Before beginning you must know who you are writing for and have a clear purpose. Write content to motivate your readers toward an intended behavior. The What and Why of Usability article and Peter Morville illustrate that a successful website will be useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible and credible to its audience.
Research Your Audience
Contact the Web team and Communications staff throughout the college to see what research has already been done. We collect analytical and statistical data about the visitors to the college websites so, for example, we know what pages are most popular and how visitors are reaching the content.
Documentation from in-depth and targeted research, such as interviews, user tests, sorting activities or workshops, may also be available. If not, the Web team can facilitate these research activities or guide you through the process.
Once you know your audience you can create a content strategy, define the desired tone, voice and style for your site with style guides, pattern libraries or project brief documents. Use these strategy documents to work with all of the contributors to your site to present consistent content that your visitors will learn to associate with your program. Your strategy can be used in printed communications, social media initiatives and other collateral for your program.
Writing for your Audience
A common error is to organize the content on your website to mimic the organizational structure of your program. Also, take care to avoid internal language and jargon. Keep in mind other writing for the Web best practices.
While building your content, before and after you launch, we recommend doing some usability testing to make sure you got it right. User testing can be a simple as sharing your work with anther person to get their feedback. The Web team is happy to assist and can facilitate user tests for you.
Expert agencies like Adaptive Path, Meet Content, Creating Passionate Users provide articles, research and resources on the topic of audience and usability. The Pew Internet & American Life Project provides reports on international research of internet trends and users that may be relevant. Learn Content Strategy Basics from usability.gov. Market researchers frequently devise a persona to help them better understand their target audience. A persona is a snapshot of a fictionalized person who displays characteristics your visitors are likely to have. The purpose of a persona is to focus decisions with an audience member in mind.