2013_09_02_featured_image Design

Does Your Website Design Appeal To The Right People?

So you have a website – and you know who you want your target group to be. Great. But how do you make sure you design your site for the right kind of people? How do you make sure to attract people that not only like your product – but that have the right age, lifestyle, or even money to buy it?

Obviously, your product already does a lot of the work. People who don’t like it, or who don’t think it will fit their current life situation, probably won’t be the majority of your visitors. Or will they? Do they even know they probably cannot afford your product? Do they know you are targeting a different age group? Or different gender?

We’ve already discussed several times before that emotions are very important when it comes to the design of your website. Emotions can do a lot of things to your visitors, such as:

  • Grab their attention and influence their perception,
  • Guide their attention and make sure they find what they are looking for,
  • Allow them to appreciate your website and have fun, and
  • Build a relationship with them.

Yet, one question remains: How do you make sure your design appeals to the right people?

Sinus Milieus: Bring your target group to life


Distribution of Sinus Milieus in the US by their social status and basic values

Once you know someone’s values and attitudes towards life, you will be able to come up with the emotions that you need to invoke to get through to them. Sinus Milieus offer a great way to get familiar with your target group and find out what moves potential customers. They refer to target groups of like-minded people in a society, identifying human beings in a specific environment with very specific characteristics.

The concept has been developed by the Sinus Institute Heidelberg, Germany, and is based on very thorough scientific research. The institute has been concerned with the everyday lives of people, sociocultural change, the condition of society, and the application of Sinus research in connection with trends, target groups and brands for more than 30 years. So far the concept has been adapted to 18 countries worldwide.

Besides national Sinus Milieus, Sinus Meta Milieus describe target groups across country borders. For a growing global industry, this helps to identify and understand international users.

In the US, Sinus Milieus can be grouped together into three categories; the ‘high social status’ milieus, the mainstream milieus, and the social underclass. Let’s have a brief look at all three of them.

‘High Social Status’ milieus


Sinus Milieus in the US with high social status

Sovereigns.The Sovereigns have a high social status and they have both traditional and modern values. They are successful and at the same time aware of the responsibilities that come with their success. They reach for leadership and appreciate this secluded position.

Liberal Progressives. The Liberal Progressives can have either a high or middle social status, and their values are almost exclusively modern in a sense of consumer hedonism and post materialism. They are fundamentally liberal, sophisticated, and well-educated with a broad intellectual interest. Furthermore, they strive for self-determination and believe that they can shape their own lives.

Adaptive Achievers. The Adaptive Achievers can also be found in the high and middle social status, while they have modern values in a sense of a virtual society. They are flexible top performers with a high focus on efficiency. They are interested in global affairs and experts of the new media and information technologies. Besides, they like to experiment and push boundaries of what is accepted.

Mainstream milieus


Sinus Milieus in the US with average social status

Old Guard. The Old Guards include all social statuses with traditional values. They love solid structures and order in their lives. They stick to what they know and what has proven to work, and would rather not come into contact with anything new or unfamiliar.

Modern Middle America. Modern Middle Americans either have a middle or low social status and modern values in a sense of consumer hedonism and post materialism. They are the modern mainstream with the ambition to establish themselves at a higher professional and social level. In order to live a secure and harmonious life, they don’t mind adapting to others.

Mavericks. The Mavericks form the ambitious young core of society. They can either have a middle or a low social status, and their values are modern reaching from consumer hedonism and post materialism to a virtual society. They see life with a pragmatic point of view, and they are flexible and prepared for challenges. They are willing to make compromises for success and security.

Social underclass


Sinus Milieus in the US with low social status

Materialists. The Materialists represent the lower class of society that is searching for orientation and social inclusion. They feel rejected by society and anxious about their future. They try to keep up with the consumer behavior of the middle class to compensate their social inferiority. As reaction to the social exclusion and their small chance of social advancement, they withdraw into their own, separate social environment.

Disenfranchised. The Disenfranchised are the modern lower class of society with mostly modern values in a sense of consumer hedonism and post materialism. With their fun and experience-driven performance, they challenge the conventions and expectations that are imposed upon them by society. They live in the here and now and refuse to take life too seriously.

What appeals to your users?

Based on the different Sinus Milieus, you can get a pretty good idea of who your target group really is. What do they think and feel? What are their core values? And what is their attitude towards central aspects of life? Now it’s time to be creative. With the information you have, try to define concepts that appeal to your users.

There is no universal guide to the right emotional concept, and of course, you should not lose sight of your product. To help you get started, here are a couple of concepts that I came up with for the different Sinus Milieus.

Sovereigns: exclusivity, luxury, quality, leadership, solitude, contentment, reliability

Liberal Progressives: expertise, success, equality, fairness, personal fulfilment, higher education.

Adaptive Achievers: success, performance, achievement, ambition, spontaneity, technology, the media

Old Guards: routines, familiarity, security, reliability, honesty, accuracy

Modern Middle American: possibilities, chances, ambition, social advancement, security, harmony

Mavericks: independence, innovation, challenge, change, quality, security

Materialists: a sense of belonging, security, self-confidence, conformity, popularity, trends

Disfranchised: fun, extravagance, provocation, individualism, otherness

Now what?

So you have identified your target group and you were able to fit them in one or multiple sinus milieus. You have come up with emotional appeals that match their core values.

Now implement these findings in your design and test your site with real users. This is very important. So far, all we have is a theory and some concepts you came up with based on that theory. And yes, chances are good that you are either heading into the right direction, or already hit the nail on the head. But, you have to test your design with real users to know for sure.

For example, you can invite a handful of users to participate in an in-person user test and ask them what they think of your design. A less expensive alternative is to invite your customers to remote user tests.

Your thoughts?

Do you have experiences with emotional design? Or maybe you have even worked with sinus milieus before? Let us know what you think and if you have any tips how to design for the right target group!

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