Consider Multiple Audiences

Content for your department's website should serve the needs of an array of potential visitors.

Our websites have many audiences. On any day, they might include the following:

  • Prospective undergraduate, master's and certificate-seeking students
  • Prospective MD students
  • Prospective PhD students
  • Prospective residents
  • Prospective faculty
  • Current students
  • Alumni
  • Faculty from your department or from other departments and schools
  • Faculty and researchers from other institutions
  • Primary and secondary school educators
  • Students' parents
  • Recruiters
  • Accrediting bodies
  • Potential business and industry partners
  • Community members
  • Journalists

You could easily extend this list even further. Visitors are likely to vary in age, from prospective students 16 and younger to alumni and others who are 80 and older. Visitors may range from those without a high school education to distinguished researchers and educators, and they may come to your website from down the hall or from the other side of the world.

Because these groups are often looking for the same information, you should present your content in a way that addresses the needs of more than one group.

An Example

Consider a news post announcing that “Professor X has published an article on the inhibition of the activation pathway of the T-type calcium channel Ca(V)3.1 by ProTxII.” That sentence may meet the needs of your faculty, and perhaps other scientists in the field. What about other audiences?

  • A prospective undergraduate student may want to know what ProTxII is and whether he can take a class with the professor who did the research. Link to Professor X's faculty profile and appropriate course descriptions in the college catalog in the Related Links.
  • A prospective graduate student may know what ProTxII is. She may be interested in being a research assistant to the faculty member who did the research. Link to his faculty profile and his lab page.
  • Other on-campus departments may be less interested in this article and more interested in seeing how active your faculty are. Linking to his faculty profile will satisfy their curiousity.
  • Researchers at other universities and in industry may want to contact the faculty member to get more information, to suggest a collaborative project or to hire the faculty member as a consultant. You may sense a theme here: Link to his faculty profile.
  • An alumnus may want to read the cited article because it provides information useful to his work. If it's available online, link to the article abstract in Related Links.

No news post will satisfy every need of every conceivable audience. A news item that says nothing more than “Professor X has published an article on the inhibition of the activation pathway of the T-type calcium channel Ca(V)3.1 by ProTxII,” though, is going to disappoint most of its potential readers.

Keeping these multiple audiences in mind as you create content is vital to helping your website meet its goals.