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Wednesday
Dec092009

« Improved Communications: WSDA's new Web site »

Let’s face it: a web site is only as good as the information it contains and the architecture designed to move a visitor through it. If someone can’t find what they’re looking for, you might as well not have a site. Six months ago the WSDA set up an internal task force charged with making access to information on the site simple and intuitive. A complex chore, considering the volume of information the association needs to store and disseminate — “It’s a deep site, with vast stores of vital information,” said Kainoa Trotter, WSDA’s director of convention services, “And we weren’t looking to totally redesign it, just improve it enough to make it more user-friendly. Accessibility is everything in web design — beyond that, we needed to identify what people weren’t using and make a choice to either eliminate it or simplify the path to it.” 

To that end, a team was assembled from different departments at the Association - Zach Snyder (and Bracken Killpack before him) representing the legislative and regulatory end of things; Rob Bahnsen, from design and publications; and Trotter, who served as lead for the team. Together, they went through the existing site page by page — determining what should stay or be combined in with other areas, what should be moved to a place of more prominence and what should be removed. The key would be managing the information and making navigation easy and clear. 

Take it from the top:

The team knew the home page had to serve as a fulcrum for the rest of the site. Intuitive, stimulating, interesting, organic — but most of all it had to make sense. To start, they eliminated the splash page — now, you’ll get at the heart of the site with one click once you bookmark it. The original image of the dentist remains as a touchstone to members logging in, and serves as a place to sign up for new functionality: RSS feeds and Facebook memberships are here. At top, subtle changes to the nav bar will make things easier to find: WSDA News streamlines the old news and information into an area shared more easily by members and the public alike; and Consumer Information has become Public Info to make things easier for the general public to find. 

Front and center: color, movement, information… synergy!

The big change is in the center of the page - your new information resource. For the home page and each of the title pages, a box loaded with moving slides highlights top stories in vivid color. Look here first for breaking news, legislative and regulatory updates or top stories from the most recent issue of the News. We’ll update pertinent information to the top story areas on each title page as necessary, keeping you on top of your game. Just below the top story you’ll find quick links to key parts of the site – this information resource may change seasonally (for legislative information or another event, for instance), but it will always be a fast, easy resource for you. 

To the right, you’ll find a Members-only login that will take you directly to everything you’ve earned as a member: access to legislative session and advocacy reports, a new, online version of the WSDA News (more on this later), the membership directory and the new membership blog - a place for you and your peers to voice your opinion in real time about the issues facing organized dentistry today. Whether a neophyte or veteran blogger, you’ll want to go and experiment with this method of real-time peer-to-peer communication — it’s unexpurgated, fresh and vital, and promises to stimulate debate among members. 

In the center box is your key to the site - the expanded search function. Use it for instant access when you aren’t sure where to look and you’ll get a laundry list of every reference with the word or phrase you’re searching for.

Lastly, the fourth and final shaded box gives WSDA office contact info and a direct email link. If you’re not sure who to contact at the association offices, the info@wsda.org email address is a great place to start. 

Headline news for easy access

News junkies rejoice: the new site handles the hunger for immediate coverage with aplomb. WSDA Headlines serves as a clearing house for sample stories from the WSDA News, alerts of timely and critical legislative and regulatory issues, and anything else affecting our members and their practice. RSS feed availability means you can receive a notice every time information is posted to this section, deliverable to you at whatever email address you choose - even set it up to ping your smart phone if you want to stay really connected. Dentistry in the News is culled from news services and will include stories from local component societies and from around the country and will serve as an up-to-date source.

What’s New? What’s Better?

We’ve enhanced functionality throughout the site, but there are some areas where we’ve made a quantum leap in terms of improvement. Here are some of the highlights:

About us section:

Find peers in component society leadership roles two clicks from the home page. Organized by area, easy to access, and with live email links to those in leadership positions (when provided), communicating with colleagues throughout the state has never been easier. Also, contact information for the officers and board of the WSDA can be found here.

Need to talk with a WSDA staff member about advertising in the WSDA News or a regulatory issue but don’t know who the point person is at the WSDA office? We’ve made it simple and provided a live link to their email account. Connecting with the professional staff has never been easier.

Still not sure who you want to connect with? Use the “Contact” form to send a general message and we’ll route your mail to the correct person.

Membership section:

Not yet a member or simply want to review the many benefits of membership? The side nav bar houses all that information, with some redundancy built-in to the main slide area and small boxes below. To keep access just a click or two away, the membership directory is accessible by simply clicking on the box marked Membership Directory under the top story.

All members-only content is accessible from every page in the membership section, as well as from the members only log in on the home page. You’re our number one client, we want access to be easy! Just log in and you’re ready to go. 

Government Affairs:

Grassroots dentistry and governmental affairs are vitally important to the WSDA and organized dentistry, so we kept this portion of the site deep and informative, while streamlining access and building redundancy into the site to ensure you can get to the information you need. Whether you’re on the home page or in the Government Affairs section proper, you’ll find links to take you right to the legislative and regulatory action.

Your feedback is important, too, so we built in a comments section in the legislative agenda. Make your voice heard, hear what your peers are saying, and use the comments section to develop coalitions and find colleagues with the same legislative bent as you. This could be especially useful on Dental Action Day (see page 35) if you comment live from your smart phone while on campus, so bookmark it for immediacy.

In order to be effective, any legislative site needs to be content driven and simple to update, and this site is. David Hemion and Zach Snyder are wholly committed to keeping the site fresh and relevant, updating content as needed. This will be your key resource when you want to know what’s happening when the legislature is in session.

WSDA News

You’ll still get the WSDA News mailed to your home or office eight times a year, but now you’ll also have a virtual copy to rely on in case you need to access information, find an advertiser’s number or refer to an article you read. The virtual copy flips like a magazine, can be sized up and down, is searchable by page and topic and can be downloaded and printed. Better still, we’ll archive at least a year’s worth of publications here, so back issues will always be available. The online version includes live email/website links to many of your favorite advertisers, making access to their site even easier. Don’t forget, please let our advertisers know you saw them in the WSDA News!

Of course, classifieds are still published on the site, now in a journal mode that loads by date as well as by type. Want to find the newest ad for leasings? Just go to Office for Sale or Lease and the most recent ad automatically appears at the top of the listing section. Want to know about classifieds as they come online? Just sign up for the RSS feed and get a message sent to your email or mobile device - once you’re done, an RSS feed is simple to cancel, too.

PNDC pages: Exciting planning tool for your dental team

The enhanced functionality of the new site is showcased on the Pacific Northwest Dental Conference portion of the new site — where you can view lecture and workshop offerings by date, classification, instructor and user group — all with the click of a button. By default the schedule loads by date, but with a single click you can choose to view by event type, target audience, speaker or subject. Click on the course name for a complete explanation of the course, any prerequisites/required materials, instructor biography and learning objectives. Plan your day with peers, staff and colleagues with a few simple clicks. Then register your entire dental team online. As ever, your office will receive at least two copies of the printed official program, but now everyone can peruse at their own pace online.

For the public

While the WSDA site serves primarily as a service for our members, we’re also a vital resource to the public. To that end, we’ve maintained all the information and resources as in the past to ensure that the WSDA Web site is a robust tool for the public to use — whether trying to locate a dentist, searching for low cost dentistry, or explaining ethics and peer review. 

We’ve told you enough, now go try it!

Look around, kick some tires, get to know the site. We think you’re going to love the new look and feel, and we know you’re going to find it easier to navigate. We’d love to hear your comments about the site (use the blog!), and don’t be shy if you find an issue you think needs attention. We want you to be involved in making this site an incredible resource you use every day.