In order to compose persuasive, user-centered communication, you should gather as much information as possible about the people reading your document. Your audience may consist of different people who may have different needs and expectations. In other words, you may have a complex audience in all the stages of your document's lifecycle—the development stage, the reading stage, and the action stage.
Audience analysis is more often a process of guesswork than of an in-depth inquiry into the mind and activities of the user. In fact, it is pretty easy to analyze your audience without having to do any research. Essentially, there are only two things that technical writers need ask themselves during the audience-analysis phase: what does the user know about the thing I am writing about? And what does the user want to know about the thing I am writing about?
More than 90% of Technical Communication readers are informed practitioners--writers, editors, illustrators, designers, trainers, and project managers. About 10% are teachers and students. They come from diverse backgrounds as well as from technical communication programs.
Effective web design, from the simplest brochure website to the most complex web application, needs to involve an understanding of context. While user-centered design focuses on user needs/tasks, and information architecture focuses on content, these two aspects alone offer an incomplete picture. What is missing is the context: the environment in which the website or web application is used as well as the market in which it exists.
Clear writing is essential if you want your message to get across clearly to your audience. But, what makes your writing clear will vary and is ultimately dependent on your target audience. Before you write, know who you are writing for.
Audience analysis frameworks do not address an important aspect of communication in writer/audience relationships. This element is the humanistic aspect of cognitive processing, which encompasses emotional and cultural aspects. These elements exist on behalf of the writer as well as the reader, which without taking either into account lead us to a less than full understanding of how we can progress in our studies around this issue. We continue to study and theorize about how to improve interactions between writer and audience. Although current theories seem to add considerations important in the audience analysis process and the writer/audience relationship, there remains a need to find ways to address the truly empirical aspects of human interpretation.
Designed to stimulate the thinking and practice of persons who already do Audience Analysis as a part of their work this hands-on Workshop will offer some new wrinkles for reimagining the audiences toward which we direct our technical communications. It proposes not a whole new scheme, but some new combination of ideas involving heuristics based on the work of Janice Lauer and Rebecca Burnett. We shall use scenarios and fact sheets, small group sessions wing differentiated tasks, and dialogues between groups to try to arrive at a fresh look at audience analysis.
Technology advancements have allowed for many improvements and enhancements in web design. Drastic changes have been made concerning programming, development, and available features. From flash animations, to blog pages, forums, and live chat, website designers have a multitude of design elements that can be added to their websites. Multimedia products such as audio, video, and podcasts are some of the other advancements in web design. One thing that has not changed, however, is the website readers. Successful website developers know and understand this concept, and apply it to every website that they design.
Discourse theories frequently emphasize the importance of understanding audience but seldom delve into how writers form conceptions of their audiences, especially in organizations. This study examines computer documentation writers' tactics for conceiving of their audiences. Based on two ethnographic case studies and insights from activity theory, the author describes and evaluates technical communicators' tactics for understanding audiences, constrained and supported by their organizations. She discusses the advantages and limitations of each tactic, looking at how each tactic might answer questions about audience. This research should be useful to technical communication educators as they expand students' options for audience research in nonacademic settings. In addition, the findings of this study can enhance theories about the ways writers create images of their audiences.
Effective communication requires understanding the target population and how it operates. That need to understand runs the gamut: sometimes it's simply information gathering, other times it's copy testing, or it may mean monitoring the effectiveness of a campaign. But before you start any campaign, you need to know your audience.