I had an interesting discussion with a client last week about when and how to implement a new blog design. She wanted to warn her readers that a change was coming, and take a few months to implement the changes step by step.
We talked about the process and created a timeline for the slow unveiling of the site design, a smart decision for those with a large audience, especially when making dramatic changes to the site’s navigation and content handling. Some audiences can handle it, and love design changes, but some can’t. They just don’t respond well to change.
We talked a little more about her readership, covering some basic web analytics such as where her readers come from, how they access the site (through the front page, single pages, tags and categories, or through aggregators, email or feeds), and I stumbled upon some stunning facts that shifted the entire game plan.
While her site gets a steady stream of visitors, several thousand a day, only 10% return. Of those, only three percent return to the blog at least once week. Honestly, that’s about 9 people a week.
This changes everything.
Sure there’s something wrong with the blog with that low ROI on visitors, but there’s a bigger problem here that directly impacts the design development process.
If you are making your design decisions based upon the assumption that your reading audience doesn’t respond well to change, slowing down the design development process over time, and your web analytics tells you that this change would really only impact the small number of return visitors, that’s a big assumption to make – and I fear, the wrong one.
Designing For Your Audience Means Understanding Your Audience
With more investigation, I found out that it was the client that didn’t respond well to change, not her readers. She wanted to go through this process slowly. Nothing to upset her process of relearning how to navigate her own site.
Nothing wrong in that, but when you put your assumptions on your readers, something’s wrong.
Do you really understand your audience? Who are they? What are they really doing on your site? What are their needs? Are you really fulfilling them?
Where do you get your information? Your statistics? What numbers are you looking at? Which ones are influencing your decisions?
There are a lot of things we can know about our readership, but there are a lot of things we can’t assume because the numbers don’t tell us. What assumptions are you making? And how is that impacting what you do with your blog?