[thelist] Ways to assess 'potential' site visitors

Marc. S. webdevpost at delime.com
Tue Jan 16 14:58:49 CST 2007

On 1/16/07, bill scheider <bill at first-encounter-design.com> wrote:

> I'm wondering (again) what ways you all use to make educated guesses (or
> better) about the equipment and habits of potential users of clients who are
> bringing their business to the web for the first time?

Hi Bill,

That's an interesting question. At first look, it's easy to be
concerned when someone says you should base your assumptions on the
behaviour of your existing site audience and you're thinking "huh? I
don't have a site, how can I have a site audience?"

If you take a step back, though, you'd realise that any new business
already knows (or should know) it's target audience - demographic is
the term I prefer.

And as a web developer you've (hopefully) published other clients'
sites already and you'd know what the behaviours of their demographics
are. You may even have published a site for a different client with a
very similar or almost identical target demographic to your new

For example, let's say you're looking at it geographically. I live on
a Caribbean island where broadband penetration is probably less than
5%. And even broadband ain't that broad. So I know that automatically,
I advise my clients against deploying that 200MB singing, dancing
flash monstrosity, no matter how much the boss may love it. If the
demographic is university students in Boston, MA, there's a better
chance they're sitting on fat university networks, and also very
likely that they're using laptops rather than pcs.

It's not the most complete set of behaviours and characteristics
around, but it's someplace to start.

And if you really do have no characteristics for your target audience
then there's always that thing you do before you dive into
pixelmonkeying - market research.

Which can take a number of forms with varying timeframes and budgets.
The quickest and dirtiest being to size up your client's competitors
sites and analyse what they're doing - you may not necessarily
understand why they're doing it, but if you can aggregate it across
5-10 sites you may be able to extract some useful starting points. Or
there's the more costly route of actually identifying individuals who
match the target demographic and assessing them.

Ultimately though, this is one of those cases where having a web
developer who understands that a website is more than a bunch of
pretty photoshop images and clever html hacks is going to make or
break one's business.


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