Understanding your goals and your target audience

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At this point you should have a fairly clear idea of the goals for your site. But have you considered this: are your goals related to the goals of your intended audience? To examine this issue let's pretend we are building a new website for the fictitious Department of Cartooning.

As we see in my own feeble attempt at cartooning, our webmaster is pondering his goals. The first one, to recruit faculty and students is a goal common to academic departments. (How we create content to support such goals will be discussed in a later post) Here our target audience is pretty obvious: prospective students and faculty.

The second goal, to show off his own skills seems to smack of self-interest, but may in fact support the first goal. Who do students wish to learn from? Someone who has only theoretical knowledge of cartooning? Or someone who also happens to be a succcessful cartoonist? If I'm a potential student I'd love to learn from someone who has experience in the field, someone who can mentor me, and give me real world guidance for my career. Thus this goal serves both the purpose of our webmaster and serves to let his targeted audience know more about the quality of the faculty in the department. He can publish his cartoons (perhaps on his blog so that he can self-syndicate for more media exposure). If the newspapers then pick him up for syndication, he will enhance the reputation of the department while at the same time increasing its visibility in national media. Additionally prospective students and faculty have easy access to his work so that they can decide if they like his style and would want to work with him.

Our third goal pertains to the wonders of mechanical pencils. If our webmaster merely has some random fondness for pencils then I'd say leave it off the site. But what if the mechanical pencil is the preferred tool of the trade? What if there are specific drawing techniques that utilize this implement? Perhaps a section on drawing resources that points out the specific benefits and uses of mechanical pencils would be useful. If the site provides a comprehensive overview on the subject, then it is supplying valuable reference material to cartooning students not only at Case, but in the world at large. If this site becomes the place to learn about mechanical pencils, then more traffic is driven to the site and more people learn not only about pencils, but also of our cartooning program, and the university itself. Thus we are enhancing Case's reputation and visibility by providing a valuable resource.

Our fourth goal is also fairly silly. If he needs help developing his surfing superhero then maybe he should write about it on his personal blog. Or make it a class project. But then again perhaps he could launch a nationwide writing contest. Contestants would submit their entries to the website, he'd find a writer, and he'd also expose hundreds of aspiring comic book writers to the cartooning program at Case. Hmmmm.

What other goals has he forgotten? Who does this website serve? Aside from prospects, it will also serve current students, staff and faculty. What information should be provided to them? Office hours? Course descriptions? Resources for buying art supplies? History of the department? Event listings? All this and more. When developing the site, our webmaster should think about everything these people could possibly wish to know and determine of that what is practical to publish on the site.

Regarding our external markets, professional cartoonists, cartooning scholars, school children working on class projects, media, corporations, foundations, etc. what other resources might we provide that would be of use to them and supportive of our department's goals? If we provide resources on pencils, then should we provide resources on other topics? History of cartooning? The differences between political cartoons and sunday funnies? What would be of interest to researchers (From 3rd grade through postdoc) on this topic? What would be of interest to professional cartoonists? These are all things to consider. And as I've already written a rather lengthy missive, I'll leave you to do just that. Ponder everything that anyone could want from your site, consider the whys and wherefores and then refine your list of goals and target audiences.

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1 Comment »
  1. Finally got a chance to continue reading up on planning a web site. Step 2 is right. You do need to organize and understand your goals. I've built websites without a real goal except I want to do "this". Then the site becomes scattered, does not add significant value and needs to get reworked. Once I rework the sites setting out my goals, then the value in my eyes of the web site becomes better. Off to reading the next step in planning a web site.

    Comment by Domains at Retail — October 23, 2008 @3:11 pm

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