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: http://xkcd.com/978/

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 UTHSCSA.edu, 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 moz.com 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 uthscsa.edu 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 ›

Dental patient care website goes live on July 1

[Update, 7/1/2014: The new UT Dentistry site is now live -- we invite you to explore, and submit your feedback as comments on this post or using the "Questions? Comments?" button above.]

WebLife’s biggest rollout of new web pages, to date, happens July 1, when the new dental patient care site goes live.

Translation for those who want to know what 50+ new web pages means to real people: On July 1, anyone looking for dental care will be able to easily learn about and find appointment information for the many clinics and services at UT Dentistry in a way that is user-friendly, engaging and informative.

Another change that coincides with the website relaunch: the Dental School’s recent official name change to UT Dentistry, for clinical purposes, and School of Dentistry, for all other purposes. You’ll see the new names throughout the new web pages.

The new web pages for the academics and research sections of the School of Dentistry are up next and will be launched in the coming months. But patient care took priority in the three-pronged attack on revamping the web presence for our dental brethren. Because patient care, academics and research have been separated into distinct sections, it enabled us to focus on the kinds of content and design choices that matter to those distinct audiences. Dental patients of UT Dentistry will now find: Read more ›


Photo options: Here’s looking at you

A 10-minute  presentation on effective ways to engage readers through photos has had a profound effect on the WebLife production team.

David Anderson, director of strategic digital communications at University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in an online seminar sponsored by Higher Ed Experts, told us to choose photos with people first and foremost (not beakers and faraway buildings). And get the subjects of the photos looking directly into the camera.

Boom. What a difference. Nancy Place, director of Creative Media Services at the Health Science Center, sent me this perfect example of what happens when an otherwise engaging subject in a photo turns to face the camera. This photo was taken by Lester Rosebrock, our university photographer. “This happened organically during the shoot, but speaks to the point being made in the blog about having subjects look at the camera,” Nancy told me after I wrote about Anderson’s presentation last month.

Two photos of a woman in a lab. Woman on right is making eye contact with camera

The photo on the left shows the subject focusing on her work, which is interesting, but watch how your connection to the subject changes when she’s looking straight at the camera.

Would this type of pose work in a newspaper article? No, of course. Photojournalism aims to capture a moment in time and the photographs in the news are intended to make us feel as if the subject of the photo is just going about his or her business, unaware of the camera. Read more ›

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How DrupalCon 2014 will help WebLife

Hello Drupal! It was pleasure to make your acquaintance at this years’ 2014 DrupalCon conference in Austin, Texas. DrupalCon is an exciting whirlwind of events, providing educational and networking opportunities for people who use Drupal’s content management system (CMS). This is important to us at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and especially at WebLife because Drupal is the CMS behind our new redesigned webpages. At DrupalCon, I learned new ways to use Drupal and some best practices to assist us in providing awesome websites for the university overall.

In particular, I learned a lot about search engine optimization (SEO) and content strategy.  Probably the most useful information I learned came from talking to other companies or other universities about their experiences working in Drupal. Often, they learned lessons through trial and error or just because they had to evolve with the web.  One thing I learned is to get as many people as I can to look at Google Analytics, which reveal the statistics about visitors to a website and what those visitors are reading or doing once they get to the website. The more people engaged with our analytics, the more people will be attentive to the content that their visitors are seeing. One company showed us a blog post they created on stats and graphs related to website traffic. I plan to report on this kind of information for the Health Science Center. Read more ›

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Thinking about accessibility on our web pages

A few days ago I was casually speaking with a co-worker and noticed she was left handed.  I commented on it and she proceeded to tell me how some things are challenging for left-handed people.  For example, most tools, string instruments, computer keyboards and even scissors, to name a few, are designed for right-handed people.  As a right-handed person I realized I have taken many of things for granted.  This brought “websites” to mind.  Allow me to make the analogy of a right-handed person being equal to a sighted person and a non-right-handed person being equal to a blind or partially-sighted person.  Most sighted people can navigate a website.  They can experience the website simply by looking at it (i.e., images, colors, words, etc.).  It is quite a bit more difficult for a blind or partially-sighted person to navigate the site without the use of magnifiers or special/assistive technology.

If you’re a sighted person, close your eyes and try to attempt to mimic a blind person by reading this blog post.  Huh?  Exactly. I know it would be challenging for me.  I’ve never had to use special/assistive technology to navigate a web page. If I had to start now, I would probably give up in frustration. Read more ›


Analytics coming into focus

[Thanks to WebLife's Analytics & SEO Team Lead, Cynthia Rodriguez, for her collaboration on this blog post.]

Did you happen to read the “Shedding pounds, gaining life” feature story on a weight-loss surgery patient in the Our Stories section of the website recently? If so, you were one of 961 visitors to do so since April 1.

You probably don’t remember how long it took to read that story, but we know that readers have been spending an average of 3 minutes, 44 seconds on that page. That’s a useful statistic for us at WebLife, as it shows readers are sticking around to digest the information.

Statistics like those on the Our Stories features are providing some great information as to the behavior of our readers since the new pages have gone live. The “Our Stories” landing page, aka the home base for those feature stories, has had 2,020 visitors, with a bounce rate of only 39.70 percent and an exit rate of 22.87 percent.

Bounce rate means the percentage of people who came to a web page and then left before visiting a second page.

Exit rate measures the reader’s last stop on the site.

Low bounce and exit rates indicate how many readers actually did stay engaged and clicked on other pages.

Our statistics show that the vast majority of visitors on that Our Stories landing page get drawn into one or more of the stories, which is exactly the behavior we want.

Read more ›

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