What does your audience see in a site that they are browsing? According to Purdue, what they want to see are an intricate design of something that will catch their eye and give them something interesting to read. The guide goes through many ways for you to practice this concept from giving you tips on how to manage your colors and layouts to selecting a font that will catch their eyes. These techniques are certain to attract viewers who are willing to take a closer look and see what you have to say. For someone who is trying to start up and maintain a website, these tips provide a firm foundation.
However, these tips only touch upon the veneer of netting a strong and consistent audience. What you are designing the site for often has the side effect of ostracizing certain audiences in order to appeal to others. The techniques that Purdue gives essentially teaches you how to design an academically appealing webpage or article with methods to attract attention towards it. For more specialized websites, these rules are often disregarded especially considering the nature of the website has to say. For the average person who browses the internet for what they want, they often already have an idea of what they are looking for and what their interests are in. As a result, they often forgo the design in the favor of something they find infinitely more substantial which is the content.
Most of these sites were designed to support a smaller but more consistent group of followers. These sites not only try to keep their fans consistent with the content of the site, but they also actively encourage others of the same group to follow it knowing that other groups will not readily become a frequenter of the site. In Shamus Young’s website, his layout shows nothing promising or visually appealing outside of a few elements. His background is a flat gray, his text is sans serif, the division between the boundaries do not exist and the colors of the borders seem to leave a lot to be desired. Despite these elements, the site still does well, so what is making it work?
The answer to this lies within the audience, the people who are visiting this site are people who prefer the utilitarian nature of a site before the visual appeal. Shamus Young’s site allows you to easily read his articles and jump between pages without much effort. The single banner that he has in the middle of the page is more than enough because it lets the viewers see what they came for. Many of these viewers came knowing that they were going to read a comic or an article so they often do not see the need for the design when the material is right in front of them. We can see this being displayed in all of its glory in TV tropes. The site is completely white, the text is sans serif and even the logo is a boring lampshade over a simple font. Despite the fact that it is a bland setup, the site has a daily traffic of over 100,000 user; a number that remains strong because of the consistent number of hits.
Essentially, the design of these sites were made to cater to a specific audience. The sites were not only made to suit them, but it also has the side effect of preventing those who are not interested in the content from becoming a consistent visitor. While I would not tell you that it is wise to make a site bland for the sake of an audience, it remains a a good idea to design the site with your audience in mind. After all, if you capture their attention, you will have garnered yourself a steady audience.