Previously, we defined secondary website development objectives based on the possibilities of the site as a tool.  This article focuses on your site visitors, for whom we are planning the site design, information, and functionality.

In determining the secondary objective, we addressed the site’s effective use for the company’s narrow practical interests: reducing costs for routine operations and improving communications.  Those methods gradually focused on needs of the website’s future visitors; this is critical because the company must focus on its customers.

We are omitting the definition of the target audience itself.  To develop a site for your existing business, you need a clear idea of your potential client’s profile.  If you are planning a new business, you need to define your target audience.  We will assume the target audience of your future site is known to you, so we will focus on ways to identify target audience needs in the site’s context.

While being familiar enough with your future target audience, it is necessary to account for two factors: 

1.  Your target audience’s actual needs may be different from your understanding of them 

2.  Your target audience may not understand their own needs, which may well present an ideal opportunity for your business

To a great extent, our perceptions depend on our knowledge of a specific area.   One’s education, profession, and activities all help develop these different knowledge levels and can create a multitude of perceptions.  We all live in an overlapping but the simultaneously different world and therein lies the trap.  In your particular business, you have different information and perceptions than your target audience.

In developing the site for a wide audience, your perception is different from the perception of those for whom this website is to be designed (we will not address the website made for a specific group of specialists).  You are not your site target audience.  To a certain extent, you are the antipode.

Since we plan to develop the site for the target audience, we must clearly define the needs of its visitors and help create the understanding mentioned above.  Those needs can either be conscious or unconscious.

Conscious Needs

Conscious needs are simple: what is the visitors’ interest in your site and why will they use it.  In the beginning, we mentioned the prime of the motive in your action.  Now we need to determine the motives of the main participants: the site visitors.

You may know most of your target audience’s needs quite well and be able to readily articulate them in a short list.  It is logical to continually supplement and adjust this list: as your business “insider”, you have a different view on the subject than the target audience.  How do you generate this list?

Users’ search engine queries analysis is the effective tool for collecting generalized information.  You should not be afraid of the jargon; this is simply a list of words and phrases used to find data in search engines ranked by popularity.  By using this tool, you can get an idea about the interests and priorities of website potential visitors.  You can assess how these queries may differ from your own belief.  Pay attention to synonyms associated with the main words and phrases and try different wording to acquire knowledge of potential customers’ needs.  You can compare current trends to different products and services, and information on regional trends will also provide data.  While this information is averaged and represents an overall picture, you may well find something you did not expect.  Specifically, you may find words, terms, and phrases used by searchers which differ from what you believe they are.  In their queries, users may misconstrue the terms.  We will discuss the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) aspects of your future website in a separate article; here, we use one SEO tool to gain a broader understanding of potential visitors’ needs and their search patterns. Save this data on the popularity of search queries because we will need it in the future.

Other ways of obtaining information that reflect your website potential visitors’ interests and needs are familiar to us: e-mails, interviews, and personal communication.  If you already have a website and keep your clients’ e-mail addresses, it is sufficient to write a letter with a few short questions and send it to your future website clients.  This not only allows you to identify client interests but also demonstrates your concern for them.  When forming questions, assume that you need to obtain specific information that has a practical application.  This is often seen in polls: “Do you like our site?”.  Responses may be “I like it”  40%, “I don’t like it”  60%.  Responses from these open-ended questions do not relate how you should act upon this data.  Closed questions may well provide more useful information for you: “What do you found useful / inconvenient at the site?”, “What would you add / change on a site?” etc.  While some responses may state trivial matters like “change the color, I do not like blue / green / red … “, other comments can provide valuable information.

In case your company does not yet have a website, you can ask your clients to describe what they would want from your company site, what would be convenient for them, and provide links to other sites with which they feel comfortable and why they use those sites.  It may be prudent to have personal contacts with your customers who can help you learn more about future visitor interests and needs.  Even if you already have a website, it is wise to ask about recommended sites to implement ideas to improve your own site.

Unconscious needs of visitors to the site 

Previously, we gathered data and analyzed future website visitors’ conscious needs to subsequently adjust to them.  Visitors may also have unconscious needs: those of which users are unaware or suspect but do not exactly know abilities to understand them with your website.

For example, the need of some device to avoid wasting time and energy to wash tableware existed long before the dishwasher entered the market was unconscious; the dishwasher’s appearance made this need conscious for consumers. 

Not only is the need important, but knowledge of the possibility of implementation is vital as well.  If your company offers its customers a new product or service, you may encounter this problem: people are not interested in your products and services because they are unaware of their need for it.

This issue is both complex and challenging: you need to present to the buyer their unconscious needs and make them conscious.  If your strategy is successful and the product or service you offer is needed by your consumers, the objective of the site is to present your product or service so that your customer will find it imperative to order.  This does not mean that popular products or services may be presented in a dull and nondescript manner; to succeed in the proposal of the unconscious need requires abundant creativity and hard work.  And this is the precise area of the most blatant difference in perception between you and your potential customers.  You may wonder that potential buyers do not understand “such obvious things?”  Your potential buyers probably do not know as much as you, and THAT makes you completely different from your target audience.  This is where you need to remove yourself from your own perceptions of reality and shift to the reality experienced by your customers.  This may seem strange, illogical or even insane; however, the site should be made for them and not for you.

To identify unconscious needs of your website potential visitors, examine the proposal at the maximum amount of your potential customers.  This will provide the opportunity to understand how their perception differs from yours; relate how much effort should be made to convey your idea to them, and how to make your efforts most effectively.  It is crucial to comprehend what your potential customers would appreciate and what they would not; what causes them to act and what makes them indifferent.  This experience should be noted and refined before developing the website.  How well you understand your potential customer’s response to your offer relates to how often your site will be used and is paramount to determining your project’s success.

As a result of your survey, you should have a list of the most popular search queries, your comments and observations, and comments and suggestions from your existing site visitors to enhance your future website.