The user journey is key to the creation of any good website. Whether it’s design, content, usability – the users should be at the heart of it, otherwise you are failing before you have even begun.
One of the biggest mistakes made when creating a website is stereotyping.
Every website (and the organisation it represents) has a main audience. In fact, it may have many audiences, some larger, some smaller, and it is impossible to cater to the masses completely.
However, in order to do your best, you need to target your main audience and ensure that you speak to them; you provide them with the information they need to know, in a way that they can relate to. Whether that means you ensure that the content is translatable, or the design fits well within the Web Accessibility Initiative, it’s all part of ensuring your website completes it’s primary function – to appeal to its audience.
And in doing that – the first thing you need to understand is that every user is different.
The 'yoof' culture
One of the biggest misconceptions is appealing to the ‘younger generation’.
The confusion between ‘young people’ and the bizarre ‘urban yoof’ stereotype that comes along with it is a misconception that completely misses the mark.
From experience, as a designer, I’ve researched many a website geared at the under-25s. What did I find? A phenomenal amount of graffiti, out-of-date slang, photography of grungy brick walls and a lot of stereotyping within the content too.
The issue here is that not every teenager, or person in their early-twenties, can be compartmentalized into the graffiti-loving category known as ‘young people’.
At 23, I still very much qualify as a ‘young person’ – as quite a few of the team here. But we’re not led by tags and slang, we’re led by using our skills for social good. We also enjoy other things, like the brilliant food that Manchester’s Northern Quarter has to offer and a well-deserved lie-in at the weekend.
So here a few tips on how we think you should be aiming your website towards us, and our youthful friends…
Appealing to the masses
‘Young people’ are not a target audience. Are you aiming your website towards children, pre-teens, teenagers or young adults? A design for children is not going to work for a young adult, and things that you identify with as an 18 year-old may not be things you identify with at 23. Do some research and understand your audience and you’ll save time and money – everybody loves both of those things.
Remember that teenagers are people who, for the most part, are trying to find their own identity and therefore take the look of people and things that they associate themselves with quite seriously. If you latch onto one youth culture – just like the ‘urban yoof’ culture – you are alienating thousands of others. You aren’t speaking to your audience by focusing on one culture, you’re stereotyping them, making it obvious that you don’t understand your audience, and they will instantly see this.
Similarly, latching onto a trend, like YOLO (which stands for ‘you only live once’ for those not in the know) is a risky and unadvisable idea. Trends, slang and memes are constantly changing and go out-of-date quicker than your budget will allow for a rebrand.
Remember that teenagers are just as socially aware and as intelligent as adults and naivety should not be confused with lack of intelligence.
So how do you appeal to these mythical ‘young people’? How can you catch their attention without using fads and slang? Well, I’m about to let you in on a little secret, so lean close.
You make a good website that’s easy to use. Really, that’s it.
The teens and the under-25s are ‘young adults’, so treat them as such and you’ll get a much better response.
If your website isn’t appealing to a younger audience, we can promise that this isn’t because they don’t enjoy a more sophisticated style, it may simply be that the design or content isn’t engaging enough as a as a whole. An effective website, whatever your audience, is the right balance of style, content, usability and beyond.
We like to think that’s where we come in.