More about your target audiences

Push Me Pull You Cartoon

Last week the subject of our target audiences received short shrift as I waxed forth on the subject of goals. In revisiting this subject I want to emphasize just how critical it is to find the balance between our own goals and those of the people we wish to visit the site.

Sticking with the cartoon theme I've used the example of Dr. Doolittle's "Pushme-Pullyou." One head represents the person producing the web content while the other represents the site visitor. In the movie this creature provided a navigational advantage when they were on board ship as it could see both in front and behind. It had a clear vision.

Yet if these heads did not work together, if one wanted to wander south to drink water, while the other wanted to go north to eat plantains, then they would simply trip over their own feet and not accomplish either goal.

As web producers, how can we best mesh these goals? First we must understand them. As we've already analyzed our own, let's think about those of our audience.

Who is your audience?

Keeping in mind the goals we determined last week, the audience for our Department of Cartooning could potentially include:

  • Current Students, Staff & Faculty
  • Prospective Students, Staff & Faculty
  • Alumni
  • Corporations, Foundations, Government Agencies and other potential donors
  • Working cartoonists
  • Newspaper syndicates and other media outlets
  • Cartooning researchers and scholars
  • Art directors from publishing houses and advertising agencies
  • School children and their teachers
  • Writers and other visual artists
  • etc.
What content do they expect or hope to find on your site?

In some cases this may be obvious. Current students probably want a list of professors and course descriptions. Alumni may want networking resources. For each audience you can probably come up with a list of resources they might desire. But to really understand what they want, the most direct approach is to ask them.

If you were the Behemoth Corporation you might do this by having your market research department conduct surveys and focus groups. If you work on campus you might contact our marketing department to see if they have any pertinent data available. Perhaps you could contact a professor at Weatherhead to see if you could get some students to help do your research as a class project.

However, if you don't need something this elaborate, you can also take the simple route. Just ask the people you know who fall into these categories. While you may not be collecting data from a statistically significant sampling, you will probably get some great new ideas coupled with an understanding of why some things are more important to them than others.

I'm working with a department now that has included two students on the web project team. Thus far we've benefited not only from their own ideas, but also by their connection to the rest of the community. Within the past few weeks they've been able to gather information from 50% of the students in their program. As you can imagine this has been invaluably helpful. I'm sure you will find it so as well.

Please tune in again next week as we discuss how to create the content that will serve our goals.

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