Design for Your Audience

Arguably the most important consideration in web design is your audience. Different demographics prefer different types of designs, and it’s important to take this into account as you plan your website design.

We’ve talked before about accessibility, which means making your site available and user-friendly to every population. Accessibility combined with audience-inspired design is the best way to make sure you reach your intended audience, and that your website attains your objectives.

How to Design for Your Audience

Use an appropriate font size for your audience

You may find that font size is inversely proportional to your audience’s age. If you’re aiming for a senior demographic, then a 10- or 12-pixel font size may be too small. In the end, it may be too small for any audience. If your text is easy to read, your visitors are more likely to take the time to read it. We can use browser tools to increase font size or zoom in on our smartphones. But for best usability, we encourage you to allow your users to read your website without requiring any extra manipulations.

I'm just saying that it's weird how when I hit 43, everyone started printing everything smaller. #designforyouraudience #webdesigntips Click To Tweet

Use whitespace judiciously in your design

Younger people tend to appreciate whitespace, which is what it sounds like: white or content-free areas of the website,  also known as negative space. Whitespace is generally used to draw the visitor’s attention to important content on the page. However, older audiences don’t always like to scroll and scroll to find the site’s meaningful content, so you may find it’s important to use less whitespace on sites designed for older users.

What device do your visitors use?

As of February 2021, over 54% of web traffic comes over mobile devices. If your target audience has similar mobile usage, make sure your design is mobile-friendly if not mobile-first. Test it on multiple mobile devices, and be sure it’s easy to navigate and to understand. If you find your target demographic uses desktop computers more, then you may spend more time on the desktop design. In any case, your design should be flexible enough to fit the various devices your audience is using.

Content width for easy reading

This tip applies to all audiences. Though your visitor may have a wide screen, when you’re adding text, you probably shouldn’t make it full screen width.

79% of users scan text instead of or before reading it. Their eyes skip around on the page, most often in an “F-shaped pattern.”

If your content is limited in width, your visitors are better able to scan and understand your content at a glance. While you may want your readers to sit and read your content properly, the first step to encouraging them to do so is to make your content easy to scan so your visitor can see whether he is interested enough in the content to read it more thoroughly.

Baymard suggests keeping your text between 50 and 75 characters per line. This may necessarily cause some whitespace on your website. If your goal is to reduce whitespace for older visitors, consider using that space for additional text or images that will enhance your message.

In this example, Quora uses optimal width for the question and answer section of their site, and uses the extra space along the side for relevant links and ads.

Quora uses optimal width, and uses extra space for relevant links

Design for your audience with the right colors

The psychology of color in design influences how your audience will interpret your organization’s site. Look into the significance of the colors you intend to use to be sure they fit your message and your audience’s perception of your organization or your product.

If you’re designing a website for children, you might choose bright colors, large text, and fun graphics.

design for your audience: use images that will speak to your target demographic
Playful images may speak to a younger audience.

Use photos or images that will speak to your audience

The photos or images you use on your site should represent your audience. Ideally, these images will also inspire some emotions in your target audience. As an added benefit, images and icons can convey meaning to readers who only scan your site. Relevant images, icons, charts, or graphs also help people who are more visually-oriented absorb the information you are sharing.

On a website for seniors, you may see photos of grandparents having warm interactions with other family members. This shows visitors who your target audience is and you convey feelings through the images.

For an e-commerce shop for young people, you might choose images of young, stylish models having fun to inspire your audience to associate your brand with youth and fun, which may encourage them to purchase your products.


Further reading on how to design for your audience:


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Alisa Cognard

Alisa was one of the first team members to join Red Earth Design, Inc. in early 2004. From data entry, she progressed to MySQL database manipulation and PHP coding. Alisa is responsible for all kinds of odds and ends: installing new websites, adding features to them, programming databases, PHP coding, website troubleshooting, website security, and organizational tasks for Red Earth Design.

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