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Organize Content Based on Audience Needs

What It Is

Organizing content based on your audience’s needs is a best practice for managing your agency’s website. Your primary form of navigation should be one of the following:

  • by subject (topics, life events)
  • by task or service
  • by audience group
  • by geographic location
  • by any combination of these factors

Because navigation by organizational structure has traditionally been less effective for web users, you should use this as an alternative -- not primary -- form of navigation.

You should know your audiences and communicate with them regularly to analyze their wants and needs. Organize your content based on that feedback and other research.

Why It’s Important

  • Usability tests and customer satisfaction reviews indicate that most web visitors--both citizens and other audience groups--are familiar with navigating websites by subject, audience, or location.
  • Focus groups and other feedback indicate that citizens do not know--nor do they want to know--how the government is organized to get the information and services they want. Creating navigation according to organizational structure is not the best way to design a website for citizens.
  • If a federal website is available to anyone, then citizens--as a whole--are part of the audience and the website must be organized in ways that help them use it.

Specific Policy, Legal or Other Requirements for Doing This

This is a best practice, not a requirement. However, there are 3 sections of the OMB Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites that refer to the need to communicate with citizens to ensure you’re meeting their needs:

  • Section 1A: “disseminate information to the public in a timely, equitable, efficient and appropriate manner”
  • Section 2A: “maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information and services provided to the public”
  • Section 4A: “establish and maintain communications with members of the public and with State and local governments to ensure your agency creates information dissemination products meeting their respective needs.”

Organizing content by subject, audience or location -- or any combination of these factors -- can help you make your website more efficient, appropriate, and useful to the public. It shows that you’re communicating with your customers and listening to what they need.

How to Implement

  • Use a variety of ways to determine the best way to organize information for citizens and your other customers. See our getting to know your audience page for examples of how to do this.
  • Once you know your audiences’ preferred methods for navigating your site, you need to build an overall organizational structure for your site. This is sometimes referred to as a “taxonomy” or “information architecture.” [More resources on that topic will be coming soon].
  • Some federal public websites focus on special audiences, such as specific business partners or other government organizations. In those cases, using an organizational structure as a secondary navigation may be desirable – if those intended audiences are familiar with that structure.
  • Because audiences' needs change, testing and analysis should be an ongoing effort.





Many federal public websites follow this best practice. This practice is part of the guidelines and best practices published by the Interagency Committee on Government Information to aid agencies' implementation of OMB Policies for Public Websites.


Page Updated or Reviewed: December 14, 2005

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