Who will be interested in your Web site? Answering this question plays a crucial part in determining what information to include in your site and how to organize it. If you already have a brick-and-mortar business, the answer may literally be right in front of you. Simply poll your customers to get an idea of what segment uses the Web and what they would be interested in accessing online.
Your product also will help you determine your audience. For example, if you're a 3-D animation artist marketing your skills to ad agencies and electronic game manufacturers in major metropolitan areas, you may assume that your audience consists of experienced Web users with high-speed connections. Motion, sound, and the latest technologies may be what this audience expects from your Web site. But if you're marketing tractor parts to small- and medium-scale farm operations, you can assume that Internet connections available in rural areas may be slower and your customers may not spend a great deal of time online or use the latest technology available. These customers are probably visiting your site to fulfill a specific need or to acquire a part for broken equipment and are not looking for frills on your site.
All your customers need straightforward, well-organized content and ways to help them find it quickly and easily. You'll need to consider the same issues you face in developing a marketing strategy and business plan, such as:
The type of product you sell
The demographics of your target audience
The location of your target audience
Your market niche
The type of image you want your company to project
There are a few other things you'll need to consider that are unique to the Web delivery model - which relies on your target audience to supply a portion of the technology to benefit from what you have to offer. These other considerations include:
Whether your target audience has access to the latest technology
Whether your target audience consists of "early adopters" of technology (people who purchase and use the latest that technology has to offer) or "late adopters" (those who adopt technology reluctantly)
Keep in mind that your audience may have access to and be an early adopter of one type of technology but not of another, related, technology.
You'll want to conduct a thorough study of the market to guide your planning. The Internet is an excellent source of information about user demographics and habits. Visiting competitors' sites, as well as sites that sell other products that are likely to appeal to your customers, will give you an idea of your target audience's interests and needs. Determine how you'll distinguish your site from the other sites that your customers may visit.