Friday I said I believe your message is the most important aspect of your site to keep in mind when designing it. For me, the second most important issue is your audience. When designing a site it might be easy to say that you are designing for everyone, but you must realize that every site serves a specific audience.
When I say this I do not mean generic audiences like single white males age 20-35. What I mean are specific types of audiences. For this site I perceived my audience to be web designers and others who may have some interest in design or programming for websites. This along with my message helped me to develop the design of the site. I realized that most designers work with resolutions above 800×600 and so I made just a little bit wider than that. Content wise, I know I have to bring something different to the table to attract readers because there are plenty of other well-established design blogs out there and I also know what kind of style and tone is allowed. Finally, I knew that most designers would respect a minimalist site because they would also see the usability involved along with the design and understand that it is not easy designing something simple that is different. Once you have figured out your intended audience (besides “everybody”) then you can have a better idea of how you should structure your site.
Look at the majority of programmers’ blogs and you will see that they understand their intended audience, even if they do not know it. A programmers’ blog like Simon’s or Sam’s does not try to wow you with their designs. Their intended audience is more than likely other programmers who can actually understand all the technical and programming information that they talk about. Programmers may not care about the look and feel of the site just as long as it contains interesting content for them to go over. However, if you are a designer and you are creating a blog, more than likely you would love to garner the respect of your peers so maybe you should put a little more thought into your blog.
When Dave talks about colour I know that he must have some general idea of what he is talking about before I even read the entry. Looking at the site I can see his use of colors and therefore already make the connection that this site is made by a creative designer. I am sure being a well-respected designer Dave knew that his audience might be looking for a little more from him. Jason Santa Maria can picture the audience of ALA and create a site that is very wide even though out of nowhere you will find many designers speaking out about their 200px wide screens.
Sometimes it can be hard envisioning your audience or if you are working with a client who does not know their audience then you may have to come up with your own audience (or the client needs a different business). Nobody talks about this better than Keith Robinson in his article Persona Sketching for Better Web Sites. Old? Yes. So what.
Reaching your intended audience on the web can be very difficult since the web is international and it is hard to track what type of people come to your site. However, this should not prevent you from trying to design for a specific audience at the beginning. If over time your audience changes, then maybe you should think about a redesign. However, just try to keep your audience in mind when designing your site.