Speaking of success… One of our many success stories is our partnership with Emory University School of Medicine (SOM).
NewCity’s collaboration with Emory University SOM began in 2017, and we noticed one thing early on: they’re a small team, but they get the job done — and done the right way. Jen King, Director of Communications, and Elizabeth Thompson, Senior Associate Director, Digital Projects and Communications, made this initiative a success with their dedication, hard work, and emphasis on research.
As we came close to launching the Emory SOM website redesign, it became clear that there were a number of things we could help them with in an ongoing, phased approach. Our work together has progressed through 9 total phases since then, and we continue to consult with Elizabeth and Jen in an iterative way.
Recently, Elizabeth and I talked about her experience with NewCity as a long-term partner.
Q: Tell me about your role at Emory SOM. A: My title is Senior Associate Director, Digital Projects and Communications. We have a super small team of only two people! The office is still relatively young. It’s been in place for three years, and my role is primarily focused on the website and intranet.
Because we have such a small team, we also work on content creation for special events (commencement, White Coat ceremony, Match Day). We work closely with social media folks in central communications, and also act as liaison with all 28 SOM departments. Over half of those departments have a communications person, so we create best practices, resources, and also help departments with migration to the new web template after redesign.
Q: Why did you initially choose NewCity as a partner for your website redesign? A: There were a bunch of reasons… and also just a feeling. NewCity’s case studies were very attractive, and built into the proposal so it was easy to see the work you had done in the past. We checked references, and they were all great. I can still remember talking to those references, and what they shared is the exact experience I had with NewCity: great proposal, great presentation, and great value.
Q: As we know, websites are never “finished” at launch. What was it that prompted your interest in an ongoing collaboration with NewCity? A: The website is a living, breathing entity that is always changing, and we’re a small team that needs some support. We have assistance at the central University level, but they have a lot of other responsibilities as well. Because we wanted to incrementally improve the site, we needed more help, and NewCity continues to fill those gaps as a resource for us.
Q: Did you remember talking with us in the early stages of your redesign about ongoing improvements post-launch? A: I remember talking briefly about ongoing services on a smaller scale — maybe 15 hours or so post-launch, following our initial testing and improvement period. We certainly didn’t imagine we would be putting together 3-month engagements for more than two years!
Q: What has your post-launch experience been like with NewCity’s Ongoing Services team? A: In one word: support. I feel supported post-launch. Whether it’s a basic question in an area I don’t have expertise in, or usability or navigation testing — we always have someone we can go to at NewCity to talk through an idea.
Q: Have you measured the success/performance of the new site? If so, what measurable outcomes have you noticed? What has been most significant? A: Overall, the sessions continue to rise. The use of the intranet was surprising. Especially now (during the pandemic and remote work) all the departments have relied much more heavily on this tool than we ever thought. What impressed me, month-to-month, is the discovery and research work we did more than 2 years ago is still proven, over and over. All of the information is still lasting and still true — especially around programs and admissions.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges post-launch? A: Everyone thinks the site is beautiful, but there has been some push back around our content and navigational choices. NewCity helped us to explain these choices to our users and stakeholders, and also completed user testing that helped us make improvements and back up the decisions we made. We have the tools now (like our pattern library) to build a site that is really wel- designed and easy to use, even for those who don’t have as much experience working in a content management system.
Q: What are your thoughts on the 3-month retainer engagements offered by NewCity’s Ongoing Services team? A: With ever-changing strategic initiatives, our 3-month retainer agreements have given us a lot of flexibility. We’re able to create a statement of work as a starting point, but we can make changes as needed to improve and meet the current needs of SOM and our internal and external audiences.
Q: What have we done right that keeps Emory coming back for ongoing engagements? A: NewCity offers suggestions we didn’t even know existed! It’s like you have full institutional knowledge about us and our departments. Training sessions on how to use the pattern library were very well received, and people continue to go back to those and continue learning. User testing and recommendations at the school and department level, and information architecture recommendations have been very helpful for high-level pages, along with analytics training and Google Data Studio dashboards for each department.
NewCity makes it easy for us to keep working together. Overall, we are most impressed by the quality of the work NewCity does with our team. We really appreciate the analytics support, and Jen (King) really appreciates anything on the strategy side. That includes NewCity’s help with information architecture, content strategy, and copywriting — areas that we need support in and can share with our departments. The strategy work is highly valued, and I’m happy to be able to offer something like that. Most important, it’s all wrapped up in project management so the process is easy, and gives us realistic expectations around how long things will take.
Q: Would you recommend working with NewCity as an ongoing partnership, and why? A: Definitely! I have recommended NewCity for redesign work and ongoing services work. Even if you don’t have someone who can immediately help meet our needs, you’re always able to find a resource. NewCity always goes above and beyond.
“I’m not sure how we would have made all the accomplishments we’ve made without NewCity, if we didn’t have their support. The knowledge NewCity has from the discovery and redesign and can apply to our ongoing services engagements has been invaluable.”