The following post on meeting the needs of Readers and Visitors is a guest post by Lorelle VanFossen of Lorelle on WordPress.
Smashing Magazine asks Who Is Your Visitor?, using some new research into the preferences and characteristics of the average visitor to your blog and website.
However, since you’d like to comfort most of your web users, you need to know their habits and the profile of your average visitor — to adapt the design and layout to your users’ needs.
…Nothing is more valuable than the statistics you’ve collected with an analytics tool installed on your web-site; however particularly in the beginning of a new project it’s nice to have some good idea of what kind of configuration your visitors will probably use.
In this post we’d like to present the results from recent studies of browser market share, used OS and preferred screen resolution worldwide. Please notice that this data is only an approximation; we’ve used a number of different sources to get the average numbers we present below. Besides, statistics always depends on the readership and the topic of your project.
Their conclusion: An average web user browses with Internet Explorer 6.0 on Windows XP with the screen resolution 1024×768.
They go onto offer more facts and figures to help you determine what the “average” visitor to your blog uses to access your blog and more information on their location and browsing tools, but there is a lot of information left out of the equation.
Who Are Your Average Visitors and Readers?
There is a difference between a visitor and reader. Do you know the difference?
A visitor arrives, usually via a search result or from another blog featuring a link to your blog. They may arrive with a preconceived idea, most typically: Is this the place to find the information I want and need?. If not, they are gone. They don’t care how pretty your site is, how much information you have jammed into your blog, or the subjects you cover. If you don’t have what they need, they are gone. Often in seconds. Yet, they left their statistics behind when they arrived and left.
A reader returns. They return because you offer them something of substance. You give them what they want – repeatedly. You give them value. They like visiting. They like reading what you write. They like how your mind works. They enjoy telling others about what you have to offer, bringing more visitors, which will hopefully turn into readers. A visitor-turns-reader becomes a reader. So what are their characteristics?
A reader stays longer on your blog. They use the various links and navigational aids to dig deeper into your content. They know your blog is the source for their specific needs. Many won’t even access your blog directly, but through feed readers, keeping up with your content on a daily or weekly basis.
Do these studies include feed reader statistics in their analysis? That might change some of the numbers.
A reader stays longer on your blog because you continue to serve them a meal they enjoy. Visiting your site becomes a habit. Still, there are the statistics. How do you serve those who become readers, since they are your most important audience, while culling the stats from anyone and everyone who visits your blog for 2 or less seconds?
You Can’t Please Everyone
The old adage applies to your blog: you can’t please everyone.
Living for many years in the Middle East, I had a huge majority of my readership audience living and working within that area. While I still had a huge English-reading segment of my audience from the United States and the UK, the stats for the country were highest in the one I lived in and wrote about.
While my stats said much the same as the “average” information found in the Smashing Magazine report, the reality on the ground was that most of “my readers” were using 800×600 screens with low resolution on Hebrew-enabled Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME, even though this was from 1999-2005. A few I personally met, telling me they were computer whizbangs, had monochromatic monitor (shades of the dark ages of computers!), not color. Dial-up Internet was the only choice, though cable Internet did finally arrive in 2003, it was still slow and intermittent for a couple of years. Few jumped on the Windows XP bandwagon as it was very costly, and the bottom dropped out of the economy. What they had worked. Why change it. It’s too much trouble and might not bring improvement.
If I’d jumped on the “average” description based upon millions of web users around the world, I would have ignored my readers.
They couldn’t handle wide screen designs. They couldn’t deal with massive images, Flash, and other “modern” technologies that took ages to process and download. It took time, years in fact, before newer and more affordable computer technologies were embraced by the population that read my blog. They can handle it now, but not at the time others were jumping off the 800×600 ship into wide screens and high speed bandwidth web designs.
My family history blog services an average reader of 60 years old with not the keenest eye-sight. They aren’t looking for fancy graphics. They can’t stand Flash, bells, whistles, or busy web designs. They want words. They want text. They want content. They want easy-to-read text. They want the meat and potatoes of information.
I serve them a simple and clean layout, focusing on the content set in a good-sized and easily resizable font. Nothing flashing and blinking at them. Colors muted. The categories are spelled out specifically, search term specific and leading them to content they want and need. And they are happy.
Pleasing Your Readers Comes First
No matter what the statistics, pleasing your readers come first. But do you know anything about the characteristics of your readers?
Dig through your blog stats, similar to what was done on Smashing Magazine. Gather the information together and find your “averages”.
Look at how many incoming and outgoing visitor stats you have and compare that to the average amount of time they spent on your site. From that, you can get a feel for approximately what percentage of visitors are readers. You can’t tell how much of your average stats apply to readers compared to visitors, as they are all mixed together, unless you have advanced statistical analysis of your blog’s traffic, giving you data on individual visits. If you do, concentrate on those who spent more than two minutes on your blog.
Then look at your blog’s subject and content. What does your content describe about the type of visitor that comes to your blog?
- Is it only locals as you serve up a local cuisine of content? Or is it everyone and anyone from around the world?
- What is their main interest?
- Is the interest high tech or low tech?
- What keywords bring them from search engines to your blog and what does that tell you about them and their interests?
- What keywords and search terms do they use to search once they arrive on your blog? What information about them can you cull from that?
- What can you assume about people interested in that subject? Their age, lifestyle, habits, etc.?
Add this in with the “average” information from your blog stats and you may start to see patterns.
Then look at your blog and ask yourself: Am I meeting my readers’ needs?
You might be meeting your visitors’ needs and not your readers’. Which one is more important to you? And to your blog?