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Faculty, Staff, and Students Contribute to Spectrum Website Launch

A case study for collaborative web development

July 2021

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year vastly changed the operating structure of Spectrum, Stanford’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research and Education. Led by PI and Director Dr. Ruth O’Hara, Stanford School of Medicine’s Senior Associate Dean of Research, Spectrum leadership quickly had to plan, implement, and roll out initiatives, systems, and information to address the needs of the CTSA team and its constituents in a virtual, remote environment.

The pandemic also brought to light the need for a more vibrant, welcoming, and informative website where Spectrum services and resources could be quickly obtained in the COVID-19 setting. In response, Dr. O’Hara submitted a proposal to NIH for funding to undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the existing site. The proposal was approved, the funds were awarded, and Dr. O’Hara’s Spectrum team set out to transform the existing website into a hub of up-to-date information where CTSA services and resources could be rapidly and easily found. The project also included the launch of a Spectrum e-newsletter to communicate activities and updates to key constituencies and end users.

Because of its extensive scope, a creative agency was hired to oversee the project: Contrast DesignWorks. The agency was selected because of its outstanding portfolio of work in and around Silicon Valley and because of its experience with Stanford School of Medicine and the AEM platform, having built the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign and Facilities Planning and Management sites.

Content Audit

To kick off the project, Dr. O’Hara asked Spectrum CTSA Executive Director Raj Prasad to pull together an internal working group of employees to partner with the agency: Katherine Connors, Marilyn Dion, Patricia Moussatche, Jessica Meyer, Suzanne Plattner, and Peg Tsao. The group began by conducting a thorough review of the site and determining what content would stay, what would go, what needed to be updated, and what should be added. 

Stakeholder Interviews

A crucial step in the development process was interviewing “stakeholders,” the key users of the site. The agency met with faculty, residents, research coordinators, clinical trial participants, School of Medicine staff, and members of Spectrum’s External Advisory Board to gather insights about how and why they use the site. Responses revealed that users found the existing site confusing and had difficulty locating the information they needed. Several expressed a desire for a “Search” function within the Spectrum site. Others sought to understand what a CTSA is and how Spectrum was related to other departments. The results of these interviews informed the overall content strategy and user experience strategy for the new site.

Site Map, Design, Development

From there, the working group collaborated with the agency as the agency team developed a new site map that detailed how all the pages on the site would best relate to each other, presented design options, and created content that reflected the breadth of Spectrum’s resources and services. Unique icons were designed to help guide users to the information being sought. Care was taken throughout the process to ensure that the site would render well on mobile devices as well as desktop computers.

Related Websites

Four additional Spectrum CTSA-related sites are also being revamped: the School of Medicine Biobank site, the Clinical and Translational Research Unit site, the Research Informatics Center site, and Stanford Data Science Resources site. Additional Spectrum-related sites will be updated as time and resources allow.


On July 2, the agency pushed the website live with support from the School of Medicine TDS team. This newsletter, Stanford Spectrum News, was electronically distributed to internal and external constituents on July 8, and going forward, it will be published quarterly.

We hope you enjoy this first issue of Stanford Spectrum News and invite you to peruse our new website. Please share your feedback on the website or the newsletter by emailing Marilyn Dion at mdion@stanford.edu.