14.1: Audience Analysis in Document Design
All documents have a purpose—to persuade, to inform, to instruct, to entertain—but the first and foremost purpose of any document is to be read. Choosing effective document design enhances the readability or usability of your document so that the target audience is more likely to get the message you want them to receive, and your document is more likely to achieve your intended purpose.
Choose document design elements that make your document “user friendly” for the target audience. Keep in mind that people do not read technical writing for pleasure; they read it because they have to—it’s part of their job. And since “time is money,” the longer it takes to read the document, the higher the “cost.” Your job as the document designer is to make their reading process as easy, clear, useful and efficient as possible by using all the tools at your disposal.
Designing a document is like designing anything else: you must define your purpose (the goals and objectives you hope your document achieves, as well as the constraints—such as word count and format—that you must abide by), understand your audience (who will read this document and why), and choose design features that will best achieve your purpose and best suit the target audience. In essence, you must understand the rhetorical situation in which you find yourself: Who is communicating with whom about what and why? What kind of document design and formatting can help you most effectively convey the desired message to that audience? You want to use the most effective rhetorical strategies at your disposal; document design is one of those strategies.
We can think of document design in a couple of ways. In Chapter 2: Introduction to Form and Style, we discussed the best ways to organize our ideas through paragraphs, headings, lists and other organizational aids. Now, let’s think about creating charts and graphs, and making overall strong design choices.