Surrounding cancer patients with support and answers: The CTRC’s new website

UPDATE: The site is live! Click here to go to the new CTRC home page.

Warm and inviting. Focused on patients. Committed to cutting-edge research and clinical trials.

Those qualities describe what cancer patients and their families find every day at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center. So when the WebLife team started the redesign of the CTRC website last fall, we knew we had to build a website that conveyed all those elements, too.

Cancer Therapy Research Center CTRC website

Home page of the new Cancer Therapy & Research Center website.

The website goes live on June 2. Prospective patients are the primary target audience and some highlights of the new site include:

  • Detailed information on dozens of types of cancer, with specifics on the types of treatments available at the CTRC.
  • Quick access to details on available clinical trials.
  • Information on wellness and support programs, which helps illustrate the CTRC’s commitment to serving the physical and emotional needs of patients and families.

Read more ›

Amplifying our story on social media

The university’s website redesign is, of course, the primary focus of the WebLife team, but improving the Health Science Center’s reach on social media has always been part of the plan, too.

NewCity, the agency that advised us on the website redesign, also helped our team with some good advice for boosting our presence on social media. That’s because social media matters when it comes to communicating with students and the community. And while many, many social media accounts have existed for years on campus, NewCity noted that our social media presence can appear unstructured and fractured because of the large numbers of accounts maintained by different groups and departments.

The Office of Communications already maintains an account on Facebook and  on Twitter. Those accounts serve as what has been called the “front door” for the university on social media because the messages and photos posted on those accounts give general university news and events in a way that is meant to appeal to a lot of audiences.

It took quite a few months of planning and thinking, but we’ve got some news to report on the campus social media landscape beyond the front door.

Allow me to introduce standout, the student-focused social media presence,

standout, the student-focused social media channel for the Health Science Center.

and Healthful, a wellness-focused social media presence.

Healthful, the Health Science Center's new wellness focused social media channel.

Healthful and standout are both on Facebook and Twitter and both have WordPress blogs set up to support original stories and other content that will be sent to Facebook and Twitter. Read more ›

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School of Dentistry Research: The third frontier of WebLife’s redesign

UPDATE: The site is now live! We welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments section.

We’re seeing web-page creation through teal-colored glasses in these final days before our latest launch: A new website section featuring the work of researchers from the School of Dentistry. The site goes live Nov. 19.

A peek at the home page for the new School of Dentistry research page.

A peek at the home page for the new School of Dentistry research page.

I mention the color teal because teal represents research in our home page’s color scheme and this is our first research-focused site. Any future sites with a research focus will have teal backgrounds, too. (We use purple for patient-care pages and blue for academics pages.)

Why am I boring you with details about a website color scheme, you ask? Because getting to the point that we’re using the color teal means we’ve reached a bit of a milestone at WebLife. With the completion of this research-focused site, we have now launched sites representing each of three missions of the Health Science Center: patient care, academics and research. (Community outreach is another important mission, too.) Our work is now repeatable and the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve built web pages for the School of Dentistry and UT Dentistry will be put to use future launches until we have a cohesive look throughout the university’s website.

You’re probably also wondering what I mean when I say we’re launching a “research-focused site”. We approached it as a kind of an online annual report that focuses specifically on the research work that goes on at the School of Dentistry. Our target audience differs from the new dental patients we hoped to attract with the new UT Dentistry website and the prospective students we spoke to on the pages of the School of Dentistry’s new site. The research site is aimed at other researchers, current and potential funders, students who might want to come here to conduct research and others who want detailed information about the discoveries and work that goes on here. We’re telling the story by explaining research projects, giving bios on researchers and linking to more information on patents, clinical trials and other information. Read more ›

Reaching those “right fit” students: The new School of Dentistry website

We’re just days away from the launch (Thursday, Oct. 9,  is the date, to be exact) of the new School of Dentistry site. We’ve had feedback from lots of faculty members, students and staff as we’ve tweaked and tested the new site, and it’s finally ready for all to see. As I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks back, the target audience for the new website is prospective students, of course, and the pages have helpful, specific information to help prospects decide if the Health Science Center is a good fit. We’ve also brought quite a few students on board to tell prospective students their own views on the school and explain why they themselves chose the Health Science Center. Several are featured in a video that appears at the top of the home page of the new site, and I can’t imagine a better way to get our message across than through the voices of the students themselves.

(If you are having trouble viewing the video below, click here instead.)

The video nails the message we are trying to convey, but it’s just one part of a site with 70+ pages and a lot of behind-the-scenes machinery at work. We’re ready to start measuring the traffic carefully so that we’re sure we’re meeting the recruitment goals of the site. And we’ll keep adding and tweaking to make the site even better. For now, here are some of the biggest achievements you’ll see when the site goes live: Read more ›


School of Dentistry: It’s your turn

Just a couple of months ago, WebLife team members celebrated the first full-on launch of a complete site when we pulled back the curtains on the new patient-care site for UT Dentistry. We’ve learned plenty and we’ve stayed with dentistry for our next launch: the new School of Dentistry website, set to go live very soon. While new dental patients were the target audience for the UT Dentistry relaunch, we’ve focused squarely on prospective and current dental students with this new site. (Dental researchers and their projects are on track for our next site launch, which will happen later this year.)

I’ll have more details on the dates and other particulars about the new academics site next week on the blog, but I’m excited to preview some of the new site features for you now. The consultants at NewCity, a Virginia-based agency that is behind the design and audience research for the School of Dentistry site, tapped into some important information about prospective and current students when they started working on plans for the new School of Dentistry site last winter. Yes, the school’s great reputation is well-known, but NewCity advised us to focus on the “good fit” student when we worked on the new site.

Sky-high test scores and college grades will open doors to lots of dental schools, and the UT Health Science Center definitely looks for and attracts those top students. But what makes the Health Science Center appealing to prospective students nationwide, who often have many top schools from which to choose? Audience research found that prospective dental students who came to San Antonio to visit and interview found our campus friendly and welcoming. These students thought our programs were competitive, but they also felt that the atmosphere was supportive and collegial.

School of Dentistry new website sample of testimonial

Students tell our story best. Over and over, we found students in the School of Dentistry who were glad to say how welcoming and friendly they found the School of Dentistry to be and how pleased they are to be here. It’s a message that matters to prospective students.

Read more ›


Of course it is true. I read it on the Internet.

When State Farm starts lampooning the trustworthiness of the Internet, you know you are in trouble.

Xkcd citations truth truthy content

xkcd sums up how accurate content can be on the Internet. Source:

I’d like to believe that readers are savvier about information than we think. The truth is, it can be very hard to know what is truth versus what is truthy.

On every new webpage created within, we research to find and produce the most up-to-date information.

We call upon program directors, faculty members, student services staff and support staff as we are writing new web pages and we ask them to double-check our information. We are checking everything:  coursework and clinicials; how to pay; where to go; insurances and credit cards we accept; and double-check the processes we have listed. Read more ›

Highlighting our product: The goal of academic program pages

This week on the WebLife project, we are buildingbuildingbuilding the pages for the School of Dentistry’s new academics site. The site is set to go live in September and we’re on schedule and feeling good about the way the site is coming together. As we make decisions daily about wording, pictures, statistics and links, we are keeping in mind the question we know prospective students are asking when they look around at dental schools around the country: Is this school a good fit for me?

Prospective students are looking at price, competitiveness, career prospects upon graduation (and many other factors, of course) when they check out a college or university’s website. And while we tell the story of the Health Science Center on our website, we must not lose sight of the fact that the prospective student is looking for the story of “me” within the site. Prospective students, often, are going straight to information about the program to which the student might apply.

And that’s why individual academic programs are getting the most (virtual) real estate on the new site. The bulk of the new Web pages, in fact, will either be about specific programs or have information that gives prospective students the details they need to decide if a program is good fit.

A recent webinar by Doug Gapinski, a strategist at mStoner, an agency that helps higher education, validated the plans we have for the School of Dentistry academics website. Just as soup is the product Campbell's is selling, academic programs are the product we're offering to prospective students at the Health Science Center.

A recent webinar by Doug Gapinski, a strategist at mStoner, an agency that helps higher education, validated the plans we have for the School of Dentistry academics website. Just as soup is the product Campbell’s is selling, academic programs are the product we’re offering to prospective students at the Health Science Center.

Read more ›


Carefully chosen words: Web writing matters

Short. To the point. Write the necessary information.

That’s the goal of web content writers. We are not out to write the Great American Novel (OK, well, some of us are, but we do that on our own time). We write content that readers can scan quickly, then determine if they should click to the next page for the more detailed information.

We synthesize and summarize.

It might seem like some of the newer pages on the Health Science Center’s site are written at Dick and Jane reader-level, rather than Ulysses-reader level. There is a method to our madness.

More than two decades of research is available that show how readers interact with text on print, Web, smartphone and tablet platforms. The Poynter Institute — a professional development institute dedicated to teaching journalists and media leaders — released its first eyetrack study in 1991, when the Internet was a mere Gopher-linked protocol for instant messages and chat rooms.

In its most recent eyetrack research, the data has stayed consistent cross-platform: Readers scan top-level pages for information. If a reader wants more information, he or she will click through to the details.

That means website copy must be well-written and concise. Shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs and bullet points are key to keeping eyeballs on the screen. Read more ›

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Engagement is the key word: View from Auburn University

Scott Waters is the newest member of the WebLife team. He’s a full-time employee and holds the title of web content producer, a new job title at the university, and it means he writes, edits and does whatever it takes to get quality content on the redesigned HSC web pages. (Writing for the upcoming new School of Dentistry Academics website has kept Scott and the rest of the writing team busy for the past couple of weeks.) Scott came to us from Auburn University, where he was a digital content producer for the College of Liberal Arts.

Scott Waters, web content producer at the Health Science Center and a member of the WebLife team.

Scott Waters, web content producer at the Health Science Center and a member of the WebLife team.

I asked Scott to share some of the lessons he learned at Auburn about audiences in the digital era and some of the advice he got there that he will bring to his job here. Despite the differences between Auburn and HSC in terms of the location and types of students, I wasn’t surprised to hear that the mantra for web communications at Auburn matches our mission at WebLife: Engage, engage, engage.

Here’s Scott:

“I was responsible for overseeing the college’s multimedia communication strategies including video, audio, and social media.  It was one of the largest colleges on campus (12 departments and one school).  My particular team worked for the Dean’s Office of External Affairs, so we not only communicated and strategized within our group, but we also worked closely with development and the dean (Dr. Joe Aistrup).

Working at Auburn University was my first instance of working in higher education.  I came from a post-production house in Atlanta, where we worked with ad agencies (Ford & Coke, to name a few).  I feel like I found my best fit in a college setting, though.” Read more ›

Share and share alike: Facebook’s boost to the new web pages

[with assistance from Cynthia Rodriguez, the HSC’s SEO specialist]

Hundreds of people are stumbling upon Our Stories features from the HSC website without even going to the website first.

Thank you, Facebook and Twitter.

Social sharing of all aspects of the new website, including the Our Stories features and the new dental pages, is something we’re watching closely because we know social sharing is an important part of online behavior. It’s one of the ways we’re measuring success for the new web redesign.

Digital marketing is a big focus of my job, but even I was surprised when I read a study recently that showed the average American between the ages of 18-64 spends two to three hours per day on social networks. Social sharing matters tremendously when you think about goals for web content.

We at the HSC are part of that conversation on social networks and we know it’s important to see our presence to grow. An excellent blog post by Bridget Randolf on described why businesses must be part of conversations in a way that is not selling or pushing a brand. Traditional marketing is still important, but social sharing allows universities like ours to show who we are and interact with the public in a way we never did 20+ years ago.

To encourage sharing on social networks, you must have something to share, of course. Take, for example, the Our Stories feature on Amy Yu, called “Recognized Potential”.  The story was posted on our website on April 14. Since then, 970 visitors have clicked on the link to read the story. Of those 970 clicks, 385 came from Facebook. Facebook has been the biggest driver to that story, compared to 201 people who found the story by visiting the Our Stories web page, 253 readers who found the story after clicking around the website first and 131 visitors who came to Amy Yu’s story via a Google search (which is also a gratifying statistic to see). Read more ›

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