Audience Research

My target audience (or perhaps what could also be described, in the context of this essay, as user-base or customer-base) has now been clearly established. Originally, I had anticipated that my audience would be freelance designers. However, after an in-depth conversation I had with Michael Woodage, a freelance set designer, he pointed out to me that freelancers rarely want to find other freelancers in the same field as them. Every freelancer in the same field is competing with each other, which is a very valid point that I hadn’t considered. Consequently, I have broadened my target user-base to ‘Media Freelancers’ instead of the more specific ‘Design Freelancers’. My website will be called ‘Media Link’ as I feel that this name neatly encompasses what the site is offering.

My research has incorporated both qualitative and quantitative methodology. I have spoken to many freelancers, both face-to-face and online. Both forms of interaction, physical and online, have been valuable. Such research has enabled me to clearly define who the target audience is for my website, being media freelancers. It has enabled me to fully understand their priorities, interests, likes/dislikes and tendencies.

In this essay I will cover the findings of my research and how these provide the justifications for the decisions I have made regarding the development of my prototype. My research has involved an in-depth interview with freelance set-designer, Michael Woodage, a questionnaire distributed online to various media freelancers and wide-ranging academic reading around the subject.

When carrying out my initial research into existing freelancing websites it appears that, in my opinion, there is a lack of sites dedicated to empowering media freelancers to network more effectively. It can be argued that a user on LinkedIn can set up a personal network of media freelancers, however the participants that completed my questionnaire have highlighted to me that it has “limited interactivity with other users” (Freelancer One: 2014). For example, there are restrictions to connecting with other, as yet unknown, individuals, which is a huge inconvenience for freelancers that may not already have an extensive number of contacts. From carrying out an analysis of my research I am aware that having the option to connect is an important factor, which is why I will allow any user to view any other users profile on my website and also I intend to create a live chat function. This will provide instant, personal connections to users.

I noted that the number of global connections that the participants of my questionnaire had were generally low, ranging from answers of 2-3, 0-5, or 5 or 6, with only two participants stating ‘many’ or ‘a lot’. These answers have influenced my website considerably, in terms of its visuals. I have created a design with the central focus being a silhouette of a world map. The interactive design encourages users to click anywhere on the map which consequently randomly displays a users mini profile with their featured design. For the duration of the time the user is on the site they are reminded of the global connections available to them.

A further finding has been surrounding the information a user wishes to be informed of, about another user. The answers from each questionnaire varied slightly with some responding that they would like to know either the users details, skills or experience. The most common response however, was to be able to view the previous work of a user, or alternatively an online portfolio. Each response is as follows: “1) Their previous work and contact details. 2) Portfolio. 3) I would like to know what are his skills and if he’s better then how can I improve myself. 4) I just like to see their work. 5) What project they have done. 6) Their experience, who they have worked with/for in the past. Examples of their work were applicable. 7) Email most probably, where they live” (Freelancers 1-7: 2014). This feedback has proved to be crucial when determining the content of a user profile section. Each user profile will include: Personal Details: name, profile picture, email address, country, social networking links, skills and a bio. Work Experience: name of company, role in the company, amount of time in role, and examples of their work.

 

Another conclusion I can draw from my questionnaire is that many freelancers, unsurprisingly, advertise their work digitally. Clearly in today’s world, when the term media is used, it now incorporates a huge element of digital content, which is why it makes perfect sense for media freelancers to embrace the medium of the web to promote their work. With this in my mind I intend to create ‘Media Link’ with browser compatibility and ensure that it is responsive. Out of all the participants who completed the questionnaire, only one gave the response that they were “not using any way to share or advertise my [their] work” (Freelancer Three: 2014). I would conclude that there are two possible reasons for such a response. The first being that the individual is so well established and of high demand that, at present, he feels that there is no need to advertise his work or the second being that the individual is not commercially astute enough to appreciate the benefits of advertising his work on the web. Notwithstanding the fact that one individual respondent does not use the web to advertise his work, the overwhelming majority of respondents do advertise online which supports my assessment that there should be demand for ‘Media Link’ as many freelancers do wish to showcase their portfolios online.

When asking participants how they would usually go about finding/contacting other freelancers, I received some interesting results. One participant gave the response: “Meetups, conferences, classes. I also email other firms regularly. Sometimes it generates work, sometimes just connections” (Freelancer Four: 2014). Here, a mix of methods are being implemented, both online and offline networking. I am aware that both methods are just as important to forming new relationships which is why I intend to also advertise offline activites such as ‘Events and Conferences in your area of expertise’ and ‘Co-working spaces near you’ through Media Link. Other participants responded with online means of contact, such as “facebook/call/text” (Freelancer One: 2014) and “Internet search” (Freelancer Two: 2014). Individuals have shifted to this more personal approach to contacting others and there seems to be a growing expectation for instant responses, which is very much a function of the so-called ‘Always-On Culture’. Consequently, this finding has influenced my decision to include the ‘Live Chat’ function between users into ‘Media Link’.

When analysing the overall response regarding the competitor websites many participants admitted to not using any at all, which I found surprising. Those that do use some of the websites, such as Linked In, stated that the “UI is a bit cluttered” (Freelancer Three: 2014) and that another disadvantage of the site was that it had unnecessary “auto updates on various contacts so called ‘anniversaries’” (Freelancer Six: 2014). This implies that there is a certain desire for ‘easy browsing’, which is why the ‘one-click discover’ functionality, that I propose to incorporate into ‘Media Link’ should be well received by my target users.

Some participants voiced their concerns regarding privacy issues with ‘Media Link’. The website is partially driven by location based features such as ‘Co-working spaces near you’ and how conferences and events nearby to a users location will be displayed. I had certain reservations about sharing users locations on the website, and as expected, the participants share this concern too. As a result, I will enable an option to either hide or disable the location of a user. The website is not reliant on geographical location and so creating this option will not impact on the sites performance.

User testing, by media freelancers, will be carried out throughout the development process in order to influence the production of the website to give the best possible finished product. I intend to carry out focus group tasks and observe the users interaction with the website. I will note any confusion, navigation issues or incorrect selections, etc to ensure that these issues can be dealt with immediately. I will take every constructive criticism on board if it helps to improve ‘Media Link’.

Whilst the creation of the website, ‘Media Link’, has come about as a result of interviews, surveys and initial user group testing, the great advantage that comes from launching and running a website in this new digital age is the ongoing ability to monitor and track every aspect of the usage of the website. In the pre-digital age if a company wanted to obtain feedback and gauge audience or customer reaction to its product offering (which in this instance is Media Link) then it would need to take the form of such things as telephone surveys and paper based questionnaires. Such labour intensive, costly and time consuming methods of information gathering often meant that organisations only managed to gather accurate data/feedback from a small percentage of their audience/customer base. In comparison, modern technology, such as cookies, used in website construction will mean that I will be able to monitor every aspect of Media Link. As a result, I can constantly view statistics such as, site visits, sign-ups, connections and monitor the popularity of the sites various features which will enable me to constantly fine-tune the website to offer a better product and therefore increase customer satisfaction and hopefully increase the traffic and number of users.

 

 

 

Appendix 1

 

Interview with Michael Woodage

 

Me: Hi Michael, I really appreciate you taking the time to have this chat with me!

Michael: That’s ok Lottie, so what it is you are actually producing for this project?

Me: Well, it’s a website targeted at freelance designers, that enables them to make global connections and showcase their work.

Michael: Yeah it sounds good- why is it aimed at just freelance designers though?

Me: So that they can gain inspiration of different design work around the world. Linked In makes it very difficult to view other individuals profiles that you don’t know so what Media Link allows its users to do is view freelance designers work globally. It’s also driven through randomization so you click the globe on the map, then you are faced with a design from randomization. The reasoning behind this is that I have found that designers are very often drawn to the same style of design without intentionally meaning to.

Michael: Yes, I do like the idea of randomization but the thing is with freelancers- we are all in competition with each other so rarely do we want to publish and share our work- especially with those in the same field! Another typical issue that arises is when I go to these conferences or networking events and people ask me who my contacts or clients have been in the past, no one wants to tell anyone in case of losing their client base!

Me: Yeah, I see exactly what you mean. I thought creating a website for freelance designers would help creativity in designs flourish and for design freelancers to network with each other occasionally. From my previous questionnaires I had distributed to other freelancers, when asking how many global contacts they had, the number was either 5 or lower! So I took this as an indication that there is a need for this to increase to perhaps encourage more global work opportunities.

Michael: For that to happen though you need to broaden the target audience of your website to perhaps ‘media freelancers’- that way you cover, set designers like me, graphic designers, website programmers- do you see what I mean? We could then use each other but not be in competition with each other. I think your website would be considerably more successful if you broaden the target audience and perhaps set some filters that a user can select within the media world, such as: set designer, graphic designer, web designer, animator. So that when I am working on a project of a staging design, I could approach a web designer that I really like the look of their work, and ask them whether they could create a website for this kind of theme I have made for ‘x’ project. I would then return back to my client and say look I have found a really good web designer, whose style in web design is similar to the look you’re aiming for. Not only could you have the set design I have produced for you, you could have an accompanied website too?

Me: Yeah you’re right- that is a better idea! I will definitely broaden the targeted users! Otherwise, like you said, I run the risk of a very low number of users signing up to a dedicated ‘freelance designers’ website!

Michael: Yeah, I mean it’s just a suggestion- I understand that there are times when designers want inspiration, however to take it further and make connection with them I just don’t think would happen, like I said because they are in competition.

Me: Yeah, exactly, brilliant thank you for that suggestion! Another feature I have thought would be a fantastic tool for my users is to integrate a ‘Co-working spaces near you’ feature. From carrying out some readings surrounding freelancing and some common problems freelancers face I found that many struggle working in isolation. The website will highlight ‘Co-working spaces near you’ with flashing icons displaying on the map.

Michael: Tell me more about these Co-working spaces? What are they?

Me: Basically, they are rooms/buildings, where an individual can rent out a desk space, so that they can work surrounded by others. Usually they wont know the other people they that are sitting with but the main aim is just so that they can be surrounded by others, and potentially network, share ideas, etc- instead of working at home alone.

Michael: Yes that what I thought it might be. So you are going to promote these spaces near to where the individual has input where they are located?

Me: Yes exactly.

Michael: I think that’s a great feature. The hardest thing I find with freelancing, along with the unreliability of work at a steady flow, is working alone. It is extremely difficult to stay concentrated and it does become extremely lonely. Sometimes you just want someone to look over your shoulder and tell you what he or she thinks of some work.

Me: Yeah, so by me integrating the two: offline networking and online networking- I think it would really help those freelancers under the media umbrella, to mix and network effectively, and broad their connections.

Michael: The majority of my day is spent with my radio on, like many other freelancers; it is just nice to have someone talking to you, or some background noise! So yeah I think you have hit two nails on the head there!

Me: Thank you! Along the same kind of functionality, I aim to promote free/open relevant networking events near a user. These will also notify the user, where they are, and what they are about, relatively near to the user. It’s crucial to stay up-to-date with new technologies, ideas, and popular trends, especially for freelancers as they can easily become sucked into a bubble of isolation.

Michael: Yeah both features would be very useful I think- if you can get that to work!

Me: That’s my next challenge!

Michael: I will happily be your guinea pig for any testing purposes though- especially if it would be beneficial to me in time when you have a decent user-base!

Me: Thank you very much, that would help me a lot. Because its so important that the website meets the users needs- a you are a prime user!

Michael: Yeah no problem, I can do that for you.

Me: Thank you and thank you for taking the time out for me to discuss my project with you! It has been really valuable!

Appendix 2

 

FREELANCER ONE

  

1) Describe your average working day from AM to PM

I do not have an average working day as the jobs that I do vary and also I am doing a bachelor’s in industrial design and I am on the board of a student association. And then I just fit in my freelance design/programming work around that.

2) Do you spend most of your day alone or mixing with others?

Normally I am mixing with others, but when doing freelance work I am usually alone.

3) How would you go about finding other designers/programmers/freelancers?

I know a lot through mutual friends so would facebook/call/text somebody

4) Where do you find inspiration for work?

I find inspiration all over the place. I attend a lot of design exhibitions and events, but mainly from just making something and then creating several iterations and working closely with the client and user during the creation process.

5) How many designers/programmers/freelancers do you know that are not within the country you live?

I do not know exactly, but I know a lot due to my involvement in an international organization that leads to me travelling on a regular basis and meeting new people.

6) Are you users of any of the following: Behance, Linked In, Dribble, Sortfolio or Stumble Upon?

Behance                 Yes/No

Linked In               Yes/No

Dribble                   Yes/No

Sortfolio                 Yes/No

Stumble Upon       Yes/No

7) List your likes and dislikes/limitations of those websites you use:

Linked In

Likes:

– More professional than other social networks I have used

– Gives the ability to see somebody’s professional background easily

– There is the possibility of other people to endorse your skills

Dislikes/Limitations:

– Limited interactivity with other users

 

8) How did you meet other freelancers that you now know?

Through mutual friends, or at events and exhibitions.

9) Is there any way you share or advertise your work? i.e through an online portfolio or through social media etc.

When I want to share my work with someone I will send a portfolio in pdf format. Currently I am making a website portfolio of my work.

10) What information would you like to know about a freelancer you had recently come across on the Internet?

Their previous work and contact details.

FREELANCER TWO

 

1) Describe your average working day from AM to PM

I get up in the morning, have breakfast, slightly prioritize my task list for the day, have a banana, go out to a social cafe and get on with my work for the day, have a few decaf coffees and perhaps a hot chocolate, go home later in the afternoon, catch up with matters at home, have dinner, read/watch/listen to some personal/spiritual development media, meditate and then go to sleep.

2) Do you spend most of your day alone or mixing with others?

 

Mostly alone but do mix with clients and society.

3) How would you go about finding other designers/programmers/freelancers?

Internet search, known or word of mouth.

4) Where do you find inspiration for work?

Mostly when I meditate or am in the moment when doing something.

5) How many designers/programmers/freelancers do you know that are not within the country you live?

A few.

6) Are you users of any of the following: Behance, Linked In, Dribble, Sortfolio or Stumble Upon?

Behance                 Yes/No

Linked In               Yes/No

Dribble                   Yes/No

Sortfolio                 Yes/No

Stumble Upon       Yes/No

7) List your likes and dislikes/limitations of those websites you use:

NA

8) How did you meet other freelancers that you now know?

Internet or through work in the real world.

9) Is there any way you share or advertise your work? i.e through an online portfolio or through social media etc.

Website.

10) What information would you like to know about a freelancer you had recently come across on the Internet?

Portfolio.

FREELANCER THREE

 

1) Describe your average working day from AM to PM

I normally work from 9PM to 3AM.

2) Do you spend most of your day alone or mixing with others?

So days I have to spend alone due to work while others i spend with friends. Mostly weekends are free for that.

3) How would you go about finding other designers/programmers/freelancers?

I meet them through freelance network. Some of them I know from office as well.

4) Where do you find inspiration for work?

My inspiration comes good paydays 🙂

5) How many designers/programmers/freelancers do you know that are not within the country you live?

I know about 5-6 freelancers that are outside the country.

6) Are you users of any of the following: Behance, Linked In, Dribble, Sortfolio or Stumble Upon?

Behance                 Yes/No

Linked In                 Yes/No

Dribble                     Yes/No

Sortfolio                   Yes/No

Stumble Upon       Yes/No

7) List your likes and dislikes/limitations of those websites you use:

Linked In

Likes:

– Connects to many people regardless of company or country

– Don’t have to send requests manually

– Provides great job opportunities

Dislikes/Limitations:

– UI is a bit cluttered

– Should not have FB like stuff like timeline etc. Makes it look unprofessional

8) How did you meet other freelancers that you now know?

I know the freelancers from the freelance network or office or school.

9) Is there any way you share or advertise your work? i.e through an online portfolio or through social media etc.

I’m not using any way to share or advertise my work.

10) What information would you like to know about a freelancer you had recently come across on the Internet?

I would like to know what are his skills and if he’s better then how can I improve myself.

FREELANCER FOUR

 

1) Describe your average working day from AM to PM

Fire up Pandora. Check my emails. Check my calendar for the day. I then check Google analytics for my sites. – Coffee

Log into Toggl (time tracking), DropTask (task management), and Mission Control (Password Keeper).

Check tasks, identify work to complete, complete tasks, update task lists, repeat. I typically try to work in 2 hours bursts. Any longer and I get headaches. Any shorter and I don’t settle in to make significant progress.

I also have intermittent meetings.

2) Do you spend most of your day alone or mixing with others?

Mostly alone. I prefer to focus on my work and often work from home. If I am in the office, I mix with others more but still tend to work alone.

3) How would you go about finding other designers/programmers/freelancers?

Meetups, conferences, classes. I also email other firms regularly. Sometimes it generates work, sometimes just connections.

4) Where do you find inspiration for work?

Everywhere. I have been a prolific artist since I was a kid, and I see web development as just another medium to work with. Inspiration comes very naturally to me.

I tend to work with small to medium small businesses. Their needs and wants tend to drive my professional work. Work I do just for me tends to be driven from a desire to learn, get better, and stay current. I pick a topic of some sort, and craft something around that topic.

I also run web development experiments with the aim to solve common problems.

5) How many designers/programmers/freelancers do you know that are not within the country you live?

0-5. I do not like to work with over sees developers. The language barrier and time difference is just so hard to overcome. I vaguely know a few, but only because I was forced to meet them via a client.

6) Are you users of any of the following: Behance, Linked In, Dribble, Sortfolio or Stumble Upon?

Behance                 Yes/No

Linked In               Yes/No

Dribble                    Yes/No

Sortfolio                 Yes/No

Stumble Upon       Yes/No

7) List your likes and dislikes/limitations of those websites you use:

N/A

8) How did you meet other freelancers that you now know?

Common projects or also see #3

9) Is there any way you share or advertise your work? i.e through an online portfolio or through social media etc.

I have multiple online portfolios. I pass out handouts, fliers, and business cards. I cold call, cold email, pull doors.

10) What information would you like to know about a freelancer you had recently come across on the Internet?

I just like to see their work.

FREELANCER FIVE

 

1) Describe your average working day from AM to PM

9AM – 12AM

1PM – 9PM

2) Do you spend most of your day alone or mixing with others?

Mixing with others

3) How would you go about finding other designers/programmers/freelancers?

My friends already are designers (4). Only me is developer.

4) Where do you find inspiration for work?

Do what I love and love what I do.

5) How many designers/programmers/freelancers do you know that are not within the country you live?

Many, I am living in Viet Nam.

6) Are you users of any of the following: Behance, Linked In, Dribble, Sortfolio or Stumble Upon?

Behance                Yes/No

Linked In               Yes/No

Dribble                   Yes/No

Sortfolio               Yes/No

Stumble Upon       Yes/No

7) List your likes and dislikes/limitations of those websites you use:

I use Hacker News that has many useful resources.

8) How did you meet other freelancers that you now know?

Workshop

Coffee shop

Online forum

9) Is there any way you share or advertise your work? i.e through an online portfolio or through social media etc.

Working on open source project

Share what I know

10) What information would you like to know about a freelancer you had recently come across on the Internet?

What project they have done.

 

 

FREELANCER SIX

 

1) Describe your average working day from AM to PM

Generally start work from 8:30- 9:00am.

Break for lunch @ 1:00-1:30pm

Generally finish by 6:00 -7:00pm depending on current deadlines.

2) Do you spend most of your day alone or mixing with others?

Work from home office, so mostly alone.

Occasionally I ‘hot desk’ at client’s office if requested but prefer to work in my own office.

3) How would you go about finding other designers?

N/A

4) Where do you find inspiration for work?

Depends on the commission, but generally inspiration & reference come from

art, architecture, popular culture, music, film & theatre etc.

5) How many designers do you know that are not within the country you live?

 

Designers in my line of work? Possibly 2 or 3.

6) Are you users of any of the following: Behance, Linked In, Dribble, Sortfolio or Stumble Upon?

Behance                 Yes/No

Linked In               Yes/No

Dribble                   Yes/No

Sortfolio                 Yes/No

Stumble Upon       Yes/No

7) List your likes and dislikes/limitations of those websites you use:

Linked In

Likes:

-Easy to access.

-Easy to upload info and stay in touch, find work colleagues & possible future contacts.

Dislikes/Limitations:

-Unnecessary to have auto updates on various contacts so called ‘anniversaries’ etc.

8) How did you meet other freelancers that you now know?

Generally I’m introduced to other freelances who have been contracted to work on the same project as myself. That in turn can lead to other introductions.

9) Is there any way you share or advertise your work? i.e through an online portfolio or through social media etc.

Links from my Web site to my Facebook, Twitter & Linked-In pages.

10) What information would you like to know about a freelancer you had recently come across on the Internet?

 

Their experience, who they have worked with/for in the past. Examples of their work were applicable.

FREELANCER SEVEN

 

1) Describe your average working day from AM to PM

My preferred working times would be 11am – 7pm

2) Do you spend most of your day alone or mixing with others?

For the last couple of year I have worked in Hot desk offices where many different people pass through over the course of the day, but when I’m not in an office I work on my own.

3) How would you go about finding other designers/programmers/freelancers?

Mostly through networking and word of mouth.

4) Where do you find inspiration for work?

All around me, advertisements, the Internet, things I see that I take pictures off, artwork from other designers and design that predates computers all have inspiration.

5) How many designers/programmers/freelancers do you know that are not within the country you live?

0

6) Are you users of any of the following: Behance, Linked In, Dribble, Sortfolio or Stumble Upon?

Behance Yes/No

Linked In Yes/No

Dribble Yes/No

Sortfolio Yes/No

Stumble Upon Yes/No

7) List your likes and dislikes/limitations of those websites you use:

Behance is a good site to have a quick look at what others have done but currently don’t have a profile.

LinkedIn I guess is the industry standard; to be honest I don’t even use it that much but is a good place to have a CV online.

StumbpleUpon I don’t actually use for design work but more for boredom’s sake, I prefer pintrest for browsing.

8) How did you meet other freelancers that you now know?

Through friends, whilst working I guess within the university setting especially It’s easy to find other people with similar aspirations and goals.

9) Is there any way you share or advertise your work? i.e through an online portfolio or through social media etc.

Ello I’m trying to use at the minute. Although we will have to see

https://ello.co/misdigest

10) What information would you like to know about a freelancer you had recently come across on the Internet?

Email most probably, where they live

 

Bibliography

 

Spinuzzi, C. 2012. Working Alone Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity. Journal of Business and Technical Communication. Volume 26 (4) 399-441.

Leventhal, P. 2009. Freelance or employee: Which is better? The Journal of the European Medical Writers Association. Volume 18 (2) 137-138.

Leforestier, A. 2009. The Co-Working space concept. [No place]. [No publisher].

Mettler, A. et al. 2011. The Rise of the Micro-Multinational: How Freelancers and Technology-Savvy Start-Ups Are Driving Growth, Jobs and Innovation. Belgium. The Libson Council.

Kitching, J et al. (2008) Defining and Estimating the Size of the UK Freelance Workforce: A Report for the Professional Contractors Group. Kingston, Kingston University, Small Business Research Centre.

Rubin, N. (2014) Seven Solutions to Common Problems Freelance Professionals Face. [Online]. [Accessed 8/11/14]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140508182927-30264189-seven-solutions-to-common-problems-freelance-professionals-face

 

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