Audience-centric web site design

Our web site team is attempting to keep our audiences’ needs and perspectives at the forefront throughout our web site redesign process. It’s not easy! We naturally think about the school in terms of our relationship to it, and we have the inside perspective. This often results in ideas for organizing the web experience that mirror too closely the organization’s internal structure.

Although our audience list includes internal constituents, we must remember to pay special attention to the external ones. We started the process by building lists of audiences that we need to reach via the web site. Prospective and current families, students, alumni, and employees topped the list. Next, we used a protocol developed at OneNorthwest to identify the values and needs of this audience as well as what the school wants them to learn/do from their web site experience.

Next, we developed specific “user stories.” We each made up two mythical users and described what they wanted from the site, how they used it, what else we wanted them to learn, and whether they had a successful experience. This exercise was terrific, as it harnessed the creativity of all of the members of our group (techies and non-techies alike) to come up with possible perspectives on using the web site that we had not previously recorded.

Staying focused on audience was pretty easy until we actually got specific with content. Two weeks ago, we started to translate our audience work into actual web site information architecture. How should we organize the content and services on the site to meet the audience needs we identified? Our work immediately returned to a more traditional form, as we started pumping out content outlines that mirrored our organizational structure or replicated existing aspects of the site.

Do you design web sites? How do you retain your focus on the target audiences when you begin to organize content and design user interactions?

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