One of our first Design Principles is Think Human: Focus on the person you are trying to help. Don’t rush in with a solution to a problem, test alternatives and be prepared to return to square one several times. Also, focus on the person you need help from (AKA your audience). What are their goals and dreams?
But the question remains: how do you uncover an individual’s goals and dreams? Focus groups are expensive and time-consuming. Online surveys and other feedback mechanisms are only useful if you already have a good volume of users. If you’re making a product for people just like you, you can always use yourself as a guinea pig, but knowing what people in general are thinking, feeling, and dreaming remains a serious challenge.
Here’s an interesting way to Think Human: Yahoo! Visualize. This visualization is based on the Yahoo! Content Optimization and Relevance Engine (C.O.R.E.), which is Yahoo’s algorithm for personalizing news and other information for its users.
On Yahoo! Visualize, you can select a user’s gender, age, interest, and location. Based on these criteria, Visualize will show you the top news stories read by that demographic. For example, on February 20th, women between the ages of 18 and 24 in Atlanta, read a story entitled “Father saves 5 children in Atlanta fire”more than any other. For women of the same age in Chicago, the top story is about pop star Nicki Minaj. It’s not surprising that people local Atlanta news doesn’t play in Chicago, but it is also interesting to see how such a story grabs top status when the local news carries sufficient emotional pull with a particular group.
But other statistics might surprise you. On February 20th, women in the San Francisco Bay Area over 55 were most interested in a story about New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin. But ratchet the age range down to between 18 and 24 and Bay Area women were most interested in a story about President Obama visiting San Francisco. The tool is an engaging and useful live demonstration that the things that grab attention vary widely. Try it yourself! Seeing what the most read articles are for the people you are trying to reach might provide you some actionable hints about what type of content appeals to them in general.
Yahoo! Visualize is an exciting tool for learning more about your target audience. Let us know if you find other tools out there that help you learn more!