Print: Section 2.1

Write Actionable Content

2.1 Identify user motivations and goals. Why are they here?

Motivation drives the search for health information and influences users’ performance on a website.32,33 Understanding users’ motivations will help you write actionable, targeted health content to meet your audience’s information needs and expectations.

Users want the answer to a question.

Keep in mind that most web users have a specific goal in mind. Usually, they’re trying to answer a question.7,8, 24 Conduct research with your users to find out what that question is—ask them what they want to know. Then decide on the best way to give them that information.

You can get basic information about your users online.

The best way to understand users’ motivations is to talk to them, but you may be able to find some of the basics about an audience—like demographic information—online. (Learn more about how to conduct research with users with limited literacy skills in section 6.)

For example, ODPHP’s research identified several common motivations for users who seek online health information. From this research, we know that many users go to the web to:

  • Learn about a health problem affecting them or someone they know
  • Find out whether they have a health problem or reason to be concerned
  • Learn how to prevent health problems32,33
Try this

Use this resource from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a starting place the next time you’re creating or revising a website. You’ll find audience profiles for public health communication work based on demographic data.

Expect users’ motivations to change.

Studies have also found that what’s driving your users tends to shift—often frequently.24 With that in mind, make sure your content meets the different goals users may have for seeking health information.

The formula below was developed based on the motivations of users with limited literacy skills. It’s designed to move users from “I want some information about a topic” to “I want to do something about it.”

Follow this proven formula for presenting health promotion information:

  • Describe the health behavior
  • Describe the benefits of taking action
  • Provide specific action steps

“Get my attention. Then get to the point.