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Understanding your UX target audience

Sarah Edwards
User Experience Consultant

As a skilled designer, you might have created the most intuitive navigation paths, the most user-friendly features, and the most well-structured interface – however, a truly exceptional user experience is only attained when these elements are thoughtfully tailored to resonate with your target audience.

The notion of a ‘target audience’ transcends demographics, and rather involves a nuanced understanding of the psychographic, behavioural, and contextual factors that influence user preferences and decision-making processes. The term ‘target audience’ can be defined as the specific group of individuals or customers who are seeking solutions that align with the offerings of your product or service. Users are more likely to engage and interact with a product that is most suited to them and the exact experience they’re seeking, and by leveraging a diverse array of research techniques, designers can craft a clear picture of their target audience. In this article, we’ll walk you through the methodologies that can be applied to gathering data that defines your target audience.

User research methods

It is widely acknowledged that the best way to get to know someone is by asking questions. For this reason, conducting in-depth user interviews provides the perfect platform for obtaining rich, nuanced insights in the form of elaborate verbal responses which serve as robust and reliable data to inform a comprehensive understanding of the target audience. In-depth interviews build a rapport between the participant and moderator, creating an environment of trust and leading the participant to be more open and authentic regarding what they’re looking for in a user experience. Truly understanding a UX target audience necessitates the holistic understanding of users, and in-depth interviews present the opportunity to uncover users’ environments, routines, as well as social dynamics.

Furthermore, in-depth interviews allow for the exploration of the emotional dimensions involved in user interactions that ultimately shape the interactions that users have with a digital product. This strong qualitative user research method allows researchers to unpack in detail what users do, why they do it, their attitudes, behaviours and further context which are all invaluable data points that inform the decision-making process in design.

User personas

A user persona is a fictional representation of a distinct user group within a target audience. User personas might include the following information about a user group:

  • Demographic information (e.g., age, gender, and professional background)
  • Psychographic information
  • Behavioural attributes
  • Typical tasks and interactions
  • Challenges and pain points
  • Goals and motivations
  • Preferences and expectations

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into why user personas serve as invaluable tools in understanding a target audience. User personas are tools that enable designers, researchers and other stakeholders to empathise with a target audience. User personas aren’t a research method, but rather a tool for centralising data collected from user research methods such as in-depth interviews to exist as living documents that can be used to make informed decisions about features that align with users’ preferences and expectations. User personas function to transform any abstract data and demographic information to create vivid, relatable characters that have distinctive personalities.

Personas are key in understanding the target audience as they contribute an element of empathy to design decisions. For example, rather than referring to hundreds of pages of interview transcripts or lengthy research report results when trying to validate a design decision, snappy one-page personas not only simplify this aspect of the decision-making process, but also humanise the data. Taking a look at 3 one-page user personas eases the process of considering the impact of complex design decisions on multiple user segments. An added benefit of user personas is that they facilitate effective cross-functional communication and collaboration, serving as the shared language that enables teams to align their efforts towards meeting the needs of specific audience groups.

User journey mapping

Our understanding of audience needs and preferences can also be improved through user journey mapping. User journey maps are visual representations of the steps a user takes to achieve a certain goal or complete a task while using a digital product or service, spanning touch-points, interactions, emotions, and pain points. Ideally, the creation of a user-centric user journey map will be collaborative, involving a range of stakeholders to provide diverse perspectives. The process includes 4 key stages:

  1. Gathering a set of qualitative and quantitative data from user research methods, including in-depth interviews, surveys, analytics and usability testing
  2. Creating a map that functions as a visual representation of the entire user journey, incorporating touch-points, pain points, areas of frustration and confusion as well as the user’s feelings and attitudes at each stage of the journey
  3. Analysing the map to identify patterns, themes, key insights and areas that call for improvement
  4. Iteratively refining the user journey map over time depending on whether there are new insights or further feedback to aid in the optimisation of the user experience

User journey maps used alongside other user research outputs such as personas provide the perfect opportunity to tailor the user experience for multiple UX target audiences for different stages of the user journey.

UX audience segmentation strategies

Segmenting target audiences in UX design processes is crucial for several reasons. Understanding the nuances in user groups helps to personalise the experience and therefore lead to higher satisfaction and engagement, and is an important influence in activities that exist outside of the realm of UX design such as content creation, as it ensures that content and features are relevant, meaningful and valuable. While demographic segmentation is most commonly employed, there are some alternative ways in which you can segment your target audience to gain deeper insights:

  • Technological segmentation, which includes distinguishing users according to their preferred devices to optimise their experience depending on the platform in use as well as their comfort level with technology
  • Psychographic segmentation, which encompasses potential users’ lifestyles, values, personality traits and core beliefs
  • Geographic segmentation, which considers their location, regional preferences, cultural norms and general environments

A data-driven approach to understanding your UX target audience

While qualitative insights are a valuable method of informing your UX target audience, combining these with a data-driven approach ensures a more accurate and well-rounded definition of your audience’s behaviour and interactions. Leveraging analytics tools such as Google Analytics that track interactions on websites provides concrete numerical data regarding traffic sources, demographics and conversion rates. Heatmaps and session recordings hone in on user interactions more accurately, as they provide information on mouse movements and clicks as well as scrolling behaviour.

Other engagement metrics that can enhance understanding of UX target audiences include retention rates, session duration, bounce rates and click-through rates, overall improving the reliability of information that impacts design decisions. Consistently analysing and monitoring this data for trends and patterns contributes to the iterative optimisation of user experiences and results in long-term brand success.

Case studies: Successful UX audience targeting examples

Nike, Netflix and Matalan are examples of leading brands that effectively target their UX audience to enhance user satisfaction and engagement and boost their business outcomes.

Nike, a global leader in sportswear, has successfully segmented its target audience according to variables such as age, gender, and lifestyle to cater to a wide range of their consumers. For instance, their women’s division is dedicated to the empowerment of female athletes and features campaigns that celebrate inclusivity and body positivity. Additionally, their ‘Just Do It’ campaign resonates with millennials and Gen-Z consumers, advocating for empowerment, individuality and social activism. Nike’s success with targeting their audience is also an example of the effectiveness of cross-functional collaboration between UX and marketing teams.

Netflix A world-recognised streaming platform, Netflix carefully segments their audience based on user behaviour and viewing patterns to target its consumers, displaying films and TV series that suit their unique preferences.

Matalan The British fashion and homeware e-commerce and retail brand optimised their checkout process and increased their conversions by utilising platforms such as Hotjar and user research methods such as A/B testing. Matalan was able to identify how users interact with their online store and make iterations based on these insights. These insights go further than this iteration alone and feed into existing information on their users’ behaviour.

Conclusion

Gaining a deep understanding of your target audience is key in creating user experiences that deliver for a wide range of consumers, and ensuring that the methods that collect this data are varied is paramount. To wrap up this article, here are some best practices for UX audience targeting:

  • Staying up-to-date with evolving audience preferences and trends and adapting to market trends and technological advancements
  • Continuous user research and feedback integration as well as regular monitoring of key performance metrics related to engagement, satisfaction and retention
  • Collaboration between UX, marketing, and development teams to ensure alignment and holistic understanding of user needs and goals
  • Designing user experiences that are accessible and inclusive for all users
  • Adopting an iterative approach to UX design, continuously testing and refining designs based on user feedback and data insights
  • Use consistent brand messaging across all touch-points and channels, with a special consideration of your target audience’s interests, values and motivations
  • Focusing research and design efforts on user segments with the highest potential impact

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We’d love to talk to you about how Make it Clear can support your organisation by targeting your UX audience. Book a call here.


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