant among you will have realised something else about why I have a problem with the concept of "Target Audiences".  I have found that those companies who have made a decision on what their "Target Audience" is are the ones who are most likely to lock me out of their websites whether or not I fit into that category at any given moment.

How?

Quite easily as it happens.

If you want to lock me out of your website there is one very easy way to achieve this objective - make it impossible for me to read and/or navigate around.  If you have information you wish to impart to me complete with drawings or photos feel free to make the drawings or photos at least twice as large as the accompanying text.

In fact, why stop there???  Anything which makes me feel like I need to tweak your website using any method not embedded in your website (ie, magnifiers, etc) is not going to encourage me to come back to it in a hurry.

The strange thing is that I find the websites which should be actively encouraging me to use them (ie, employment agencies, companies who are advertising for staff, etc) are the worst offenders when it comes to locking me out of them.

You can make the content of your website as interest specific as you want to but please, please, PLEASE, at least treat the homepage in the same way as you would treat your physical shop window or doorway.

I have a habit of judging companies who invite me for interview by their websites.  I find that in most cases there is a direct connection between how the company treats visitors to their website and how they treat interview candidates, customers, etc, when they arrive at their physical premises.  Complicated website usually equals company who is only interested in a certain sort of visitor to their physical premises.

I know the Brainiac behind the website which I alluded to in the first part of this blog post personally - in fact, they are a friend of mine (at time of typing this blog post at least).  This is the reason for me not naming either the human or the website - apart from the fact they have made one major alteration to it which would have made all the difference if they had done it when they created it.

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