Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
AACOM Takes a Bold Step Forward with New Web Presence
As many of you may already know, AACOM launched a new website on November 4, after a long period of research and development. While the URL (www.aacom.org) is still the same, the site has a new look and feel, and also more clearly parallels our new strategic plan in terms of: 1) the audiences we are focusing on; 2) the framing of our strategic issues; and 3) our emphasis on increasing public awareness and advocacy efforts as long-term priorities.
After nearly eleven months of diligent work, we are pleased to unveil AACOM’s new website and invite you to explore its many features. Here’s a brief summary of what you can expect to find:
A “Responsive Design” that respects the growing trend of mobile device usage: Our new website is completely mobile-friendly so you can easily view it on any device - desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. The software takes care of adapting the screen size and orientation to whatever device you’re on. We felt this was particularly important given that prospective and existing medical students rely heavily on smartphones and tablets, and we wanted to make sure they could easily find us and our content on those devices.
Cleaner and easier navigation: It’s great to have a new look and feel, but if users can’t quickly find the information they’re looking for, we know by looking at “bounce rates” and other metrics that they will go elsewhere. We all want our information needs to be satisfied quickly, with minimal clicks, and that was our primary usability goal. New, drop down ‘mega’ menus and targeted audience sections make it easier to find the information you want.
A fresh, new look and dynamic visual brand: Our research clearly showed that our users wanted a fresher, cleaner, more vibrant look. In response, the new site has a clean, uncluttered design with more graphics, videos, and podcasts. As we refine our processes for curating this interactive content, we will be incorporating more video and audio files.
Enhanced content: Content is still “king”, so ours has been edited, enhanced, updated, and cross-posted throughout the site, to bring users timely, relevant, and easy-to-read information. A new content management system (CMS) with workflow and syndication options will make it easier for us to create and, in some cases, re-purpose existing content. It’s always a challenge to keep a large website up-to-date, so we intentionally selected a powerful CMS with options that will help our staff keep their content current. As we move forward with new strategic initiatives, we already have page templates ready to use in order to be able to create new pages quickly and with the same brand identity as existing content. Because more than 70 percent of our website’s visitors are prospective students, we are also committed to featuring more student-oriented content, such as the enhanced student profile section. We will also be integrating the new AACOM site with our Council of Student Government Presidents (COSGP) website, which will occur in early 2015.
Social media access: We have made significant strides in the last year in reaching and engaging influencers in the osteopathic medical community through social media, and we wanted to continue to improve on those results by making each page of our new website easily shareable in a wide variety of social platforms. Now, users can quickly share content of interest via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media, and can read AACOM’s current Twitter and Facebook postings in sections throughout the site.
‘Adding events’ to the Calendar of your choice: Visitors can now add events from our website directly to calendars in Outlook, Gmail, or iCal. This is an important way to make sure that the osteopathic medical community is focused on and committed to our touchpoint events, such as our Annual Conference, Hill Day, etc. Research shows that by making it easy for individuals to schedule AACOM event into their calendars, we are actually increasing the likelihood that they will attend.
Managing by measuring: With our new platform we have customized Google Analytics to provide us with a wider range of customized metrics reports to help us identify which content is most engaging to readers. We can also tell which information is not being viewed and make more intelligent editorial and design decisions based on those metrics.
Finding AACOM - the benefit of enhanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO): It’s no secret that Google is constantly innovating new ways for its search algorithms to ascertain the most relevant content in response to a search query. We wanted to make sure our new website takes advantage of the latest methods to maximize how our site shows up in Google and other search engines. Ultimately, it all comes down to relevant and frequent content, and powerful links to other relevant sites, both coming and going. Meta-tagging our site content is an ongoing process and will help with search engine optimization, but we also know it’s a process that changes constantly, so we are committed to monitoring and keeping up with best practices in search engine optimization.
AACOMmunities integration: Users can now log in just once and navigate seamlessly between AACOMmunities and the AACOM website:
- Check out your community discussions;
- Register for meetings; and
- Update your AACOM profile without having to log in twice, resulting in a more efficient and user-friendly experience.
Our Strategic Plan calls for us to collaborate both more broadly and more deeply in the future, and to provide opportunities for a multitude of voices to join in the dialogue that will help us accomplish our mission. This new website and continued improvement of social media strategies will enable us to achieve that.
At your convenience, please take a few minutes to explore www.aacom.org and let us know what you think. We hope you like it. If you would like to send us comments or questions, please address to Lisa Etienne, AACOM’s Manager of Digital Initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org.