Content that attempts to speak to everyone risks not connecting with anyone.
While higher education websites often struggle to narrow their target audience, quality user experiences, meaningful usability testing, effective content and coherent design require specifying a target audience.
It’s smart to specify who your target audience is, because that gives you enough clarity and focus to understand what their interests are, what matters to them, the language they use when seeking out information (which will inform your keyword strategy – stay tuned for more about this in an upcoming post!), and the visual elements that will resonate with them.
Think of it like preparing for a vacation: If you are on a journey to “anywhere” to do “anything,” then there’s no meaningful way to pack. What clothes do you take if you don’t know where you’re going, what the weather’s like, or what you’ll do when you get there? Similarly, if your web site attempts to offer “everything” to “everyone,” how can you make good decisions about content strategy? That would be an impossible task.
A clearly defined target audience equates to a better user experience because the content is created with the user’s level of experience, perspective, and goals in mind. And design concepts and usability testing are conducted with similar user groups. Speaking of usability testing, did you know you can find 85% of usability problems with just 5 users?
Google analytics will provide some insight into who your users are, how they engage with your content and how often they visit. To understand the why behind that data, and get to know your audience, you’ll want to talk to real people. Conduct listening sessions, user interviews and user testing to understand their goals, how well the content is serving your goals and how to improve user experience. Understanding your audience and designing digital content that allows users to meet their goals efficiently and enjoyably is central to user experience design.
For design and content creation teams, audience informs the tone, complexity and purpose of content and guides the curation of various web properties. Effectively curating website content for your target audience requires evaluating contributions for audience alignment and helping to find the right home for content that doesn’t align. Depending on audience, appropriate homes may include an intranet, university, school, department or lab website, or a learning management system.
Knowing who you are talking to helps guide design as well as content creation and curation. Both your users and content creators will benefit from a clearly defined target audience.
Learn about the target audiences for med.wisc.edu.
‘Our Users Are Everyone’: Designing Mass-Market Products for Large User Audiences – user testing and the importance of defining personas and specific audiences
“Know Your Audience” is a Lie, But it Still Matters – why audience is important, how it can benefit your work, and ways to get to know your audience better
Five Questions for University UX Professionals – questions that prospective students ask when deciding if they want to apply
The Biggest Mistake in Writing for the Web (3 min.) –tips for effective content creation
- Who is this for?
- What are their goals?
- What impact do you want the content to have?
Writing Digital Copy for Specialists vs. General Audiences (3 min.) –the pros and cons of using plain language when for specialists like doctors, scientists, and researchers