Global Audience Analysis – A Unified Approach

From the outside, technical writing seems to only focus on the how – how to install an application on your computer, how to clean your new appliance and replace its components, how to use an API to let an app retrieve data – but, like journalists, technical writers also have to worry about the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. However, unlike reporters, the five Ws of technical writing are Who am I writing for?, What do they already know?, Where will they see this information?, When will this information be used?, and Why is this information important?

Answering these questions has become more difficult than ever. Audiences often include people from around the world with varying education levels, differing cultural values and sensitivities, and diverse usage environments. For these reasons, technical writers and UX designers must expand their research methods to include audiences from around the world. They must then use profiling techniques to approach their writing with these audiences in mind. This post introduces a holistic approach to research that combines top-down, bottom-up, and audience profiling to ensure that you and your writing team have all of the information required to reach your audience at your fingertips.

Top-down research

A good starting point for analyzing your audience is to use existing internal sources, such as your company’s marketing and sales teams, the analytics for your company site, and community forums for existing products. These resources help you identify the type of people that you’ll be writing for and the information that they’ll be interested in.

Your first stop should be the sales and marketing teams. These teams can provide a wide range of high-level information. Your sales team can provide ample information about existing clients and users, such as statistics on current users. In addition to this, the marketing team amasses large amounts of market research about the target demographic, that is, the users, of your product or service. These teams may even produce internal case studies detailing specific examples of customers using your product.

Your sales and marketing teams should be able to provide the following general information about your audience:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Education level
  • Monthly and annual income
  • Occupation/profession
  • Marital status
  • Nationality
  • Social class
  • Population size
  • Region

This demographic information offers a tremendous amount of insight into your audience. However, it only addresses the first two Ws: Who am I writing for? and What do they already know? This information is invaluable, but addressing the other three Ws requires bottom-up analysis in the form of focus groups, surveys, and support system reviews.

Bottom-up research

Your top-down research provides you with a general idea of who will be using your documentation. However, a bottom-up analysis – that is, an analysis that includes information gathered directly from your audience – is necessary to establish where your audience will see the information, when they will seek out this information, and why they sought this information in the first place. In most cases, a bottom-up analysis takes the form of focus group interviews, user surveys, and reviews of support system information or a combination of these three tactics.

Focus group interviews can provide deep insight into how and why your audience uses your product or service. However, they are also the most expensive method of finding out about your audience. Often, a good idea is to piggyback on a focus group convened by the sales or marketing teams in your company, as your audience will also be their target demographic.

Your focus group should include people that fit the demographic profile identified in your top-level analysis. When you’re writing for a global audience, this means that you may need to conduct multiple focus group sessions in various countries. This can be a costly, but beneficial, exercise, especially when entering a new market abroad. However, if the cost is too great, then you should strive to assemble a multicultural focus group within your own country.

Focus groups can help you gain more insight into the following:

  • Where users use documentation
  • What motivates your users to use your documentation
  • Why users use (or don’t use) your documentation

User surveys are another method of finding out about your audience. Although not as costly as focus group interviews, user surveys still require a certain amount of upfront investment in their creation and a lot of work to tease out relevant results from the mountain of data that you accumulate. Furthermore, user surveys tend to add a filter to your audience – that is, only a certain portion of your demographic is likely to fill out a survey.

The value of surveys, however, is that they are relatively inexpensive to administer compared to focus groups and allow you to compile answers to targeted questions comparatively quickly. The survey method you use largely depends on how established your company is in the target region. If you already have existing customers or clients in the target region, then they may be willing to fill out a short survey. If your products have generated some interest in the region, then adding a call to action that directs visitors to your website may be the way to go. Finally, if your brand is new to the region, then you may want to consider hiring a market research company to make sure that your survey reaches your target demographic.

Users surveys can help you answer the following:

  • Where users use the product or documentation
  • When users use the product or documentation
  • Who do the users trust for information

Finally, support systems, such as Zendesk, or even sales sites that feature reviews, such as Amazon, allow you to gain some insight into how your audience uses your product and the aspects of your product that they find most troublesome. Like user surveys, support system research requires a substantial investment in labor and only the portion of your audience predisposed to making comments will do so. Nevertheless, a support system review offers the quickest way to receive direct input from users regarding the success or failure of your documentation.

Because the content focuses on the problems users encounter, support system reviews offer only a limited window through which to get to know your audience. But, as a technical writer, you strive to minimize these problems, so support systems provide excellent insight into when and where your audience requires information as well as the features that they need the most information about. Although valuable, this information is insufficient to create an audience profile, so a support system review should be supplemented by one of the other methods of bottom-up analysis.

Audience Profiles

The information gathered from your top-down and bottom-up analysis is invaluable, but you undoubtedly have mountains of it. Staring at spreadsheets full of demographic information, survey responses, and customer complaints quickly gets boring. To combat this, writers use audience profiles to put a real face on their audience.

Audience profiles, sometimes referred to as reader profiles, compile your top-down and bottom-up research into digestible descriptions of audience members. These profiles usually take the form of a narrative, but a CV-inspired style is also popular. Less popular, but still effective, is the collage-style audience profile.

Narrative profiles leverage what you already do well – write – to describe an audience members in a manner similar to that found in narrative prose. Many writers perform similar exercises when coming up for characters for fiction. Narrative profiles often contain greater detail and provide a more natural way to read than the CV or collage models. However, narrative profiles are also more difficult to scan, so you may find yourself rereading the same description over and over to confirm details as you write. For this reason, narrative profiles often include a photograph of the fictional audience members procured from a stock image site.

CV-style profiles allow you to easily locate important information at the expense of readability. These profiles consist of bullet points grouped under various headings, such as work experience, family life, and hobbies and interests. Like narrative profiles, CV-style profiles often include a picture so that the writer can identify with the face of the audience. The bullet points allow you to quickly scan the page for relevant information when writing. However, because the information is segmented in bullet points, it may be more difficult to paint a portrait of the audience member in your mind’s eye when reading the profile.

Collage-style profiles have fallen out of favor in professional writing, perhaps because they make your cubicle resemble a teenager’s bedroom, but they can still be as effective as the other profile methods. A collage profile usually consists of pictures of the fictional audience member and items related to their profession, interests, hobbies, and family. For example, a profile of an audience member may include pictures of schematic drawings, the Indiana Colts playing football, wakeboarding, and young children. These images may be supplemented by quotes from the audience member, such as “Why can’t they just print the instructions on the damned thing.” Collage profiles offer writers a refreshing break from reading and writing but require the writer to recall the motivation for including a picture or quote when writing it and require substantial explanation when handing off the project to another writer.


Whichever profile style you decide on, you’ll probably want to create at least one profile for each target country so that, as you write, you can ask yourself “Would Pornchai from Thailand find this easy to read?” or “Would Samadhi from Sri Lanka look for this information here?” In short, you can try to approach your writing through the eyes of your audience. Doing so will greatly increase the effectiveness of your writing and add a necessary direction to your voice. But remember, a good profile requires the right kind of research, so the top-down and bottom-up research steps are incredibly important. Performing all of the tasks described in this post with the end goal in mind will ensure that your text is accessible to your entire audience.



Testing Market Interest: Tips for Entering New Markets on a Budget

mobile game testing

To Test, or Not to Test?

Why are indie developers shy to enter new markets? We’ve heard the same answers from indies all over the world: it will cost a lot of money, success is a gamble, and they just might not have enough knowledge about a particular market to feel comfortable making the investment. Patrick Yip over at the OneSky blog wrote a great piece about how to use crowdfunding and localization to help you test your games. He’s got some great advice that applies to Western markets, but what about Korea and North East Asia?

We often hear of developers eager to take on the opportunities in Korea and China, or conquer the Japanese market and compete with the hall-of-fame IPs of Sega, Nintendo, and Sony. But financial and mental roadblocks always seem to prevent them from taking action. Just like Patrick says, it doesn’t have to be expensive and risky. If you’re looking to enter Korea, it just requires a bit of tweaking to your strategy. In this post, we’ll give you some tips on testing market interest in Korea on shoestring budget.

Test in App Stores, Don’t Try to Crowdfund

While Kickstarter and Indie-GoGo have certainly cemented their value in western markets, in Korea and Japan in particular, crowdfunding indies have a tendency to be viewed as amateur beggars. One look at the Kickstarter projects page for Seoul and you can see that it is a ghost town. Rather than look to crowdfunding, there are three common strategies for testing interest in your games in Korea:

1) Find a partner company and get them to run focus group testing for you. Latis Global provides focus group testing at extremely affordable rates based on the scale our clients need.

2) Run a focus group test through a technical college that focuses on gaming and have students and professors provide feedback.

3) Soft launch in a small app store and see the kind of attention you gather. Some excellent options include:

LG logoAs a carrier store, LG U+ is much less popular than Google Play or Apple, while still providing you with a large enough user base to see what kind of early traction your game can generate.

KT logoAnother carrier store, KT offers the same opportunities as LG U+ while offering a bigger user base.


samsung app store logoLaunching in the Samsung store provides the extra bonus that your game will be automatically QA’d for all Samsung devices. This is due to a corporate policy that all games in the store must run on all Samsung devices.

As Patrick noted in his post, it is highly recommended that you localize your app store pages into your target languages if you want to get an accurate gauge of interest in your games.

Find Feedback in the Local Gaming Community

Last, but not least, find feedback in online forums and gaming portals. Their users are often excited about gaming and eager to participate. This is one area where sourcing from the crowd is possible.

Probably the most active app forums in the country, HungryApp and Inven offer a massive user base to tap into for feedback. Once your game has been posted to some of the smaller app stores, you can open a forum on these sites and see what kind of feedback you get. Note that both websites are run in Korean, so it will likely require you to hire a point person to handle it, though this can be done for relatively cheap.

In Summary:

While crowdsourcing is a great tool that can be used to tap into new markets, taking a measure of the Korean market requires a different strategy. If you have to test on a budget, consider soft launching in some small app stores with a localized product page and gauge interest through community forums. The audience you’ll reach are more likely to be game hobbyists that are genuinely interested in providing feedback and evangelize your games.

Tell Us!

Have you tried testing your apps in Korea or Asia? Were your strategies successful? Why or why not? Leave a comment or tweet @CurtisFile. As always, make sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more about making your games a global success.