Website Writing Guide

Preparing the content

Website audience classification

Do you want your website to work?

Do you want your content to be easy to understand and relevant?

Assuming it’s yes to both questions, then writers and editors must get to know their audiences. Identify who they are, how they want content presented and when and where they are likely to be reading it.

The website audience classification tool helps you to classify your audiences for a whole website and specific sections. This helps writers match the content style and presentation to the audiences' needs.

Work through the four steps for your website generally, and for any specific sections that you believe have a unique audience. Use your judgement as to how thorough you need to be.

Step 1: Identify the audience group or groupings

Step 2: Website audience classification tool

Step 3: Rate the impact on the content

Step 4: Prioritise the audience attributes

 

Step 1: Identify the audience group or groupings

  1. Is your entire website aimed mostly at one audience group (eg just local residents or just customers), or at separate audience groups - eg local residents and tourists, customers and suppliers?
  2. If the whole site is aimed mostly at one audience group, proceed to Step 2.
  3. Identify the audience groupings - eg tourists, local customers, citizens, students.
  4. Draw up a table showing each audience group and alongside each one, note the related section or sections of the website.

    This is useful for undertaking step 2 and eventually for the writers and editors of each section. It will tell them for whom they are writing, while the output of step 2 will tell them much about the characteristics of those audiences.

top of page

Step 2: Website audience classification tool

If you identified in Step 1 that the whole website is aimed mostly at one main audience group then complete the website audience classification tool below.

Did you identify in Step 1 that the site is for multiple audiences? If so, then you may need to complete the website audience classification tool below for each audience group and for each section of the website. How far you need to go in breaking the site down to sections and audiences is a matter of judgement. But this is all about planning, and rarely is any planning wasted.

If you have trouble assessing each attribute for particular audiences, you may need to do some research into the users. Refer to the section User testing or contact us for assistance.

This table and section of the website is available in Microsoft Word 2003 format (162 KB).

Audience attributes

Example characteristics and scenarios

Your audiences’ characteristics & scenarios

Impact

H, M, L

Who

Age and age groups

children, teenagers, baby-boomers, young adults, over 65, in their thirties

Personal life-style

resident, parent, single-parent, person with a disability, retired, tourist, Y-generation, school student, university student, migrant

Gender

mostly male, mostly female or both in equal numbers

Language

English as first language, English as a second language

Education

school, college, university, post-graduate

Learning preferences

practical demonstrations, learns by example, likes to know the theory, free-thinker, images rather than text, systematic learner, task-oriented, left-brain vs right-brain

Work attributes

employee, home duties, shift-worker, academic, professional, business owner, executive, carer, unemployed, volunteer, specific industry sector

Expectations

what they expect based on their experience with similar websites

Existing knowledge

how much they already know about the content, product, service

Web and computer experience

none, low, medium, high

How

On what device they will read it

PC, handheld device, large monitor, small monitor

Internet connection speed

fast broadband, standard broadband, slow

Where

User’s location

local, national, international – urban, regional, remote

Place where the page is read

at home, school, work, public library, on the road, in the field, public places

Why

Why users seek the content

to be informed, complete a task, seek an answer, buy something, entertainment, training

Importance of the content to them

vital, useful, interesting

How they found the page

Google, link from other site, word-of-mouth, enewsletter link, found it accidentally

When

When it is read

at work between 9am and 5pm, during a lunch-break, after the children are in bed, weekends, at night, early morning

top of page

Step 3: Rate the impact on the content

Rate each attribute in the Website audience classification tool low, medium, high or not applicable, according to the degree of impact it will have on the style and nature of the content.

Aspects of the content to consider when assessing the impact-rating for each attribute are:

  • style and tone of the writing
  • readability, vocabulary and comprehension
  • quantity of text and level of detail
  • use of Google, YouTube etc to discover the information
  • structure and method of imparting the message
  • provision of images, diagrams, video.

The rating exercise can be a relatively simple one for websites that have one or two well-defined audiences. However, if your site is complex with multiple audiences you may need to be more systematic with the rating.

You may need to draw up a table like the one below for some key attributes to determine whether they have a low, medium or high impact on the nature and style of the content.

In the example below, the Age and age group attribute for a website was identified as being mostly the Y-generation. A systematic examination of each aspect of the content reveals that the Y-generation audience will have a high impact on the nature and style of the content.

top of page

Example

Attribute: Age and age groups

This table and section of the website is available in Microsoft Word 2003 format (162 KB).

Style and nature of the content

Audience:

Y-generation

Note to the writer and editor

style and tone of the writing

HIGH

it will need to be informal

readability, vocabulary and comprehension

MEDIUM

needs to be in plain English

quantity of text and level of detail

HIGH

it will need to be brief

use of Google, YouTube etc to discover the information

HIGH

they use Google and YouTube to find content, they don’t guess URLs

structure and method of imparting the message

HIGH

it will need clear headings and step-by-step

use of images, diagrams, media.

MEDIUM

images needed to get and keep their attention

Step 4: Prioritise the audience attributes

Having completed the rating exercise in Step 3, prioritise the audience attributes for the whole site or for each relevant section of the website according to those that will have the highest impact on the nature and style of the content. Writers and editors then need to keep this front-of-mind when composing, structuring and editing content.

Other topics in this section

top of page