During the research phase, your college and department will need to do audience research and consult with representatives from your various stakeholder groups to determine their specific website functional needs and objectives. Your project team should begin with the collect and analyze customer needs and research competitors. It can be also quite useful to review your current site and web content development processes.

Identify your Targeted Audience:

Review the existing audience and research about who are used the modern-day website (survey data, etc.).

Define the primary audience for the college and department site (e.g. potential college students, current students, employees, etc.). If necessary, identify secondary or tertiary audiences.

Identify the Needs of your Audience`s:

Consult with representatives from the external stakeholder groups that represent the website's audience`s to determine their needs.

Identify the top tasks of primary audience. Tasks are what drive people to a website—what do people come to do on your college and department website?

Review Websites of other similar colleges/departments/units:

Identify a few peer institutions or key competitors and review the websites for their college and department.

Identify current trends in the top tasks they’ve identified and their key audiences.

Identify the trends in key records which will be provided by the college and department.

Identify the Information about your college and department needs your audience to know (e.g. important deadlines, etc.)

Consult with the representatives from your internal stakeholder groups to determine their specific website functional needs and objectives.

Are there any unit-specific functions required by the website (data collection, data presentation, etc.)

Do the needs identified require additional resources to be deployed (i.e. links to databases, development of new databases, etc.)

Identify the Scope of the Website Project:

In order for your website project to succeed, it is important to be clear on what is in the scope of the project and what is out of scope, both in terms of content and functionality.

Deliverables for Site Definition and Planning:

Clear articulation of audience and top tasks

Assessment of peer institutions college/unit

Develop a Website Management Strategy:

Articulate principles for the management of the site. Some best-practice principles include:

Include in the site only content that belongs to the unit (i.e. college/department/unit); link out to content that belongs to other units (e.g. SESD) rather than duplicating it in the site.

Ensure that consistency, usability, and accessibility are the foundation for the website.

Indentify goals for the site so that success can be measured.

E.g. Help readers complete their tasks as easily as possible. Provide information about deadlines in a timely way.

Identify policies for managing the information on the site.

E.g. News will be inclusive of all units and be kept current. Items will be archived after six months.

E.g. All website content will be reviewed annually by each manager. Out-of-the-date content will be removed within one week of it no longer being relevant.

Document procedures for the site.

E.g. PDFs will be used only for very large documents and printable forms. All other content will be posted in HTML. (Supports goal of completing the task as easy as possible.)

E.g. Images will be used sparingly and only for faculty/staff profiles, homepage features, and news items to ensure usability of the site is not compromised. (Supports goal of completing the task as easy as possible.)

Identify responsibilities and resources.

Who writes the content? Who approves the content?

Who posts the content online? Is this person given the information in its final format to post, do they edit it, or are they the actual creators and owners of the content?

How many people are involved in the process? For which sections are they responsible?

Deliverables for Develop a Website Management Strategy:

Website strategy document, complete with principles etc.