Who is your key audience?

Focusing on meeting the needs of a specific set of target groups is a critical element of website planning. Every decision you make about the content and organisational structure will be influenced by your understanding of the target audience.

For example, if you target two fairly distinct groups with entirely different needs, you may structure the site in two major sections, each with its own set of resources. Identifying your audiences and anticipating their needs can dramatically improve your ability to make the site function effectively. Try to refine your target audience to a small number of specific groups. These groups may represent a subset of the many individuals with whom the organisation commonly interacts. Prioritise these groups' importance to your outreach efforts.

The look and structure of the site should reflect the needs and attitudes of your top target audiences, as well as their relative level of experience in navigating the Web. Documents should use language that is natural and understandable to your visitors. Information should be organised into a structure that will be clear and obvious to them.

What do you anticipate these key audiences will be looking for on the site?

Understanding of your target audiences' characteristics is an important step in developing your site's content and design. Your site must offer visitors clear reasons to stay on the site, act on what they find, and return again later. Items your visitors may seek -- and those you want them to find -- should be made as accessible as possible. In many cases, that means no more than two or three" clicks" from the front page of the site.

Organising the primary content of the site can be a tough task. Non profit organisations often want to showcase all their information, activities, and programs. There's no reason that an abundance of information shouldn't be included; but the site's structure need not be a direct representation of the organisations' internal hierarchy. The more pages in a site, the more critical thetas of organising them becomes. The final determination of how to organise your website is based on how clear and navigable it will be to your target audience.

What other audiences would you like to visit the site?

A website represents an incredible opportunity to reach out to new audiences. You may want to use it to increase your visibility with groups that include potential fenders, youth, community members, or the media. You may also want your site to be seen by members of the general public who have an interest in your organisation's issues.

Clearly, it's important to consider not only which new audiences you would like to visit the site, but also why you want them there, and what will help them find you in the first place. You will want to attract and engage these visitors with something that interests them, and use this to move them toward other content that you'd like them to see. Ultimately, you probably want to encourage these groups to perform a constructive action: provide support, seek more information, access services, publicise your issues, or otherwise bring you closer to your organisational goals.

What kinds of information, products, services, or tools will be of interest to these visitors?

Plan several products that might attract this desired audience to your site and keep them coming back. This may be as simple as highlighting a document, project, or resource that has broad public appeal. It may involve developing anew resource or another feature, like a topic-specific mailing list. Thus, bringing in new audiences is often a long-term goal, which is gradually implemented as the website grows and develops.