User-Centered Website Content

By 28/09/2014 Apr 20th, 2019 Business, Content, Strategy, User Experience
google + circles

Let me start with the bad news:

Your website is not about you, it is about your target audience.

Before you go and start deleting your “About Us”, “Who We Are”, “Mission Statement”, and “Organisational Chart” type pages from your current website, let me share the good news:

Your website is not about you, it is about your target audience.

Okay, let me explain; you already know who your target audience is, they’re the people who need your services, products and/or information. You’ve probably spent time and money researching who they are, what they do, where they live, what they earn and most importantly what it is they need. Understanding your target audience’s real human desires and then fulfilling them requires user-centered content. It doesn’t require your business to be listed in Fortune 500, it doesn’t require a multimillion dollar budget and it certainly doesn’t require self-absorbed information that alienates people.

In his book “The Psychology of Everyday Things” (1) cognitive scientist Donald Norman highlights the importance of user-centered design and points out that it should “make sure that; the user can figure out what to do, and the user can tell what is going on.”

User-Centered Website Content

google _circlesLet’s take a look at how Google + took the plunge into the social networking arena against Facebook and what they have done to make sure that their offering is focused on their users. Googles business model is based on advertising around search, but they have realized that it is only by taking an interest in people that they can be successful. Google + offers a social network packed with user-centered tools that allow people to share and discover things that are important to them. It is not their tools that I am interested in here, but rather the content they use to position them. I’ll focus on one of those tools Google Circles.

Using three simple concepts Circles addresses the need for a balance between privacy and public attention, and fulfills a real human need.



google _circles2

By letting their audience know how easy it is to find people they know, Google not only explains the simplicity of using Circles, but also highlights the power of selectivity that it offers.



google _circles3

They then go on to show how circles of friends, colleagues, family or any others can be created and managed so that people are able to share what they want with who they want and not get the two confused.


google _circles4

As if that wasn’t enough Google also explain how information can be shared privately within circles to the degree of only one person at a time to making an announcement public for the world to see.

You may not have noticed, but at no point has Google mentioned anything about search or online advertising. And that’s the point. They are so focused on what they can do to address and fulfill their target audience’s needs that their business model takes a back seat.

Eric Schonfeld describes this strategy best when in his article “Search is Google’s castle, everything else is a moat.” Here he explains how Google have shored up their actual business of search with all these other products and services that don’t seem to have anything directly to do with search but do fulfill the needs of millions of people who use it.

The secret here is that it is only by offering content that focusses on fulfilling actual needs of specific target audiences that success can be achieved.

(1) Donald Norman, The Psychology of Everyday Things, (New York: Basic Books, 1988), 188

Sean McMahon

Author Sean McMahon

Sean McMahon is a digital strategist and website designer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been in the digital design industry since 1998 and currently heads up Electric Pencil.

More posts by Sean McMahon

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