A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Audience Analysis

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For over two millennia an important aspect of rhetoric, for many writers audience analysis is the most important consideration in planning, writing, and reviewing a document. One adapts one's writing to meet the needs, interests, and background of the readers who will be reading your writing. Related to user-centered design.



The 10/90 Rule for Magnificent Web Analytics Success

For every $100 you invest in web analytics, you should spend $10 on tools and $90 on people with the brain power to think about the results from the tools.

Kaushik, Avinash. Occam's Razor (2006). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Log Analysis


Actively Learning About Readers: Audience Modelling in Business Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The advantages of peer feedback in business writing classes are clear. Students receive more appraisals of their writing than any single lecturer can ever realistically deliver. Also, the feedback comes from different perspectives and sometimes carries extra credibility coming from fellow students. Students gain from giving one another feedback as well. It is certainly learning by doing. Critiquing the work of colleagues raises awareness of the many ways to approach a given task and demands skills of analysis and attention to detail. Delivering feedback also requires tact and the ability to look for positives to commend as well as areas to improve. Reviewing written documents is a skill that students will certainly use in their future work lives. However, many of us have experienced problems with peer reviewing. Students hesitate to criticise their friends and prefer praising in a general way rather than suggesting improvements, which requires confidence.

Holst-Larkin, Jane. Business Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Education>Business Communication>Audience Analysis


Analyzing Your Traffic   (PDF)

Discover your site’s findability triumphs and tragedies with traffic analysis systems.

Walter, Aarron. Building Findable Websites (2008). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Log Analysis


Are You Using the Wrong Web Metrics?

Do you base success on measuring the volume of visitors and page impressions? Such measures may in fact reflect the failure--rather than the success--of your website.

McGovern, Gerry. New Thinking (2006). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Log Analysis


Audience Analysis  (link broken)   (PDF)

A PDF document for teachers to revise and adapt for their students. The worksheet helps writers to make audience-based decisions about content, organization, formatting, style, usage, and mechanics.

Zuidema, Leah A. Michigan State University (2003). Presentations>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis


Audience Analysis of a Usenet Newsgroup   (PDF)

For this exercise, you will be working with and expanding on the concepts of audience discussed in the textbook by completing these preliminary tasks: · Selecting a Usenet newsgroup that discusses issues in your field · Writing and posting a relevant question to the newsgroup · Collecting responses to your question After completing these tasks, you will write a report in which you evaluate your success in adjusting your communication to your chosen audience. In the process of completing this assignment, you will gain a more sophisticated understanding of audience and get better acquainted with the kinds of interactions with professionals and students that are possible on the Internet.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Audience Analysis>Online


Audience Analysis Overview

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.

Purdue University (2012). Articles>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis


Audience Analysis the Easy Way   (Word)

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?

Docsymmetry (2003). Articles>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis


Audience Analysis: Can You Get There From Here?  (link broken)   (PDF)

As writers we face many pitfalls. One of the most challenging is trying to meet multiple audience needs -- once we identify the audience. Rarely do we have the luxury of knowing the members of our audience personally and, even if we did, bringing them to consensus would consume all our time. As writers we often decide what the readers in our audience need before the readers have ever seen our material. The analogy of map readers can help us focus on our clients' needs.

Blagg, Lynn and Carolyn K. Johnson. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis


Audience Analysis: Power Tools for Technical Writing

Documents fail for many reasons. One common mistake is to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your audience. This works only when generic material, usually of a non-technical nature.

Walsh, Ivan. I Heart Tech Docs (2009). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Audience Analysis


Audience and Document Analysis

Before you begin editing a document, try to find out as much as you can about the audience for the document and purpose of the document.

Hollis Weber, Jean. Technical Editors Eyrie (2001). Articles>Writing>Audience Analysis>Rhetoric


Audience Matters   (PDF)   (members only)

By incorporating usability techniques--more commonly used in product design--writers can better understand their audiences and the ways they use (or have problems using) the content. Read on for tips on how to incorporate usability techniques into your work.

Stott, Susan. Intercom (2008). Articles>Writing>Usability>Audience Analysis


Bounce Rate Demystified

What is the industry standard for bounce rate? The simple and short answer is that there is no industry standard. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it is true. There is no industry standard. There are some ranges that I will share shortly but we can’t call them industry standards. There are a lot of factors that influence the bounce rate, so you really can’t compare bounce rates of one site (or page) to another.

Batra, Anil. Blogspot (2007). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Log Analysis


Catching the Technology Wave: A Historical Analysis of the Technological Context of Technical Communication

We seem to be constantly chasing the latest and greatest technology, eternally one step behind. Our continual struggle to establish the field of technical communication yet assert dominance over new technological domains seem to be in direct conflict with each other. How can we possibly establish our dominance over a moving target? Instead of trying to peer into future, perhaps we need to look toward the past.

Davis, Toni. Orange Journal, The (2004). Articles>Technology>Audience Analysis


Changing the Rules of the Game for the Benefit of the User

In this presentation, Joe Sokohl talks about gathering user research prior to designing and implementing your help deliverables.

Sokohl, Joe. I'd Rather Be Writing (2008). Articles>Documentation>Audience Analysis>User Centered Design


Changing the Way the Profession Communicates: A Workshop for Prospective Journal Peer Reviewers   (PDF)

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.

Hayhoe, George F. STC Orange County (1998). Articles>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis>Surveys


Characterizing Audience for Informational Web Site Design   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Presents a sample of audience analysis results and discusses how they were used to make design decisions. Reflects on the strategy, the insights gained from the data, and the impact of the results on the subject Web site.

Turns, Jennifer and Tracey S. Wagner. Technical Communication Online (2004). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis


Cómo Leen Los Usuarios en la Web

Los usuarios en la Web no leen, o por lo menos no lo hacen de la misma forma secuencial que cuando tienen entre manos un periódico, un libro, un artículo o un cómic. Los usuarios tienen necesidades y objetivos, metas que alcanzar, y saben que la forma de conseguir dichas metas no suele ser dedicando largos ratos a cada nodo web que visitan, leyendo de principio a fin sus contenidos y enlaces. El usuario, en una página, hará clic sobre el primer enlace que crea puede llevarle a lo que busca, necesita o pudiera interesar. Eso quiere decir que muchos de los contenidos y enlaces de ese nodo ni siquiera serán vistos por el usuario.

Hassan Montero, Yusef. Nosolousabilidad.com (2002). (Spanish) Articles>Usability>Audience Analysis


Competitive Analysis: Understanding the Market Context

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.

Withrow, Jason. Boxes and Arrows (2006). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Rhetoric


Configure Web Logs in Apache

Traffic statistics have a huge impact on a Website's success, and Apache provides one of the most powerful and flexible logging features available today. Blane explains the nitty-gritty of configuring Apache Weblogs in this handy how-to.

Warrene, Blane. SitePoint (2004). Design>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Log Analysis


The Culture of Distance Education: Implementing an Online Graduate Level Course in Audience Analysis   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This essay details the experience of designing, implementing, and evaluating an online course in audience analysis at the graduate level. Through a discussion of the culture of this online course, I describe how the educational culture of the Land Grant Mission flowed into our efforts to create a quality learning experience, and how the Web modules and asynchronous (listserv) and synchronous (MOO) conversations influenced communication and learning.

Hill Duin, Ann. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Articles>Education>Audience Analysis>Online


"Curb Cuts" on the Information Highway: Older Adults and the Internet   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

With demographic and social trends in mind, technical communicators should be examining the online communication needs of elderly people who may share certain characteristics with other Internet users, particularly the disabled community. Although education, universal design, and accessibility initiatives help us address many of the developmental and cultural barriers elderly Internet users face, this article examines some current offerings, analyzing the growing elderly audience to better incorporate usability into Web design.

O'Hara, Karen. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Design>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Elderly


Customer Focus: First Rule of Scientific Content Management

The science of content management begins with a deep understanding of your customer. The Web is more likely to push your customer away than to bring them closer.

McGovern, Gerry. New Thinking (2006). Articles>Content Management>Audience Analysis


Data Quality Sucks, Let's Just Get Over It

Data quality on the internet absolutely sucks. And there is nothing you can do about it. At least for now.

Kaushik, Avinash. Occam's Razor (2006). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Log Analysis


Dealing with Risky and Safe Assumptions

One of the most important aspects of product development is the process of predicting the behavior of a product’s intended users. I’ve participated in ideation sessions with companies where designers, user researchers, and engineers were making major assumptions about what users would and wouldn’t be willing to do with their product, without performing any research. Of course, assumptions are important and useful. However, if not managed properly, they can definitely lead a project down the wrong path.

Madrigal, Demetrius and Bryan McClain. UXmatters (2010). Articles>Usability>Audience Analysis



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