Writing Content for Diverse Audiences

UX Matters has a thought provoking case study in its March issue about writing web content that needs to appeal to a very different set of audiences.

The target audiences were:

  • Teens
  • Older adults
  • Readers with low English proficiency

Interestingly, despite the obvious demographic differences between these audiences, it was discovered that they had a lot in common when it came to the content requirements of each.

These can be summed up as:

  • Avoid long, dense blocks of text
  • Create informative headings
  • Provide navigation options within the content

What’s especially noteworthy is that it didn’t matter that each audience had different reasons for why they had these requirements.

However, by identifying these common requirements upfront the writers could meet the content needs of each audience with a single approach.

h2. Conclusion

I find their conclusion especially provocative:

It might be easy to claim that each different audience needs its own separate user interface … but the danger in this approach is a proliferation of different, specialized versions, adding complexity both to the design process and to readers’ process of finding the right version for them.

Our experience … suggests that a more universal approach can work even better. Instead of forcing visitors to select the right version for their needs, we offered information that was useful and usable to all visitors.

I must admit that I’ve tended to think that you need to provide separate content for different audiences and have not considered how much they might actually have in common.

Taking the time to determine upfront the particular content requirements of each audience and then seeing where they overlap is an excellent idea – anything that will reduce the lengthy cycle time of content development is worth exploring.

This article will certainly cause me to rethink my previous assumptions when it comes to presenting content for a diverse group of audiences.