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AVMA redesigns website to showcase content, boost interactivity
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The AVMA website has thousands upon thousands of pages of content, along with free member discussion boards, but many members are unfamiliar with the breadth and depth of the Association’s online resources.

Now the Association has redesigned to make it easier for members to find the information they want and to interact with other members and the AVMA. The new site went live Aug. 1, just in time for the AVMA Annual Convention in San Diego.

“It’s exciting to think about the ways that we can use it to better serve our members and the profession,” said Dr. Douglas G. Aspros, AVMA president. “Technology is where we all live these days.”

Phase one

The launch of the new website actually marks the completion of the first and longest phase of a full overhaul, with second and third phases to follow through early next year.

The AVMA Executive Board initiated the website redesign in 2009, with staff and contractors collaborating to rebuild the site from the bottom up. The board set aside $1 million to fund the project, but the final cost is not yet known.

We’ve done a lot of things here that members have asked for and that we think will be really helpful to them in their work. There is good content on the AVMA website, some of which is available to anyone and some of which is available only to members.

Kim Kishbaugh, head, Department of Electronic Communications, AVMA Communications Division

The Association has engaged members throughout the redesign, said Kim Kishbaugh, head of the Department of Electronic Communications in the Communications Division. The Association surveyed members about the website and followed up with focus groups, in addition to performing other research.

“We’ve done a lot of things here that members have asked for and that we think will be really helpful to them in their work,“ Kishbaugh said. “There is good content on the AVMA website, some of which is available to anyone and some of which is available only to members.”

Kishbaugh said the foundation of the new website is a new content management system to improve functionality and provide flexibility for future enhancements. A group of members participated in content-sorting exercises to help create the new site architecture atop the content management system.

“A big part of what we’re trying to do with this website is make it easier to connect our members with the information that they’re looking for,” Kishbaugh said.

The reconstruction of the website also involved a visual redesign and a painstaking migration of almost all the content from the old site to the new one.

One of the key features of the redesigned website is a new platform for discussion boards, Kishbaugh said. The AVMA has offered free member discussion boards for years, but the old platform was clunky.

“We have some members who just find enormous value in those discussion boards,” Kishbaugh said. “There’s a lot of clinical conversation that goes on there, and it’s members only, but I think we have lots of members who don’t even know that they’re there.”

The new platform for the discussion boards will allow members to interact more easily with one another and with AVMA staff and leadership, Kishbaugh said.

Another key feature of the new website is personalization for members, said Heather Jensen, head of the Marketing Department in the Communications Division.

Jensen said members can log on to the website and indicate the species, disciplines, and other topics of interest to them. Then, relevant items will appear on their home page. Members can remain logged in from visit to visit, and they have the option now of changing their password.

Kishbaugh noted that many visitors to the website access it via mobile devices. The new site offers a mobile display especially for small screens, with access to the same content.

Phases two and three

The second phase of the website redesign will run until the end of the year, while the third and final phase will be January through April 2013.

The second phase will include development of a new portal for members to submit comments on AVMA policies as well as a redesign of the member directory, direct links to discussion threads, and other enhancements.

The AVMA already solicits member comments on animal welfare policies and has invited comments recently on its strategic plan, model veterinary practice act, and euthanasia guidelines. The new portal will allow members to submit comments on most professional policies under review or development.

“The desire and commitment on the part of AVMA is to do this, is to engage this two-way dialogue,” Dr. Aspros said. “The Internet is a great way to send things out to people, but the real value is you can get things back from them.”

The third phase of the website redesign will include addition of a database of training and service opportunities that builds on existing databases as well as website polling and other features to be determined by feedback.

Jensen encouraged members to check out the new website.

“It really is a valuable resource for members,” Jensen said. “So we hope they take a few minutes to connect, discover, explore, and I think they’ll come back.”