Samantha Kalita //

5 Steps to Know Your Target Users

A man and a woman sitting a desk with coffee and a computer. The man stares intently while the woman smiles and ponders.

Use the 5 W’s to Create an Excellent User Experience recommended applying the writing mnemonic: Who, What, When, Where, and Why to guide user experience design decisions. Let’s take a deeper look at these tools through a five part series. We'll start with one of the most important considerations in design, "Who is your target?"

Why it’s important

This is a diverse world. People vary in many ways: language, culture, education, beliefs, income, etc. It is impossible to create the perfect user experience for everyone. Don’t try to and don’t worry. Not everyone will be interested in your product or service, and instead focus on your high-value users and consumers. Specialize and optimize for their needs, limitations, and expectations.

Getting started

Follow these five steps to answer any of the 5 W’s:

  1. Review - Understand your product
  2. Research - Evaluate present state
  3. Strategy - Prioritize efforts
  4. Data - Validate with information
  5. Optimize - Iterate on solutions Who is your target? Let’s start at the beginning…


Understand your product

Know your product or service inside and out. Be able to articulate it in one sentence. Know its purpose, benefits and weaknesses. Focus on your core objectives.


Evaluate present state

Analyze the competition.

Who is their target? How are they performing for that target? Have they missed any opportunities? Are there any consumers being underserved? Does that underserved market match your target?

Know your space.

How is your target being addressed in other markets? What works well? What doesn’t work well?

Stay current.

Are there any emerging groups or consumers who would benefit from your product or service?


Prioritize efforts

By this point, you should have good understanding of who your target user is. Now you need to share what you’ve learned with your team and/or client. Often you will have several different types of users. Create user personas for each of them. A user persona is a profile of a fictional person who matches your target. Personas help you visualize and get into the mindset of your consumer. Give your persona a name, age, family, education, hobbies, language, ethnicity, etc. Find a headshot that fits your persona. Add any images or content that will help your team envision each persona as a real user. Make sure to include how they will use your product/service. Identify their expectations and pain points.

An example of a user persona.

Once you’ve identified your key users, prioritize them. You will design for your primary users while checking that your solutions work for your secondary and tertiary users.


Validate with information

Up to this point you’ve made educated guesses about your target. Now confirm that you’re on the right track by talking with them. Conduct focus groups, run online surveys, join discussion boards, etc. Choose whatever method works best for you. Make sure that you’re gathering first-hand information from your target. Gather quantitative (e.g. “X% of participants preferred Option A”) and qualitative data (e.g. “I like Option A because I can use it while I’m on the go.”)


Iterate on solutions

Repeat the process and re-evaluate with the data you collected. Continue to iterate over the life of your product and service. It’s very likely that you will see new competitors or have potential niche market consumers.

Although it may sound simple, the most important thing you can do is to keep your eyes and ears open to your users. Be proactive. Be aware. Listen to your users. The better you understand your users the better your product/service will be.

What process have you used to identify your target?