Know your audience
It can be very tempting to organise your website around who your organisational group is and what the different services and functions are that you offer. Unfortunately this approach will probably not work well for your audience - it requires them to figure out which area does what before they can find out what services are available to them. If they knew all that, they probably wouldn't need to visit your website in the first place.
Design for audience tasks
Your website should be designed around what the audience wants to see, and it should meet the needs of people who are unfamiliar with your area before it meets the needs of people within your group or of people who have lots of experience dealing with your group.
When most people visit your website they have a specific task in mind – they want to find an answer to a question, a particular piece of information, or to complete a task. Your job is to make this as easy as possible for them. Put yourself in their shoes.
Find out what audiences need
One of the best ways to do this is to list all the different reasons why people will come to your site and all the types of people who visit. You might find this information in a number of places.
- Real users – try to get together with some real users to see what it is that they need. You can do this by online surveys will focus group meetings or going to visit the users in the environment and seeing them trying to complete tasks.
- Enquiries – any emails, help desk tasks or other records of what people usually ask your area. Also try talking to the people who manage the phones or reception or who deal directly with clients. Find out the most common reasons and tasks that bring people to your area.
- Existing use – if you already have a website look at the statistics and see what pages are the most popular, particularly the pages that people spend the longest time on. These will be the pages that people are most interested in and find most useful.
- Market research – there may be groups who have done market research reports on the different types of audiences that you have, these reports can have valuable insights.
Once you have an idea of the types of people who are visiting your site and the things that they want to achieve on the site you will be better able to come up with suggested content and structure.