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Chapter 4. The Web User, Part 1: The Audience > Understanding the Web User

Understanding the Web User

People who visit Web sites are most likely experienced computer users who have probably been using other Internet services such as e-mail, chat rooms, virtual communities, or file transfer. Currently, the average Web user is highly educated, having obtained at least one degree. Male users have been in the majority, but there is a decisive trend toward an increase in female users worldwide, particularly among new and young Web users. Of course, such statistics will change drastically over the long run as the Web becomes more accessible worldwide, especially through the use of cell phones and handheld devices.

To understand who the general Web user is in a given period of time, designers must stay current with the latest data. We should use nationally published data collected by surveys such as the GVU WWW survey and the NUA Internet surveys, www.horus.com, or www.statmarket.com. As an example of statistical changes, Table 4.1 summarizes the GVU's ninth and tenth WWW surveys' data on age as a function of location, gender, years on the Web, and skill level (Kehoe, et al., 1999). It is in the context of this general profile that we define the target audience for a given project. Keep in mind that the GVU data is relatively old, given the growth rate on the Internet. It is presented here only as an example of the kind of data designers could gather from such surveys.


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