Tips to Identify Audience Need

Posted: August 3, 2014

Once you have identified your website's target audience, you need to identify audience need. This is best described by answering the following questions...

  • What information do users want to get from this site?
  • What tasks do the users want to do on this site?
  • What is your message to users?

The answers to these questions will help you to create a blueprint for what your website should be and what it should do.

What information do users want to get from this site?

If you are having trouble figuring out what your audience needs, wants or expects, I recommend a "frequently asked questions" approach to identifying your audience needs.

For each audience segment that you have identified, write down the 20 most frequently asked questions for that segment. If you don't know what those questions are, ask your audience. Whether you do it formally with questionnaires or focus groups; with the help of published surveys, faculty members, guidance counselors, etc.; or by informally grabbing people in the hall, get to know your audience. Twenty is not a magic number. Just try to be complete.

By identifying these questions, much of your content needs are now determined! Go a step further and document the answers to these questions. Of course, you probably don't want to just publish all of your content in a question and answer format. But, if you have documented answers to the most frequently asked questions for your audience segments, it's one step further towards content that’s ready to be published.

What tasks do the users want to do on this site?

Most websites are primarily informational. The "task" that the user wants to perform is to learn. Many websites, however, do have task-oriented components where a user can...

  • Make a request for a service
  • Download a form or a document
  • Register for a workshop
  • Share something on social media
  • Request more information

Most tasks that your website will have to accommodate will be identified by answering the previous question, "What information do users want to get from this site?" If you use the "frequently asked questions" approach, look for user questions that start with "How do I...?" These will often be the clue that you need to identify a user task.

By identifying tasks, you can organize your site in such a way to make it easier for users to find what they are looking for and allow them to complete what want to accomplish more quickly. For this, they will thank you.

What is your message to users?

Your message to users goes beyond their needs. When your users leave your site, you want them to take away more than just what they came for. The implications of this are large and varied. If their need was to find out if you offer a specific degree program, make sure they leave with success stories of students in that program. If their need was to find out the time of tomorrow's show, make sure they leave knowing how wide and varied your whole schedule is. Tell them your stories. Highlight your people. Leave them knowing that you are professional, trustworthy and that you really care.

Summary

Once you have identified your website's target audience, you need to identify audience need. A "frequently asked questions" approach can help in identifying both the informational needs of the users and the needs of the users to perform certain tasks.

Pete Montaldi
montaldipa@appstate.edu