No matter the type of writing or content you’re creating, knowing your audience is vital. So what does that mean for user experience and technical writers? How can we better understand the audiences that we’re informing?
While figuring out “who your readers are” may sound simple, the sheer volume of users and products today makes this a challenge. The first and most important step is identifying your audience, followed by analyzing their needs and matching your content to their knowledge level.
We’ll briefly go over each step below.
Identifying your audience
For many technical and UX writers, their assignment begins with a relentless focus on the product itself. After all, good technical and UX writing must make the experience of using a product easier, more enjoyable, and more rewarding for the end user.
But don’t neglect the fact that understanding your end user can also make the content creation process easier. Tools like on-site or emailed surveys, focus groups, and even web analytics can create a clearer picture of your end user and help inform your content.
Common audience types
For most user experience-focused content, there are four main audiences:
- Experts: these users need to understand a product or service from the inside out
- Technicians: these users may need to troubleshoot or manage a product or service
- Executives: these users may have the final say on whether to implement a product or service
- Non-specialists: these users may need to use the product or service regularly but not understand every feature
In general, your audience will be comprised of several of these types working together. Experts and technicians likely share a common language, while executives and non-specialists may be looking for a “bigger picture” explanation using simpler information.
One way to craft content that appeals to both groups is to segment the content into easily identifiable sections. A summary or overview section may be sufficient for executives or non-specialists, while a separate comprehensive breakdown will serve well for experts and technicians.
Analyzing your audience
Before you begin your content creation, it’s ideal to review any existing research, surveys, or data about your core users. Brief user interviews or follow-up surveys are perfect for this phase.
If you aren’t able to dive into research, however, there are still some key questions you can ask to help shape your content process. These questions include:
- Who is my audience?
- What does my audience need?
- When and where will they be reading/viewing/listening to this content?
- Why will they be reading/viewing/listening to this content?
These simple questions can lead to new learning approaches that work better for your users.
Adapting content for your audience
Compiling information from your user analysis can help you create audience personas, which can be useful when writing multiple different types of content for different audiences. But there are other steps you can take to ensure your content is a good fit. Again, asking a series of questions at this stage can make each piece of content a better match for user needs. These include:
- What additional information do your users need to understand your content?
- How can you deliver that information seamlessly alongside your content?
- Are there any unnecessary details that you can omit that your users may already know?
- What level of information do you need to provide for your users? General? Detailed?
- Are you providing adequate examples that relate to user needs?
- Does your tone match the expectations of your users?
Finally, when it comes time to create the content, make sure you follow some basic writing principles. Well-organized points, a clear and engaging introduction, and strong transitions will help your users follow along regardless of your chosen medium. Breaking text into short paragraphs can help improve readability while using graphics or other visual aids provides entry points into the content. Fine-tuning your content by considering all these variables can make your work much more valuable to your audience.