How do you write for different audiences?

Jennifer Hamrick
Wednesday 17 February 2021

When a website only has one audience, it is easy to understand and cater for user needs. More often than not, though, websites have multiple audiences, and you need to communicate very similar information in different ways for each of these groups.

This is something we will be dealing with as we progress with the new Careers website. The Careers Centre has many different audiences, such as current students, parents, employers, alumni, school counsellors, etc. How do you cater for multiple audiences and stakeholders successfully?

I recently read an article called How to create content on the same topic for multiple audiences (GatherContent). The author, Alice Chen, shares a case study from her company (TELUS) about how they redesigned their web pages to cater for two distinct audience types. Previously, they tried to cater for all audiences on every page about their programmes, but users found this confusing and not helpful. Their solution was to split out their pages into distinct areas for each user group. Users who wanted high-level information were directed to a page with informative marketing content. Whereas users who already had knowledge of the company’s programmes and wanted to apply could jump instead to detailed information about applying.

There are usually two ways to organise a website:

  • by user group
  • by task

For TELUS, they organised their site navigation by task first and then filtered their users by group.

We could apply similar navigational ‘filtering’ to the Careers site to help users find the information most relevant to them. We could start with user groups (for example, taking current students, we could drill this down between first years, second years, third years, etc). Once a user has clicked through to their group’s section, content could be organised by task (for example, preparing for job interviews, finding part-time jobs, etc).

Some of the content may be similar between groups (for example, preparing for job interviews may be just as relevant for first-year students as third-year students), but the tone and depth of content may change. A first-year student may be new to job interviews and need a lot of overview as well as additional help. A third-year student, on the other hand, may already be familiar with the basics and are looking instead to hone their skills.

We are currently conducting research into the Career Centre’s various user groups to understand their needs. Once we have finished our research phase, we will be better able to write content for the different audience groups.

Have you seen any website that successfully catered for different audiences? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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