Website Architecture: Multiple Target Audiences (A Case Study)
I volunteered to help Cache Creek Conservancy with its website back in December 2021. I was in a position this year (2022) to contribute a lot of time and expertise to the Conservancy, so, after discussing several options with them, I offered to build them a custom WordPress website.
Since ‘money was no object’ in this case, I was able to follow all the principles of good website development without the pressure of ‘going over the budget.’ In addition, I found a like-minded, fellow writing nerd and friend in the Executive Director of the Conservancy, Nancy Ullrey. These two factors made this a fun and rewarding project that I’ll always treasure.
At the time of this writing, the new website is still in the final stages of development. You can see the original and new sites by clicking the images below.
I’m a classic–now hybrid–WordPress developer so I made it clear I was going to have to learn WordPress’ new Full Site Editing (FSE) system during this process. I did quite thoroughly study the new (and still evolving) system, mostly using Carolina Nymark’s excellent tutorials.
At the same time I did a full audit and analysis of the Conservancy’s existing content and mandate as a non-profit, and determined that they had several stakeholders who would use the new website.
I really wanted to use the new WordPress system, but in the end, I decided to go hybrid again since we needed a couple different navigation menus to provide for all the different types of users and activities. The new site builder system just didn’t offer the control I needed over navigation styling.
After a thorough analysis, some organizational decisions and the production of static-HTML prototype, I presented my findings and recommendations to the Conservancy’s Board. You can view and download a PDF of my presentation.
The board was enthusiastic, and flexible about the timing which turned out to be a good thing since Nancy and I re-wrote much of the existing copy. We also had to learn the Conservancy’s newly purchased Donor CRM platform to create forms for the many events and campaigns the Conservancy does.
I want the websites I build to provide years of service to my clients, and one of the ways I do that is to provide tutorials and references for the staff. This also helps to keep the site looking good and performing well since every site has its particular design and architecture requirements.
The following video is the main starting point for staff onboarding, and describes the logic of the site architecture. I’ve provided a transcript and screenshot of the table I ended up using for Target Audiences.
Hi. My name is Christine Golden and I’m the developer of this website. This is the first of several videos that I will be making in order to show you how to get the most out of the site.
And by way of introduction, I thought I would talk about the organization of the site and why it’s organized this way.
So, good web design begins by asking the questions, “Who is it we want this website to serve?” and “How can we do that?” After studying the Conservancy for a bit, learning about its mandates, what it’s been doing and what it wants to do, I came to realize that there are about five major groups who would benefit from this website.
I made a chart of those groups, a table of those groups and that’s what you’re seeing in front of you here.
Under the column “Target Audience,” we’ve go the “Pro-environment Public” group. They’re the people who care about the environment both globally and locally, and would be interested in what the Conservancy is doing.
Next we’ve got “Nature-loving Families” and these are people who often have kids. They’re families who love to get outdoors and learn about nature with a ‘hands-on’ approach.
You’ve also got Teachers and Students. This includes the K-12 groups the Conservancy has worked with in the past. It’s the Internship programs and maybe other teaching programs, maybe Scouts, for example.
Now the next group are what I’m calling “Researchers.” Since the Conservancy is doing serious research, and since we have UC Davis nearby, this website could be an archive for things that serious scientists and historians and societies would want to know about.
Then we have the “Local Stakeholders.” These are people who depend on the watershed for their livelihood. They would be interested in what programs and actions the Conservancy is doing that would impact them and their livelihoods.
So, we’ve got the Native Tribes, of course, which is a speciality of the Conservancy. There are also creekside residents, big Ag and small Agricultural groups. And of course, the aggregate companies.
So, I began to ask myself the question, “What would each of these groups want to do when they come to the website?” You can read about some of my answers, thoughts (in the middle column of the table below). What began to happen is that some large categories began to ‘shake out’ from this information.
And it’s these large categories that I ultimately used to design what’s called the ‘Top Level Navigation’ or the main architecture of the website. You can see how we have organized this by scrolling up to the top of any one of the pages of the website.
Now in the very top, we’ve got some links that are common to most websites; a way to get back to the Home page, the About page, the Contact Us page. And then a link to the Donate page which is unique to a non-profit. Then we’ve also got a Search field at the top because the Researchers especially would want to go right to the topic that their interested in. As would any of the other groups who will be using the site. So that’s the very top, top level of navigation, common to all websites.
Then underneath what we’re calling the “Banner Image,” which will be unique to each page, we got the main categories that are specific to the Conservancy. We’ve got “Programs” and “Events.” “Places” where people can go. “Resources” where people can do research and learn things. We’ve got a “Photo Gallery” and we’ve got the “News” which is the blog page, commonly known as the blog page on other websites.
So… we’re still in the process of populating each of these categories, but you can see how it’s beginning to shape up by hovering over any of the main categories. A person would come to the site can see what the Programs are, Current Events and Past Events, Places, Resources. The Photo Gallery will have its own page and be a chance to show current photographs. And then, as I mentioned the News will be the blog.
So that’s an important part of the top level of navigation. Another part, which is very important, is what goes on the Home page.
I’m going to go to the Homepage of the site by clicking on the logo. So, here we are on the Home page where we very quickly try to tell people what the Conservancy is about. Then we do that again, kind of quickly, but in a little more depth as a person scrolls down.
Then on the rest of the Homepage, we indicate what is the most current news and events and what is most important at the moment. So, at the moment, our Internship Programs are most important. And on a more long-term basis Volunteering is important, visiting the Nature Preserve is important, the “Healthy Parks & Healthy People,” the Proposed Visitor Center and Health & Safety Guidelines.
So… that’s all I’m going to talk about in this video. In the next video, we’ll talk about the 2nd level of organization and the different types of pages that are on this website.
It was a real pleasure to implement a level of planning that I often must abbreviate in the fast-paced, budget-restricted world of business projects.
There are other aspects of this project I plan to share in the future. I hope that this case study will serve readers of this article. You can let me know your thoughts on Twitter.