One of the greatest strengths of the world wide web is, of course, the world part. We all know that we should have a target audience in mind, but what do we do when our target audience lives all over the world crossing all sorts of socio-economic factors? It can be particularly difficult for us designers. This week I'm designing a site to reach farmers in the Southeastern United States as well as a site to reach CEOs of fortune 500 companies. So, what is the common factor? What should a good design contain regardless of medium, location or demographic?
What do global users want to see?
The bad new is that there isn't a great answer to this question. Users all over the globe are looking for things all over the map. Some put an emphasis on the "professional," some on the "creative." Some put an emphasis on copy, some on graphics. Some care more about layout and colors, some about font selection and negative space. The global user is truly a global user. The good news is that's not the question we should be asking any way. The question we should be asking is:
What do global users need to see?
I've mentioned this before, and I'm sure you've found it to be true as well. People don't know what they want. Even if they did, they couldn't put it into words. Even if they could, they wouldn't be honest with you. Even if they were, the information wouldn't be what you need. You don't need to know what the user wants, you need to know what the user needs.
World wide users need to be told a story.
As far as history reaches, spanning every corner of the map stories have always played a part in the human existence. From oral history, to teaching parables, to cinematic entertainment stories are fundamental to our attention and understanding of a message. The arc of a story helps our minds process information and application (and how to repeat it). A good design for any website or advertisement will tell a story. Different people need to hear different stories, but we all need a story.
World wide users need to be educated.
We live in an information age. Content is king. Education is sales. Pick any of such cliches, and you won't be too far off from the truth. People need information regardless of their location, education or financial means. Even advertising should take the opportunity to educate ... in a way. Think of a kid in a science class -- bored out of his mind. Nothing could make this kid show interest in anything until the teacher claims that a penny will fall at the same rate as a feather ... and he'll prove it. Suddenly the kid is interested and wants to know more. (Yes, I'm talking about the Growing Pains Scene with Leonardo DiCaprio.) That's true. That's information; that's education. That's advertising.
Now that the teacher (good ole' Mike Seaver) has the class reeled in, he gives them the full breakdown. He shows them how. He tells them why. He expands the concept to their personal lives. That's a thorough presentation of information for the sake of education. That's a website.
World wide users need to be caught off guard.
Users both local and global are pretty smart. They are used to advertisers, entertainer and even some educators lowering the bar, blending in and being well rounded. Advertisements and websites should be designed to stand out. They should be designed to talk up to the potential client. They should challenge them and raise the proverbial bar. By so doing, this will raise the interest level as well as the mental involvement. If we want our brands to reach that coveted top-of-mind status, we must capture and provoke the mind. And, that doesn't happen when you're just like everyone else.
Regardless of who the users are or where they live, we all need a good story that will education and inspire us.