March 6, 2009

School of Medicine debuts revamped Web site

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The School of Medicine’s new Web site was designed with input from medical and graduate students.

School of Medicine debuts revamped Web site

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine recently launched a redesigned Web site with an updated look and more interactive features.

The redesign relied on the input and involvement of medical and graduate students to create the best user experience possible.

To view the site, go to

“We did a lot of research on the front end, including surveys and focus groups of current students and other site visitors,” said Lynne Hutchison, VUSM director of Communications. “Based on student advice, we added several social media features and completely overhauled the homepage and the admissions section, which by far gets the most traffic.”

Hutchison employed the talents of second-year medical student Brent McNew, VUSM student communications liaison, to coordinate the addition of social media tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The new site also features medical student blogs and videos.

“Current and prospective students want to use the Web site to see what kinds of activities and events are here for them,” McNew said. “They can see what students are saying about events on Facebook or go to YouTube to see videos from the Cadaver Ball.”

According to VUSM Web Manager Donna Schot, the school's Web site has grown from around 200,000 visits a month in 2004 to more than a million per month last year.
Schot realized the Vanderbilt site was heavy on medical student information and needed to give more attention to Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows.

“We addressed this in many ways,” she said. “For example, we were very careful to select photos that not only showed more of the different types of students, but also featured students interacting with faculty in our unique learning environments.”

The new design was created to showcase VUSM's well-known collegiality and student focus while still broadening audience appeal.

“The No. 1 viewer is the prospective medical student, which was expected, but we were surprised when our surveys showed many high school students come to the site,” said Schot. “Parents and friends of students also visit a lot. We wanted to improve the site to attract and involve each of these audiences.”

Search capabilities have been greatly enhanced as well. Other sections of the VUSM Web site are undergoing redesign and will roll out over the next several months, according to the amount of traffic each section receives.