Website Audiences and Outcomes
When writing content for the web or designing web content, consider all of the people who would be visiting the site and what in what context they are visiting. Then determine how to best serve your audience through your web content.
Audience 1: Prospective Students
Prospective students include several different types of sub-audiences: undergraduate, graduate, transfer students, international, and veterans. While all of these sub-audiences are looking for information on programs and applying to attend Minnesota State Mankato, they all have some subtle differences that make the content they’re looking for more unique.
Once a prospective student has signed, they go into a weird grey area - the “Accepted Student,” and it’s important to make sure we are still serving these audiences through checklists and other content.
- Audience 1a: Traditional Undergraduate - Traditional undergrads are most often high school students, and they will be living on campus in the beginning, so understanding the campus community is important. They are looking for information on programs, but they are also looking for a place that they will enjoy—a place where they can become their own person. They may be a sports or theatre recruit, and once they become an accepted student their focus changes.
- Audience 1b: Traditional Adult Learners and Graduate Students - Traditional adult learners are looking for a degree past their initial undergraduate degree. They aren’t always seeking this degree directly after completing an undergraduate degree at Minnesota State Mankato—in fact, some adult learners are looking to turn their existing associate’s degree into a bachelor's. Their focus is less on the university setting and more on the academic quality of the degree program and faculty, the convenience of getting their degrees within their existing busy schedules, which most likely includes a full-time job, raising a family and other commitments, as well as—and perhaps most significantly—the cost of the degree program.
- Audience 1c: Transfer Students - Transfer students require a different set of admissions forms and content, and are curious what (if any) of their existing achievements will transfer from their current university to Minnesota State Mankato. Not all transfer students move right on campus, so campus life may not be as much of a focus.
- Audience 1d: International Students - Like transfer students, international students require a different set of admission forms and content than a traditional high school student, but they also must demonstrate English proficiency and confirm they can pay for full tuition. There is no need for translation, as it is expected that they can speak enough English to apply. They are curious about Mankato as a community—how will they get around, where are they going to live, etc.—but even more than that they are trying to navigate international barriers and visa issues. Additionally, they will be volunteering as a part of their Cultural Contribution Scholarship.
- Audience 1e: Veterans - Veterans, again, like International and Transfer Students, have a bit different application process, and are more likely to be a bit older than their undergraduate counterparts.
Audience 2: Current Students
There’s an assumption that current students are going to be served by a combination of internal “intranet” content, but at Minnesota State Mankato this intranet content is often a fractured collection of various applications.
For this reason, current students needs—especially when it comes to directory and event content—are still handled on the main public site. Usability studies conducted with students prior to the move to our content management system revealed that if students are not able to find what they need on the main public site, they will stop using the site entirely. To serve this audience properly, we must ensure they can find the answers they need.
Additionally, serving current students on the public facing website can show prospective students that they, too, will be supported at Minnesota State Mankato once they become a student.
Audience 3: Influencers
Influencers are categorized as those who provide help to potential students in making their college decisions—primarily, parents/guardians and teachers/guidance counselors.
- Audience 3a: Parents and Guardians - Parents and guardians have a more a personal view of a student’s higher education choice. This means while they are still very active in helping their child pick the right program, they also want to know more about location, safety, and quality of the school than a teacher or guidance counselor.
- Audience 3b: Teachers and Guidance Counselors - Teachers and guidance counselors are not as close to their students as a parent or guardian might be, so their help in selecting a higher ed option is focused more on what the student wants to do, what matches best with their learning habits, and how to get the right information to apply and declare a major.
Audience 4: Industry and Community Partners
Partners are considered any organization that provides a mutually beneficial partnership; partners help with job placement, mentoring, and internships, but they can also be feeder schools or corporate donors.
- Audience 4a: Current Partners - Current partners want to see their impact on the site. They want to be recognized, and they want to know that new opportunities are always being made available.
- Audience 4b: Prospective Partners - Prospective partners want to see the success of past partnerships. They need to know that their partnership will be treated with the same respect as other major partners, and they want to have a “personal” relationship with the University. The biggest question they want to hear is “What do you need?”
Audience 5: Staff and Faculty
Staff and faculty are not the primary audience of the site, but they do need to be able to navigate it easily in order to advise students, learn and know about the institution, and be transparent about opperations.
- Audience 5a: Current Staff/Faculty - Because the intranet is fractured and disconnected, current staff and faculty often use the public-facing site to find information, which means they are more likely to petition for non-student content to be placed on the site. They are often frustrated with the number of different logins and systems they need to remember.
- Audience 5b: Prospective Staff/Faculty - Potential staff and faculty additions aren’t just looking for jobs and benefits, they’re looking to learn more about the community and how they might fit into both the University community and Mankato itself. They are also concerned with finding information on jobs for trailing partners.
Audience 6: Alumni
Alumni are looking for information on what the University is doing and how they can help support programs that still mean something to them. They are more likely to remember their university and activites fondly, and are still willing to reach out and give in ways that best match that fondness. There’s also an element of continuing education, as well—we need to let Alumni know, especially in programs where there is a high level of continuing education, that Minnesota State Mankato is still here to provide post-grad content and opportunities.
- Community Members
- Community Area Parents: Parents who want to enroll their students in pre-university courses or other community education courses.
- Community Area Event and Seminar Attendees: Many university events are open to the public, so the community wants to know when and where various events and seminars are: how to sign up, when to arrive, costs and logistics, and more.
- Media: The media is always looking for information and content, and if Minnesota State Mankato makes their stories even more of a focus, the media is going to come knocking more often.
- Accreditation Bodies: Again, we must make sure that accrediting agencies can find the content they need on the site and that the site meets ADA and HLC compliance (though we do not plan the site around their needs).
While we were outlining the main audiences for the site, we also began compiling a list of outcomes that those audiences were most likely to expect. There were dozens of outcomes, so we have combined the list of outcomes to some high-level groupings.
Find information on Minnesota State Mankato
- Find program information, including program FAQ
- Find information on Mankato and the area
- Better understand campus life, including common activities, clubs and organizations, and events
- Better understand the employment landscape, including available jobs, benefits and community
- Learn what’s happening at Minnesota State Mankato (news and events)
Gain confidence in Minnesota State Mankato as a higher education choice
- Better understand Minnesota State Mankato’s competitive advantages over other schools
- Hear from other students and faculty
- Find information on graduation rates, community involvement, and chances of success
Effectively apply to become a student
- Learn about admission policies and standards
- Easily request information
- Find requirements and special paperwork for unique audiences, such as transfer, veteran, and international students
- Learn about financial aid options and scholarships
Navigate Minnesota State Mankato’s student services
- Find staff and faculty contact information and location
- Find a convenient and easy way to navigate campus, including maps and directions
- Learn and better prepare for financial aid tasks, scholarship requirements, and paying a bill
- Easily connect with an advisor, or easily understand course requirements for a current program
- Access the library
Create relationship with Minnesota State Mankato as a higher education partner
This could be a business, K-12 or higher education organization, government entity, the community, or as a donor.
- Access postgraduate alumni and giving content
- Access information on partnering with the University, hear from other partners
- Provide easy ways to connect with the University on the website (contact forms, phone numbers, online donations, online event registration, etc.)
Easily access staff and faculty information, files, and forms
- Easily navigate the HR website
- Access resources that will assist in advising current students
In addition to these user-based outcomes, Minnesota State Mankato also has their own set of desired outcomes. Many of these outcomes overlap with the user-based outcomes, meaning there’s no need for specialized content: the content and structure should serve both Minnesota State Mankato and its users.
- Improve user engagement on the website (to be measured through analytics)
- Increase student success
- Increase applications and attract higher-quality applicants
- Attract a diverse audience
- Promote distinction and achievement—the "Big Idea"
- Improve international communication
- Recruit faculty
- Attract partners
- Improve search and program structure
- Improve community connection