The most successful websites are those that give their users what they want as easily and quickly as possible. Building a website that can do this requires careful planning.
Identifying your users
Before you build a website you need to be clear on who your target audiences are and what tasks they will expect to complete on your website.
Your target audiences might include:
- other researchers
- higher education professionals
- government representatives
- politicians or their researchers
- business users
- study participants.
Identifying your users' needs
Your users will visit the site because they want to find information. This could include:
• general information about your research, programme or centre
• specific pieces of information like a press release or research paper
• information about forthcoming events
• information about your publications
• information about the people who make up your team
• information about the people you collaborate with
• your contact details and how to find you.
Understanding your users' needs will help you prioritise the information you provide online, and to develop a suitable design a structure for your website. You should build your site around your users' top tasks.
Identifying key content
Identifying and prioritising content to meet users' needs can greatly increase the impact of online resources.
When you have identified your users and their key requirements, you can prioritise the content that you need to include on your website. Only include content that will genuinely help your users. Don't include inward-focused content and don’t be afraid to exclude material from your site.
When you begin to design your site, make sure that your users can clearly find the content they need to complete their top tasks.
For example, one of your key user groups may be other researchers who come to find research papers. A prominent link on the homepage that allows them to go straight to a list of publications should mean that they can get what they need quickly. And a good search facility would allow the user who is looking for a specific paper to find it in one step.
When you design your website you need to group your content into logical sections that users will easily identify with. Your section and content titles must be clear and meaningful for your users.
Completing key tasks
When users visit your website they will often have a particular task that they want to achieve. It’s vital that your website allows users to complete key tasks quickly and easily.
You must ensure that your users can easily find out:
- what research you are involved in
- who funds your research
- how to contact you for information about your research
- what the impacts and findings of your research have been so far
- how to keep up-to-date with your work (eg through news on your website, newsletters, RSS feeds and social media).
Your users may also have particular tasks that are very specific to your website and you should ensure that they can also easily complete these.
Ask some of your users, colleagues or friends to test your website to see if they can achieve these tasks. Their feedback can be invaluable.