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7.3. Learning About the Intended Audiences

If you want to design an architecture that supports the needs of the company and the needs of the users, you've got to get everyone thinking about the primary audiences for the web site right at the beginning. With information architecture, one size does not fit all, so your approach should be determined by the needs and characteristics of the major audiences.

You can start gathering this information during early meetings by getting everyone to brainstorm on the topic. You might ask some of the following questions:

  • Who are the most important audiences for the web site?

  • Are there other audiences we're not thinking about? How about the media, investors, competitors, and current and potential employees?

  • Is there a difference between the most important audiences (e.g., those who influence funding) and the audiences who will use the web site most frequently? What are the implications?

  • How do these audiences currently interact with your company? By phone, mail, email, fax, or in person?

  • What will these audiences want to do when they visit the web site? Why will they come and what will make them return?

Once you've generated an initial list of possible audiences, ask the group to rank the relative importance of these audiences, and list their most important needs, as we've done in the following example:

Audiences

Rank audience in order of importance (#1 is most important)

List the three most important information needs of this audience with respect to the State Library

Librarians

(members of cooperative)

Librarians

(non-members)

Patrons of Public Libraries

Patrons of State Library

State Legislature

State Government Employees

Federal Government

Media

Medical Community

Legal Community

z39.50 Community

Other Audiences (specify):

We asked staff at the State Library of Iowa to rank their key audiences and list the major information needs of each audience. This structured approach to research enabled us to gather valuable information quickly and efficiently.

The results of this audience prioritization exercise will prove useful in considering possible information architectures for the web site. They can also be interesting to analyze and discuss.

This chart shows the varying degrees of consensus regarding the relative importance of each audience. The discrepancy factor is calculated by subtracting the lowest assigned ranking from the highest for each audience. While we can't vouch for the statistical validity of this calculation, we can assure you it provides for a lively (and ultimately useful) discussion.

Audience

Rankings Assigned by Each Respondent

Discrepancy Factor

Librarians (members of cooperative)

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

1

3

Librarians (non-members)

2

2

1

6

1

1

2

10

2

2

2

9

State Government Employees

5

3

4

1

3

1

6

3

6

4

4

5

State Legislature

6

4

4

1

3

1

3

6

8

3

5

7

Legal Community

3

5

4

1

3

7

4

7

6

6

9

8

Medical Community

4

6

4

8

3

1

5

8

5

7

8

7

Patrons of Public Libraries

8

8

3

8

8

10

8

5

3

5

3

7

Patrons of State Library

7

7

8

8

8

7

7

2

9

8

6

7

z39.50 Community

9

10

11

1

10

10

11

9

7

11

11

10

Media

11

9

9

6

11

10

9

11

4

10

10

7

Federal Government

10

11

9

8

3

10

10

12

12

9

7

8

Obviously, opinions regarding the importance of the z39.50 community as an audience for this Web site ranged wildly. These results uncovered this diversity of opinion about this particular audience and enabled us to explore the reasons each person had for choosing his or her audience priorities.



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