An early step in any website redesign is to audit content that currently resides on your website. As part of ACC website audit, we focused on user groups and their content – whether for students, employees, or business and community users. While our audit identified some instances where content was intended for all audiences or has to be there for legal purposes, we found the audience structure held up well as a sorting box for the vast majority of ACC’s website content.
The web team marked each page within the Drupal content management system to correspond to the intended audience using Drupal’s functionality of taxonomies and content types. The audience taxonomy included the following categories.
- Prospective students
- Current students
- Business and community
- Faculty and staff
- Topics: General
- General (no specific audience)
- Admissions (Prospective Students)
- Financial Aid (Current Students)
- Registration (Current Students)
The audit reviewed all pages that reside within the Drupal CMS. It included content intended for prospective students, all internal faculty and staff as well as topics and tasks intended for current ACC students. The audit did not review content outside Drupal, which includes academic department websites and faculty websites that contain instructional content. These content groups will be addressed in later phases of the web redesign project.
You can take a look at the completed audit by audience here: Content Audit Index
The college’s public-facing website is utilitarian rather than promotional and serves current ACC students well. In fact, the audit confirmed the fewest number of webpages on ACC’s site are intended for prospective students. These results are not surprising since the stated goal of the current site was to support the First Year Experience, in which a student accumulated important information over their first semesters at ACC. With an increased amount of on-boarding and advising support for new students under the Pathways model, the ACC website can instead focus on improving the prospective students’ experience.
Observations and Possible Strategies
The need for new audience identifiers emerged from the audit, as well as new ways of thinking about the content and tasks for these audiences. Prospective Students became Leads and Current Students became simply Students. A user is now considered a Student a soon as their application moves from the college’s customer relationship management (CRM) software into a proper student record.
While the current site organizes content by tasks rather than ACC’s organizational structure, the huge volume of content gets lost inside large homepage menus. The need to move toward “microsites” for these topics is clear. Common microsites in higher education include admissions, registration, and financial aid.
These topics often have multiple audiences within them, and it is acceptable to bring the topics forward as the drivers and creating content for the intended audiences within these spaces. An example would be the initial financial aid application process intended for new students, and the tasks and information that is needed for a current student to keep and retain their financial aid eligibility. Content for both of these tasks would exist in the same space but speak to different audiences.
The next step in the process is to develop the content strategies for each audience and user group. The team will then align existing content to these groups and identify and document additional content needs. These processes lead to the development of the information architectures (IA) for each audience. IA’s are used as “outlines” for content within a website and guide where content is natively located and accessed. IAs that will be needed include:
- Top Tier – Leads and Prospective students.
- Students – Current student tasks and information.
- Business & Community – Community members and other groups that wish to engage with the college or receive specific topic information.
- General Information – Content that is not intended for any one particular audience.