Surprising "Other" Website Demographics

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

It’s considered an especially helpful Web practice to know who our audience is as we design and write Web pages. After all, a page about climate change intended for kids should be quite different from one prepared for the general public, and even more so for web content aimed at research scientists. Learning about the demographics of our readers isn’t easy: surveys are the only way to ask about age, occupation, education, location, technological savvy and the like, and even survey results can be dogged by sample bias and low response.

Somewhat related, if a bit less important, is a profile of the people who work on our website. As web content coordinator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional office, I host monthly meetings of our Web staff and work with these earnest, talented people on a variety of projects and processes. So, I’m in a position to know, at no cost to the taxpayers-just using eyes and ears-quite a bit about the group’s demographics. And if you’re guessing that our group is a bunch of geeky twenty-somethings, please guess again.

Here’s a sketch of our surprisingly (pardon the euphemism) “mature” Web committee members, the 15 people who develop and maintain our Web pages (but not the people who, much more occasionally, provide the content):

  • Nine are in their 40s and 50s, four are no longer that old, with one each still in his 20s and 30s.
  • Only five work almost entirely on the Web.
  • Eleven are EPA employees, two work for our IT support contractor, and two are members of EPA’s wonderful Senior Environmental Employment program.
  • Only one, or possibly two, learned about Web work in college; most made mid-career changes after many years of more traditional (EPA or non-government) jobs. (EPA is good about allowing and sometimes encouraging this change.)

Demographics don’t reveal all that counts, and I’m feeling confident that our “experienced” Web committee’s work will continue to excel as we focus on (a) refining and coordinating our content (Web 1.0) as we (b) improve our work processes (via a new Web content management system) and (c) bring the public more fully into EPA’s data and decisions (Web 2.0). More on these challenges in future Greenversations posts.