Whenever you’re putting together a piece of content, the very first thing you need to do is to think about who you’re creating it for. You probably already have some idea of what you want to communicate and who to, but the specifics of your audience will have a huge impact on what you create and how.

Here are three things to consider

1. Ability

This is absolutely fundamental. If your audience can’t read, don’t write. If your audience can’t hear, don’t go make a radio ad. If your audience can’t see colour, don’t make a colour coded chart. If you have a wider audience, that broad group probably splits down. You may have lots of different levels of ability, so how do you compensate? Aim for the lowest common denominator. Keep it easy to read. Caption your images. Put subtitles in your video clips. Don’t use fancy formatting to get your point across, as a screen reader won’t pick that up. Think about every segment of your audience and how they are going to receive and respond to your content. Shape it to their needs. If you start with this, you can build up levels of complexity later, or for specific groups. It’s so much harder to do it the other way around.

2. Focus

Who your audience is will have a huge impact on how they consume your content. Are they on the train to work, using a mobile device? Are they sitting in a library and concentrating entirely on what you have to say? Are they scanning through their overloaded email inbox trying to work out if your content is worth their time? Most people these days are suffering from having too much to read, not too little, so unless you know your audience has to invest time, and has time to invest, keep it brief. If you want them to do something, get straight to the point. If they’ll need to be persuaded then spell it right out, as clear as you can. Tell them only what they need to know. Think about what they’re going to pick up on if they only skim through. And even if you do have a dedicated audience with plenty of time on their hands, the better you focus on the point, the faster they’ll understand, and the more valuable your content will be to them.

3. Purpose

This is perhaps the most important aspect to consider – you really have to look at things from your audience’s point of view. Why are they consuming your content? Do they want to learn something? Complete a task? Check some information? Be entertained? Waste some time? When you consider what your audience want from your content, you can hone in on that at every stage. For every sentence, every image, you can consider – does this give information? Is this entertaining? Is this key detail that they need to get to the end point? The user’s purpose, not your own, should be the driving force behind everything you include. Of course, sometimes that’s easier said than done, but it’s not something we can avoid doing. If your content stops meeting their needs, or doesn’t start meeting them soon enough, they’ll drop off. Switch off the video, click a different link, try a different website, give up and phone. There’s lots of options but they can all signal content failure. Your job, as the content creator, is to align your purpose up with that of the audience, however you can, so that they don’t give up before you’ve got your message across.

What do you like to ask yourself about your audience before you get started? Do any of the questions raised here sound familiar, or do you tend to take a different approach?

Basics #1 – Who is your audience?
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