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Do We Really Know What Our Audience Thinks?

    Do We Really Know What Our Audience Thinks?


    I recently came across this objection during a UX workshop. I had been asked to meet with them to review an existing social campaign website. So I began to talk about their stakeholders and their audience to gather information about who might use the website when it became clear that they felt it was, well pretty pointless. They thought it was a waste of time because they aready knew who their audience was.

    I was going to say “Well you might know, but the person who designed your website sure as hell didn’t”, but I stopped and thought about this some more.

    Why is there such a resistance to UX by people who profess to be people focused and who understand their needs and why do they sometimes seem to think that they understand their customers better then they do themselves, after all UX is about testing how our stakeholders repsond to our websites.

    Why is it the case that when it comes to evaluating a website, audience analysis and user testing is often considered unnecessary if there are experienced public facing staff that have already reviewed it?

    I tend to think that often resistance emerges because there is an instinctive belief that we know who our audience is. But what seems simple is often much more complex then we are able to recognise, and sometimes we fail to recognise what we never sought to question. We may speak to them everyday, respond to their emails, answer their calls, meet them at events and workshops, and we may feel that experience has provided us with some certainty about who our audience is, but really how well can we say we understand their problems and their needs.

    It often surprises me the assumptions we are able to make and the beliefs that are cultivated through those assumptions. As a painter (yes I have too many hobbies) I often have to stop  and ask myself if I am really seeing what I am painting or if I am painting what I expect to see and then I begin to recognise amazing and unexpected things, colours that should not be there, proportions that initially seem quite alien.

    In the same way, until we stop to think about our audience, removing established beliefs to try and understand their motivations we likely only have a vague and often distorted view of what they expect from us.

    Because it really is not enough, simply to know who your audience is. No matter how much experience and knowledge of your supporters you may have, your experience and use of the website, your services, in fact everything you do, rarely emulates that of the visitors because your concerns, your reasons for accessing your services are very different and people always surprise us.

    People rarely behave the way you expect. Unless you yourself have lived through the same experiences you cannot understand what they need and how your non-profit can affect change, what information they need or the solutions that brought them to your site, and would you like it if brand told you what you think or if they were to suggest they already knew what you wanted so they didn’t seem to see the point in asking? When you assume you understand them, when you fail to ask them what they want or spend the time to properly investigate what drives them that is what you are doing.

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