Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
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Plan Your Site

Before your start setting up your website or writing your content, take the time to think about these big-picture topics.

Identify Your Audience

Spend some time defining your priority audiences. The Feinberg website is primarily focused on education and research, so your student, faculty and researcher audiences are likely to be your top audiences.

Though patients are not one of your site’s key audiences, you should include a Patient Care page to direct them to the correct resources, should a search take them to your page.

Set Your Priorities

Consider which key messages you want to convey. A primary message is the single most important point you want to get across to your audience. Secondary messages are key points that support and contextualize the primary message and may be audience-specific.

Example: You are a department chair creating content for your public-facing website. Prospective interns are your primary audience. Your message hierarchy might be as follows:

Primary Message: Our department offers students access to experienced faculty physicians, exceptional research facilities and unique educational experiences in patient care.

Secondary Messages:

  • Our faculty members have ties to national and international research communities.
  • Our faculty members have extensive experience in the academic medical centers environment.
  • Our diverse and high-volume patient care facilities offer students real-world experience that is unique to any other academic medical center in the country.
  • Our research facilities have cutting-edge technology.

These primary and secondary messages do not necessarily become content you’ll see on your finished site, but you’ll use them to guide the subject matter and voice of the content you generate. When you clarify and develop your messages, a clear understanding of content goals emerges. When goals are in place, you can better focus your writing efforts and organize your site.

Assess the Content You Already Have

When writing or editing your content, ask yourself these important questions.

Is the content accurate? Information should be complete and up-to-date. You can have a beautiful, easy-to-navigate site, but if the information is incorrect, the user experience is ruined.

What is the content’s purpose? Does it do one or more of the following?

  • Persuade: get the user to make a decision in your favor (e.g., attend an event or apply for a program)
  • Inform: give information on a specific topic (e.g., recent discoveries in pediatric rheumatology research)
  • Validate: provide facts (e.g., dates, definitions)
  • Instruct: teach the user how to perform a task (e.g., submit a form)

Does this content support my messaging goals? Look back at what you want your audience to know; if this information doesn’t fit those goals, it probably doesn’t need to be there.

Is this information my audience needs? Avoid including “nice to have” content that adds to the volume of information that users have to navigate to get the information they need.

Does it have the right voice and tone? And do the voice and tone of the content align with other communications you have with your audience? Feinberg’s voice is defined as sophisticated, distinguished, progressive, smart, research-oriented, professional, bold, clean and refined.

Who owns it? Do you control the content? Might it change without you knowing? This can impact your user’s experience.

What is its priority? Is the content required for legal purposes? Does it generate revenue or participation? Which audiences will it reach and how big is the audience? Will the audience find it interesting now and in the future? Is it unique to this site?  

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