Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

The brutal truth about your audiences

A little while ago Wayne Rice contacted me about doing an extreme site makeover for his organization, Understanding Your Teenager. They provide seminars, books, curricula, articles, and more to help parents of teens and pre-teens. (Actually, this is their real purpose: “Our goal is to help teenagers by helping their parents.” Can you tell they’re former youth pastors?) I’ve long respected and appreciated their work and was jazzed to help!

Their old site was a good step up from a homemade look, but still pretty Frontpage-y. So, when Wayne and I sat down for lunch to discuss the project, we knew the site needed a new look, but it also needed better organization of content.

We talked through who his main audiences are. He was confident in his answer: parents and youth workers. Since the content for both was mostly different, I suggested we create a portal with paths to two different, but related, sites/sections. Wayne loved the idea and we were off!

In the course of the discovery process, I actually questioned Wayne’s narrow definition of “youth workers.” I wondered if it should be “church leaders,” thus opening it up to pastors, volunteers, etc. But Wayne knows his organization so well and knew that the vast majority of people who purchase their products and book their seminars are youth workers.

His insistence actually made the creative process easier as we could focus the look&feel and content on that one audience for that section.

Too many organizations want to be all things to all people. Unfortunately that usually waters down their effectiveness. We could all learn from Wayne’s focused approach.

The parent section was a slam dunk, since Wayne had so much great content. I think he’ll see growing traffic to this section as folks now more easily discover all the great resources contained there.

In terms of the design, Court Patton absolutely nailed the vision and vibe of UYT! He used colors from the existing UYT logo for the palettes in both sections. We wanted those two sections to be visually related, but not exact. I think I told Court something like, “They’re related, but more like half-brothers.”

We also created a calendar application for Wayne’s assistant, Sandy. She can now easily enter each seminar’s data into the tool and it displays, along with some totals at the bottom of the page. The nicest feature is that at midnight after the day of the seminar, it drops from the listing. (Way to go, Perry!)

Jase worked his usual magic with an adept, slender application of CSS, XHTML, and PHP in the development process. And Leslie jammed at populating all that content!

In my humble opinion, the new site just sings, in look, content, and code.


  1. Excellent stuff Mikey! I visted UYT today for the first time in a long time and then hit your blog. I shoulda known. ;-)
    Len    Thursday, May 19, 2005    #
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