Techniques: Content discovery and audience mapping

This technique is all about discovering who your audiences are and what they need so you can map this to the content on your website. Doing this is a really important when creating user-led content.

One great way to get started with this is to run a content discovery workshop.

Get your sticky notes ready!

What is the purpose of a discovery workshop?

Content discovery workshops are a very useful stage in content design, the main purpose of these are to discover:

  • The audience/s for the website
  • The needs of these audiences – what do they need to do or know
  • What content could address the audiences needs
  • Business requirements for the website:
    • what messages do you want to communicate?
    • what is the tone of voice?
    • what is the overall strategy of the business (or department) and what part can the website play in communicating this?

Planning the workshop

A light and airy meeting room for a content discovery workshop
A light and airy meeting room for a content discovery workshop

Here are some tips for planning these:

  • Book a nice big room with good lighting, a whiteboard and AV facilities (screen and projector).
  • Allow plenty of time – around 2 hours is about right and will allow for a 10 minute break in the middle.
  • Try not to include too many people, around 5-10 is the optimum number. If you have more than that, consider running a second workshop.
  • Invite different types of people including:
    • Stakeholders
    • Subject matter experts
    • People responsible for editing the content on the website.
  • Book catering or bring water and snacks.
  • Get lots of different coloured sticky notes, as you will likely be moving things around as the session progresses.
  • Make sure you have a camera (or mobile phone) to capture the whiteboard work.

Delivering the session


You should begin by introducing yourself and, if appropriate, do a quick ’round the table’. You should outline the purpose and objectives of the session. You could also prepare a few slides to give a brief summary of the protect to date, including the outcomes of any audit work you have done or user feedback.

There are lots of different techniques you can do to capture information about your audiences and content requirements, but a nice simple and effective way is audience and content mapping.

Exercise: audience and content mapping

This process is quite similar to defining user stories. The main difference is that you are taking this a step further and starting to think about the type of content you will need to meet the acceptance criteria.

  1. On the whiteboard put 3 headings:
    • Audience
    • Needs
    • Content
  2. You should then ask the group to identify an audience group. This could be fairly high-level ones like staff or students, but can also be more granular like professional services staff or Faculty staff. Write this group on the whiteboard.
  3. Ask the group to list some of the needs of this audience. This could include information they need or commonly ask for, or tasks they need to complete. For example:  book a room or find out who to contact about a job vacancy. Try to steer the group away from thinking specifically about the web, as this could also cover telephone queries, emails or face to face interactions. Write each of these needs on a sticky note and put next to the audience group.
  4. Ask the group to think about some content that could address each of these needs. Examples could include A PDF of our policy document, a booking form for our rooms or a video of students who have taken this course. Write these on a different colour sticky note.
  5. Repeat this for all audience groups. Where the needs are the same or similar, ask the group if there are any differences to the approaches you would take for those audiences. You should aim for content that addresses as many audience groups as possible, rather than duplicate content
  6. Take a good photo of the whiteboard so you can use this to start planning your content

TIP: Record the sessions using a voice recorder or phone. This saves you having to write any notes. You should inform the attendees you are recording the session

Post it notes on a whiteboard for audience need and content mapping
Post it notes on a whiteboard for audience needs and content mapping


If you have time, you could also discuss other things that you feel are important planning the content. This will vary depending on the type of website, but could include:

  • What are your goals for the website?
  • What are the key messages you want to get across on the site?
  • What other communications channels do you use to disseminate content?

What’s next

While the session is fresh in your mind, write up your notes of the session and send this to the attendees. This is important so that you can clarify that you have understood everything correctly and also give them the opportunity to add anything else. You may want to have a further meeting with any of the attendees to get more details about anything they may have raised.

If you have run several sessions then it may be useful to combine your notes into one summary, which highlights some common themes.

You are now ready to start modelling your content.

Further reading

Need further advice?

If you are planning to run a workshop like this and want some further advice then get in touch.

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