Analyzing the Audience


Understanding the needs of the audience is an integral component of online help development. When developing your help system, it is always a good idea to begin with thinking about who your audience is and the many factors that consist of that particular audience. There are many elements to consider such as age, gender, education, occupation, language, culture, ethnicity, background knowledge, needs and interests, as well as previously held attitudes, beliefs, and values. Although this is not an all-inclusive list, it does help you get a general understanding of the audience you will be addressing.

There are three overarching methods used to analyze a particular audience:
  1. Audience analysis by direct observation.
  2. Audience analysis by inference.
  3. Audience analysis through data sampling.

Some audience characteristics to consider:
  • Demographics
  • Previous experience
  • Reason for using product
  • Role in product understanding
  • Attitude toward product
  • Learning style
  • Conditions of use
  • Technology constraints, e.g., computer and network specifications, operating system, peripherals needed

Demographics


Demographics are important to consider when analyzing your audience. Demographics is defined by Merriam-Webster's dictionary as "the statistical characteristics of human populations (as age or income) used especially to identify markets." Demographics are a way to group people together using criteria that is targeted, without being too specific. The danger of demographic research is when we fall into the traps of stereotyping and assuming. If we stereotype and make assumptions about people based on a few demographic factors, developers risk the viability of the product, or may offend audience members based on faulty demographic research.

Investopedia reports that additional potential demographic information can include:
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Economic status
  • Level of education
  • Income level
  • Employment

What does this all mean? What is the purpose of demographics research? How do demographics influence how advertisers, financial institutions, policy developers and others communicate with us? What would happen if demographic research was not completed before development of a product? We will take a look at these questions and how they relate to development of an online help system.

What is the purpose of demographic research?

Demographic research allows for the "tailoring" of products to an audience. When we understand the demographics of an audience, we develop appropriate documentation and present that documentation at an appropriate learning level.

How do demographics influence how advertisers, financial institutions, policy developers and others communicate with us?

Demographics allow us to target certain groups of people for product advertising, television programming, credit and banking offers, communications about public policy, and development of teaching tools.

What would happen if demographic research was not completed before development of a product?

If demographic research was not a component of audience analysis, we could find ourselves dealing with issues such as:
  • The product is not easy to understand
  • The product is not what the audience expected it to be
  • We do not communicate appropriately at the level of understanding of the audience






Sources:

"Demographics." Investopedia.com. Investopedia US, 2012. Web. 1 Sept. 2011. <http://www.investopedia.com/search/default.aspx?q=demographics#axzz25G6nOqWI>

"Demographics." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2012. Web. 1 Sept. 2011. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/demographics>

Weber, Jean Hollis. "Analyzing Audiences and Tasks." Is the Help Helpful?. Ed. Frazier. Whitefish Bay: Hentzenwerke, 2004. 24. Print.

Public Speaking The ACA Open Knowledge Online Guide. American Communication Association, n.d. Web. 7 Sept. 2012. <http://textcommons.org/node>

Adams, Tyrone L., Ph.D. and Peter A. DeCaro, Ph.D. "How do I Analyze My Audience?". Public Speaking The ACA Open Knowledge Online Guide. American Communication Association, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2012. <http://textcommons.org/node/41>

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Original Author: Linda Page
Contributors: Wendy Anderson, Larita Clow, Inez Funchess
Editors: Sandra Ramirez, Wendy Anderson, Tammy Fitzpatrick

Understanding the needs of the audience is an integral component of online help development. When developing your help system, it is always a good idea to begin with thinking about whom your audience is and the many factors that consist of that particular audience. There are many elements to consider such as age, gender, education, occupation, language, culture, ethnicity, background knowledge, needs and interests, as well as previously held attitudes, beliefs, and values. Although this is not an all-inclusive list, it does help you get a general understanding of the audience you will be addressing.
There are three overarching methods used to analyze a particular audience