Your Audience Isn't "Everyone"

Whether you’re launching an entirely new product or adding features to an existing one, it’s crucial to understand who your target audience is. While it’s temping to aim for the largest possible group, doing so is often counterproductive, especially for startups or teams with limited resources.

Picture a person holding a magnifying glass in front of a bunch of yellow people-looking cutouts.
Yeah, I know it's cliché AF.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a designer friend who was in the research phase of a project. She was working with a new client who is working on a brand-new product, and of course she needed to understand who the product is intended for. This is important because a design intended for tweens is completely different from one for retirees.

But in this case, my friend’s client told her that the intended audience was “everyone from age seven to 100.”

This caused her a fair amount of bemusement, and she was struggling to work out how exactly to respond to the client. Trying to build an app for a 93-year age range is certainly an interesting – if unrealistic – challenge, especially for a startup with limited resources. And that’s not even accounting for the legal and compliance issues related to building products for kids.

Even products with broad appeal tend to target specific segments. If folks outside the target use the product then so much the better. But the company isn’t necessarily catering to them.Even massive products like TikTok – which has around 1.8 billion users (that’s nearly a quarter of the planet’s population) – isn’t targeted toward literally everyone. We can see this by looking at the metrics:

  • Women comprise the majority (54%) of users
  • A quarter of TikTok users are age 10-19
  • Nearly 70% of users are under age 40, with only about 11% being over 50

That’s not to say that older folks aren’t using TikTok (granfluencers are totally a thing) or that design teams shouldn’t consider them, but the overwhelming majority of users are younger and female, so that’s where the focus should be.

Older fashionable man laughing while recording himself with his phone
Me, in 10 years.

During our discussion my friend and I ended up dwelling on the central question of how you find who your audience is.

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