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External audience

Oddly, the users of a Web site are often the most overlooked part of the equation. Getting caught up in all the other details of planning and deciding how the site will support the goals of the organization can easily take you away from considering the real needs of your external audience. Often, the visitors are referred to as a target audience and are described in very broad terms. Unfortunately, the discussion of a target audience is generally a short one and not very detailed.

As a Web site project manager/designer, though, you must be careful to dig a little deeper into what kinds of people are in the target audience and what they want; otherwise, the site will try to be everything to everybody instead of being just what it needs to be for that audience. Luckily, certain techniques can help you avoid the common pitfalls of designing for your users — profiles. Profiles (also known as personas) are detailed descriptions of your users as individual people. While you're developing your content and design, you might forget that your users are individual people. Generalizing your audience makes it much harder to deliver truly helpful and engaging content. Profiles help you think about your users' needs.


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