Defining your audience is a critical aspect of planning a successful Web site. The audience is a group of users that will use the site to achieve their objectives. Defining your audience helps to determine what information they will need, effective ways to provide that information, and how the Web can help them accomplish their objectives. Define the audience by answering the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the site?
  2. Who are my users and what are their wants and needs?
  3. When, how often, and why will users use the site?
  4. How can I leverage the Web to help users accomplish their goals?

Think about the content you offer and who is most likely to need/use it, and write down the characteristics of these users in terms common to your operations. For example, audience profiles at Cal Poly might be "students getting ready to graduate" or "faculty and staff desiring to stay healthy" or all "enrolled students and alumni". The resulting list of audience profiles may be quite diverse and require you to consolidate users into groupings with similar characteristics. Also, you need to consider that these groups may need to be consolidated in relation to their objectives at the site, thinking in terms of the content they want and how you may organize it. This process works "hand in glove" with the process of Content Assessment and Organization.

Note: if it is determined that an individual will need content offered by your organization on a frequently recurring basis, you may want to consider making a portal application (My Cal Poly) to facilitate this need.

Remember, each group comes to your site with unique expectations. Consider the following characteristics for each target audience group:

  • Audience Characteristics (profession, age, gender, needs, etc.)
  • Information Preferences (what information the users want first, second, etc.)
  • Platform Specifications (hardware, browser, screen resolution, modem speed, etc.)
  • Range of Abilities (vision, hearing, web experience, etc.)
  • Environmental Challenges (poor lighting, noise, etc.)

Using the characteristics of your target audience groups you can develop Web sites that effectively deliver desired content to intended audiences.