Step Two: Purpose and Audience Analysis

Step Two: Purpose and Audience Analysis

Site migrations are a good time to step back and make sure the purpose of your website is clear to all primary stakeholders - and that all your content is tailored to fit your specific audiences. It is a good practice - for new and old websites alike - because it provides your team with essential frameworks to use as you review/edit old content and design/build your new website.

What is the Purpose of Your Site?

Your final answers to this question will be straightforward, but getting to those answers requires consideration of the following:

  • Websites are Strategic Communications
  • Promotional vs. Informational
  • Goals, Key Messages and Desired Actions

Websites Are Strategic Communications

All websites are first and foremost a form of communication and should be treated as such. Content creators and site owners should make sure that communication is also strategic – giving you the best chance to achieve your goals. It is essential that your website supports, and is consistent with, your unit/departments strategic communication agenda, including promotional materials, advertising, and other official unit/departmental communications.

All your choices - both big and small - should be:

  • Strategic – Consideration of all available choices leads to the best choice
  • Audience-based – Designed for your specific audiences
  • Purposeful – Have a specific reason to be on the page
  • Meaningful – Written clearly to communicate the intended meaning
  • Valuable – Add value for your primary and secondary audiences

For every page on your website, you should be able to explain the thought process and intention behind all content and design choices.

Promotional vs. Informational

The vast majority of KU CMS websites are either primarily promotional or informational. While it is true that most websites are to some extent both promotional and informational, it is important to understand which is the primary purpose of your site. Once you know the primary purpose of your site, it will inform your site content, organization and design.

Promotional Sites

Generally, promotional sites are designed to attract customers and aid in the conversion of an action (e.g., make a purchase, sign-up for notifications, etc.). In the academic context, that often means attracting prospective students and faculty and aiding in the process of recruitment, application and admission.

Examples of Promotional Sites at KU:

  • Unit/Department sites (School of Business, School of Law, School of Pharmacy, etc.)
  • Admissions

Informational Sites

Informational sites primarily provide information about a topic or service. Informational sites, can also have promotional aspects, but in the KU context, the primary goal of the site is to provide information about a topic or service related to the student, faculty or staff experience.

Examples of Informational Sites at KU:

  • Parking
  • Human Resources
  • Technology

Goals, Key Messages and Desired Actions

As you prepare to create/migrate your site, it is important to understand:

  • Your Goals - The overarching goals your unit/department is attempting to achieve through your website
  • Your Key Messages - The messages your site is attempting to convey
  • Your Desired Actions - The actions you want users to take via the site

Your Goals

Goals are high-level statements about what a unit/department is attempting to accomplish via the website. Once you’ve established the goals for your site, they should be used to inform all your strategic choices. You may also want to create specific objectives to achieve those goals.

Examples of goals:

  • Increase applications from high-quality student candidates
  • Increase applications from high-quality faculty candidates
  • Increase total applications
  • Increase awareness of a specific degree or certificate
  • Increase awareness of a specific event
  • Increase awareness of a specific service or product

Your Key Messages

Again, first and foremost, good websites are a form of strategic communications. Understanding your unit/department’s brand and key messages will help you design better written content and web pages for your specific users.

Key brand messages will be different for every unit/department. Here are some examples of some brand messages from include:

  • “We are a major research university with a global reach”
  • “KU is more than a university. It is a community”
  • “Become a Jayhawk”

Your Desired Actions

What actions do you want users to take when they are on your site?

Examples of specific desired actions:

  • Apply
  • Request info
  • Schedule a visit
  • Sign-up for notifications
  • Log in


Do you know the difference between a goal and an objective?” (Fast Company)

Who is the Site For?

Every element on your KU CMS site (e.g., word, image, design choice, page layout, etc.) should be designed strategically with your primary and secondary audiences in mind. The most successful websites are tailored at all levels to meet their audiences needs and expectations. Websites that fail to meet the needs and expectations of their audiences will always be far less successful.

To determine your primary and secondary audiences, each unit/department should ask the following questions:

  1. Who is the site primarily intended for?
  2. Who else is the site intended for?
  3. Who might be coming to the site that we did not intend?
  4. Who is the site not for?

Once you have determined your primary and secondary audiences, your site creation/migration team can use that information to design the best user experience. It is safe to assume that information that does not add value for your primary and secondary audiences should be removed from your site.

Primary Audience

While it is possible to have more than one primary audience, it is more likely that there is one primary audience that stands above all others you are trying to reach. You can then articulate a small but important set of secondary audiences. Understanding your primary audience will bring focus and clarity as you make each and every strategic choice along the way.

For most unit/department sites, prospective students are the primary audience.

Secondary Audiences

Secondary audiences for unit/department sites include:

  1. Parents of prospective students
  2. Prospective faculty
  3. Alumni
  4. Peer institutions

External vs. Internal Audiences

Some KU CMS sites are designed specifically for internal audiences, such as current KU students, faculty and staff (e.g., Parking, Human Resources, Technology, KU Unions, etc.).

However, if your unit/department site’s primary audience is an external audience like prospective students, you should be mindful about hosting content for current students, faculty and staff. Mixing content for external and internal audiences can dilute the purpose of your site and clutter the experience for your primary and secondary audiences. If you need to host content for internal audiences (e.g., resources for current students), make sure it is labeled clearly so external users know that information is not intended for them.

KU provides a wide range of ways to communicate information to current students, faculty and staff, including official KU email, Blackboard, SharePoint, etc. If you currently host content for internal audiences, consider whether another supported option would be better for your internal user and de-clutter the experience for your primary and secondary audiences.

Writing for Specific Audiences

Please see Step Five: Content Analysis and Revision for information about web-writing best practices, including writing content for your audiences.