One important thing every web designer should think about before starting to design a website is the target audience of the business. The age, gender, interests and cultural background of the website visitors, among other factors, matter more than one might think.
Factor #1: Cultural background
Let us have a look at one extreme example: The Japanese language is traditionally written in columns from top to bottom, moving along the page from right to left. Most European languages, as opposed to that, are written in lines from left to write that are arranged on the page from top to bottom.
The Japanese have long ago adapted this Western style of writing for different types of texts. Yet, lots of important publications, like Newspapers or novels, are still written in the traditional top-to-bottom right-to-left style.
For websites, they didn’t really have a choice: Even the websites of major Japanese newspapers are written in the Western style. Contemporary web design does not allow websites that are written in the traditional Japanese way.
However, I think that the language and culture lose part of their essence through this. It would be a real challenge to design a website which is thought out for the traditional Japanese language, as this would affect the structure dramatically. While we normally use horizontal-oriented grids, it would probably be more appropriate to use a vertical layout for a website like this.
Using a grid helps keep the website pages to have a nice and clear structure, avoiding chaos and confusion.
Let us have a look at another example of a writing system that might not seem so difficult at first but will also have an important impact on web design: Arab.
The Arab language is written from right to left in lines that are arranged on a page from top to bottom. This is fairly compatible with Western web design, as the same page layouts and grids can be used… you might think.
However, we should take into consideration where we place certain elements on the page, in order to direct the user’s attention to them. A contact form on a landing page might be filled out more in a position of the page that we are not used to on Western websites, due to different eye movements along the page.
Elements like this should ideally be measured with A/B testing, a tactic I will be talking about soon in a different article.
Let us now move on from language to colour: I found this great blog post which briefly explains what each colour means for each culture:
As a European, white for me means faith, purity, wisdom. For an Indian, this colour might represent completely different concepts. In India, people wear white clothes for funerals, whereas we wear black. In Europe, we normally wear white for our wedding day, whereas Indians wear red. A red colour scheme might thus be an interesting approach for website that is looking to promote trust in India.
There are many more cases like these all over the world. So before we dive into putting colours onto our websites, we should take into consideration who our target audience is, and what these colours will transmit to them.
The most probable case is that we won’t have total freedom of which colours we choose, as normally we have to follow the colours presented in the corporate design of the company. Still, some thought and consideration should be put into the selection of the colours we apply to our designs.
When it comes down to fonts we normally have thousands and thousands to choose from. I always give the same advice: Stick to a maximum of two different fonts per website and make sure the fonts you pick are legible. Do not write a whole paragraph in script font as no-one will stop to decipher it. I don’t have a lot of knowledge of any of the Asian languages, Arab or Russian, but I’m sure that the same rule applies: Use legible fonts.
Now that we have discussed some cultural factors, let us move on to another aspect we should consider when thinking about our target audience: The age of our website visitors.
Factor #2: Age
Whether our audience is young or old, or in between, I always recommend simple, clean, and chaos-free websites. What can be taken into consideration depending on the age of our target audience is the style of the design: Is it more serious or more fun, more hip or more hop…
Let’s have a look at some examples of fonts you could use on the websites you design. I have mentioned my “always use legible fonts” rule, but when you are designing headers, it is OK to be a bit more experimental.
If you are targeting the young adult generation, modern fonts like Montserrat or Amatic SC (both are Google fonts) can be ideal. They are still pretty legible, but with a nice touch. The choice of the fonts you can use obviously always depends on what type of website you are creating and which service or product we are promoting.
If your target audience is even younger than that, say from 8 year olds to 14 year olds, you can look for funnier fonts (just for the headers remember). Fonts like CHALKBOARD might be interesting. But please, try to stay away from Comic Sans!
Factor #3: Gender
Let us talk about how the gender of your target audience affects your web design. I am not going to extend on this part because I know there is a lot of discussion on this topic, but I will give my short opinion on how I think it should be done from a female web designer’s perspective.
I personally do not think that it is necessary to make a pink website with flowers and hearts when targeting women, girls or children. I myself would probably leave your website if I saw that. I believe that in this day and age it is safe to say that almost ANY website can be treated from a unisex perspective.
On the other hand, I also do not like it when a website is very male orientated. Sports websites, for example, have the tendency to design specifically for men, especially when they talk about football. I can understand that their target audience might be mainly male, but as a woman who likes football, I do not appreciate the design you see on those websites. Again, simplicity is the key!
Factor #4: Education level
Last but not least, let us talk about which role our target audience’s education level plays. In general, I would always recommend to keep things simple: Easy-to-read texts, easy-to-use navigations, and so on. But if we know, for example, that our audience is very tech savvy, we can also adapt the complexity of our web design to this.
The advice I have given in this is very general and the web design you will choose in the end depends on your industry, your service or product and, of course, your particular target audience. If you ever need help with thinking this through, don’t hesitate to get in contact. A great web design leads to more potential clients. You can read more about it in my previous article “Why is web design so important?”
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments and maybe even your case studies, just leave a comment below and let us all know!