Focus On What Your Audience Wants

Focus On What Your Audience Wants and Trim the Fat
Posted on 05/30/2017
CivicLive - Focus on What Your Audience Wants

When it comes to website management, one of the most important questions to ask is what brings visitors to your site? Obviously the answer will vary depending on your site's focus.

When people go to a government website, they are most likely searching for very specific information. They are not visiting your site to:

  • Browse all the great programs and services offered
  • Look at the pictures of smiling politicians, or;
  • Read all of the About Us pages highlighting all the great work public sector employees are performing.

Visitors will almost always have a very specific reason for spending time on your website. The faster a visitor can find information they’re looking for, the happier they will be. As a general rule of thumb, constituents should be able to find content on your site within thirty seconds.

With this in mind, what can you do to help people find the content they want? Here are a few strategies for tailoring content for your audience, and trimming the rest away:

Begin at the Source

When someone wants to post content on your website, ask, who is going to care about this topic? Without a well-defined audience and a clear purpose for the content, you should hold back on posting it. Try to focus on only adding content to your site that will have some form of impact. Fluff pieces can be added to newsletters, blogs, community pages, etc.

Another item, which is a chronic problem in government websites, is keeping stale content on your site. Old content bloats your pages, and can make it needlessly difficult to search for relevant information. If someone uses your site’s search function to find council meeting minutes, they’re probably trying to find meetings within the last year or so. Does your website’s audience really need twelve years’ worth of council documents? The more content that you have on your website, the more work, budget and staff time will be needed to maintain the website. There are tools out there that will highlight pages and documents that are receiving zero visits. This is a great place to start and will help clean up the search results. But, keep in mind, there are policies in place that mandate certain pages, forms and types of information permanently remain on your site.

Measuring Success

How will you know if you have been successful? There are two measurements for a government website that can provide a good overview of how well the website is doing.

The first is User Satisfaction.

Increasing the satisfaction of the people coming to your website should be a primary goal for the web team. There are typically no sales numbers to look at, so measuring a government website’s effectiveness cannot look at dollars sold. There are many ways of gathering this type of data from web surveys, to telephone surveys, to site user interviews and focus groups.

The second statistic you should evaluate is the Time Spent on Site.

Often interpreted incorrectly in government website reports, you want this number to decrease rather than increase. There are no ad dollars so increasing the time spent on the website does not benefit anyone. Remember, people do not go to a government website to browse. Make it easy for them to find exactly what they’re looking for, so they can complete their task quickly and efficiently.

“Lean” Website Do’s and Don’ts


  • Keep your design and user interface clean and consistent across all web pages and micro sites.
  • Create content specifically with users in mind. Create the content you would want to see.
  • Ensure that your content drives “action”. You want most of the content on your site to cause readers to do something, whether it be clicking a link, signing up for classes or purchasing a permit.
  • Optimize your website for mobile experiences. More users are connecting via their mobile device so content should be built specifically for that.


  • Create most of your content from scratch, and don’t plagiarize content from other sources. If you use content from another source, make sure you have referenced it in some way.
  • Try not to write large walls of text. Large paragraphs actually discourage reading, and they are hard to navigate on mobile.
  • Use animations and moving content sparingly. They are hard to load and they clutter your page. Keep your website design as flat as possible.
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