Best Practices in Web Content Development – An Effective, Unexpected Approach from an Academic Medical Center

January 1, 2013

by Barbara S. Long, APR

Barbara S. LongWhen faced with a website design or redesign project, most Web teams start thinking about all the required components, such as architecture, design, photos, graphics, videos, back-end programming – and, oh yes, content. How often is old con- tent dumped into a new website without any additional thought? How often is unwieldy content posted on a website because no one stops to think about what the end user wants or needs?

In 2011, the Web services team at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore set upon a new Web strategy that focused on the end user. The team’s goal was to create a centralized, unified digital vision for the entire organization. This approach ran counter to Johns Hopkins’ Web culture. The existing umbrella site consisted of small, independent sites written, produced, and managed department by department. Much of the medical content was either licensed or developed by academics posting their complex research.

According to Aaron Watkins, director of e-strategy and Web services, “Our new vision is to truly serve all the stakeholders in our role as educators first and implementers second. We also want to build more customized content that is interesting for the user, using internal sources.”

Since Johns Hopkins is an academic medical center, Watkins says the team knew it needed to approach content and the Web team’s ability to centrally manage “good content” with an academic, research-based method. “We needed to gain internal acceptance,” he notes. Gaining acceptance meant “educating” physicians, faculty, and administrators that quality, clear content is important to achieving the organization’s educational and business goals.

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