Do you know your audience?
With every creative brief that I get I ask two things, “does this project make sense for the client” and “how can the target audience inform the design”.
This is User-Centered Design. Allowing the audience and the Brand goal to inform my solutions ensures that the audience is front and center throughout the design process and the resulting designs speak to the audience and business needs.
What does this mean? In interactive media knowing who your audience is determines the architecture, the language, the scope of interactivity and the story conveyed. If your audience is baby boomers then knowing that they spend longer on a page; tend to read everything on that page before moving on; have more familiarity with books and newspapers than the internet, in addition to having cognitive (memory) and physical (sight/hearing/tactile) limitations all should influence the design and architecture of the site.
How do you incorporate User-Centered Design into your daily practice? Speak to your target audience (use your friends and family, your community center). Ask questions, for example, ask them to walk you through their thought process when making the decision to buy your magazine. Find out what in their opinion makes your magazine different from others. If you have the budget, hire a qualitative researcher to delve deep to uncover and develop design criteria and principals for you to work from.