know your audience: build it and they will come january 19, 2011

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Know Your Audience

Know Your Audience:

Build It and They Will ComeJanuary 19, 2011Welcome/Intro

This is the fourth in a series of website webinars provided by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania for county staff.

We started the webinars last Fall to assist counties as they are looking at enhancing their websites. We will also be launching a CCAP website award at the CCAP Annual Conference this August. Additional details will be available soon.

Also need to note that the PowerPoint and a recorded version of this session will be able to be accessed online. A link will be sent to you.

Todays topic relates to a major journey CCAP embarked on in early 2008 as we started the redesign of our website We will share some highlights of that process throughout todays webinar.

1This Session CoversDefining your websites purposeIdentifying your audienceDiscovering their needsDetermining focus

When looking at the topic of Know Your Audience: Build It and They Will Come, there are many key items necessary to help you with the successful design, redesign or enhancement of a website.

For todays purposes we will focus on the following:

What is your websites purpose? (This was a question that seemed at one point like it would have a quick, clear answer from CCAP staff but we soon found there was a need to look deeper.)

Identifying your audience (Again, not a quick process and answers were very involved as we moved along.)

Discovering their needs (Sometimes, even when you are pretty confident that you have a good feel of your audience, you may be surprised what you feel are their top needs and what they may list at the top.)

Determining the focus? (When there may be many services that could be provided how do you prioritize and identify key items?)2What is Your Purpose?Why does your website exist?What are your main goals?Why do people go to your website?

What is the purpose of a website? Think about the last time you went to a website. What was the website? For work or pleasure? What brought you there? Every website and web page is designed with an intent. Does the intent of the developer match the needs or wants of the audience?

This last weekend, we were looking for cabins for rent in the Blue Ridge mountains. We started with a Google search that resulted in listing of several website links. In a matter of a few minutes, we had clicked into and out of several websites. Then one in particular caught our attention. It stood out from several of the others very quickly. It contained pictures of cabins (several of each cabin inside and out), written descriptions of features of the cabins, highlights of things to do in the area, rental rates, an on-line availability calendar, rental agreements and reservation information. It was easy to navigate, and provided the detailed information and supportive pictures we were looking for compared to other sites we quickly passed over due to lack of information and harder to navigate sites.

Why do you have a website? What is your county or agency trying to accomplish with the website? (When having these discussions at CCAP, we found that depending on the department the answers could vary. Ex. The Insurance staff identified information on insurance programs and claims information as important, while the education department identified conference and training information as important and government relations wanted to make sure budget and legislative information were easily accessible.) Whether you are responsible for a county wide website or an agency website different departments will probably very easily identify different priorities and needs. Children and Youth Services will probably have very different priorities than your assessors office.

Are your staffs goals the same as your website users goals? Most people go to a website for information. Is what they are looking for on your website? Have to be careful not to assume you know what might be the most important items to your audience.

What do you want to accomplish or offer?

Provide information? What information?Offer online services applications?Gathering contact information for emailing?Sign up a new member to a distribution list?Encourage them to visit a new place or try out a service?Take a survey or submit feedback on a product or service? 3CCAP Redesign ProjectFebruary 2008Sought objective guidanceThree main activitiesKey considerations

In late 2007 and early 2008, CCAP decided to move forward with a website redesign project. After much internal discussion on how to proceed it was decided that it would be beneficial to seek an outside resource to serve as an objective guide through the process.

We entered into a contract with Jensar Associates, Inc. that outlined three main activities that would be instrumental in helping us move forward with an effective redesign. Those activities were:

A joint session with teams responsible for various website responsibilities (Branding and Web teams -each team had representatives from every CCAP department.)Focus group with usersSurvey of users

Key considerations to keep in mind during the process:

Establish clear goals for the website. One of the benefits to the web is its lack of limitations (contrary to print). This benefit also presents the greatest challenge: there will always be a long list of initiatives for the website. Clearly defined goals will help keep the website manageable as well as relevant for users.Keep the workload for site management manageable. Users will always be looking for additional content and features. Use surveys, focus groups and web stats to evaluate which items are of the greatest value.Always keep in mind: relevancy is king, consistency is also king

4Why Do They Visit?Why do most users visit government websites?Pew Internet and American Life Project ResultsLets stop for a minute and talk about why people might visit your site or another government website. Sometimes it is helpful to look at general statistics and trends related to website usage.

On President Obamas first day of office, the administration released an executive order establishing an Open Government Directive. The order offered a vision for government organized around three principles:

Government should be transparent with information about agency operations and decisions available to the public online.Government should be participatory tapping the collective expertise of the American public in government decision-making processes.Government should be collaborative using technology to share and cooperate with other agencies, businesses and non-profits, and the public at large.

2009 saw many federal agencies moving forward with new online offerings such as which allowed the public to track the development of a broadband plan online. And was launched to help citizens track projects funded by the Recovery Act.

The Pew Internet Report: Government On-line is a recent study that evaluated the state of on-line government, especially after some of the latest developments being promoted at the national level. Lets take a look at some of their findings.5They Visit ToPublic policies or issuesFind servicesDownload government formsResearch documents or statisticsRenew license or registrationRecreation or tourist informationThe study found that:

48% of Internet users looked for information on a public policy or issue

46% have looked up what services a government provides

41% have downloaded a government form

35% have researched official government documents or statistics

33% have renewed a drivers licenses or auto registration

30% have gotten recreation or tourist information on-line

6They Visit ToGet advice on health or safety issueGet information or apply for benefitsGet information or apply for jobPay a fineApply for recreational license25% have gotten information or advice about a health or safety issue

23% have gotten information about or applied for benefits

19% have gotten information about or applied for a job

15% have paid a fine such as a parking ticket

11% have applied for a recreational license such as a hunting license

82% of Internet users have made at least one of these website visits in the last year7Why Audience is Key?Design for audience, not youJust because one thinks it a greatSmoother internal process

So. Lets talk about audience. It is important to keep in mind who you are designing or enhancing the site for. Make sure you are designing or redesigning for your audience and future audience not for you.

Until you have a good grasp of who your audience is, you are challenged to really know how to best design your site to meet the needs of your target audience.

Clearing identifying your audience not only helps to make sure you are designing for them, it helps to ensure a smoother internal process during the planning and design. It helps you to focus on facts and try to steer clear of personal opinions of staff or departments.

CCAP faced this challenge. We had a focus group meeting to gather input from staff. We were able to come up with a very robust and rather complete list of who might be a user of the site. Then the staff were divided into three subgroups for deeper discussion of what might be priorities for the redesigned website. One group had key IT and marketing staff. They had significant conversation about the selection of navigation headings and methods of grouping information. This conversation underscored a common challenge among all website management teams websites are a production of