This month, NIEHS launched an all new, user-friendly website for NIEHS Clinical Research studies(https://joinastudy.niehs.nih.gov/).
The new website reaches out to the general public with a simplified approach to discovering studies and signing up for information. “The CRU [Clinical Research Unit] has expanded the number of people we see and the type and complexity of the studies we conduct,” said Stavros Garantziotis, M.D., CRU medical director.
“It was a good time to expand communication with our participants and improve the website,” he added, “so that we could reach out to them and also share progress about the research they are participating in.”
To get to the new clinical research studies website, visitors to the NIEHS home page(https://www.niehs.nih.gov) may scroll to the bottom and click the green banner that reads “Join an NIEHS Study.” The website helps recruit volunteers for all NIEHS clinical studies now in progress, at both the CRU in North Carolina and the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Meeting communication need
CRU research has grown tremendously since the facility opened in 2009, which has increased the need for communication with potential volunteers and people already enrolled in clinical studies.
“We wanted to show people our communities and participants the exciting things we are doing,” said NIEHS Digital Design Manager Joe Poccia, who led the redesign project.
“To give them an immediate idea of our active studies, the home page has a section called Featured Studies, which offers a quick way to get visitors into a few studies and see what’s going on,” Poccia said. He added that moving the cursor over one of the Featured Studies boxes reveals a brief summary of the study and links to a page with more detail.
Design supports function
“This website is just one of the ways in which we are creating a strong identity for the CRU,” said NIEHS Clinical Director Janet Hall, M.D. “We wanted to make the site both clear and user-friendly.”
According to Poccia, NIEHS targeted potential study participants as the primary audience. So, the website provides needed information in plain language and resources in a single easy-access location.
“We wanted a design for potential participants that was visually appealing and easy to navigate,” said Poccia. “You can get the gist of the studies and also find out some standard, basic information on your role as a potential participant, your protections, where we’re located, and other practical elements.”
At the same time, visitors interested in more detailed scientific information can easily find it.
Making it real
The pages are also designed to impart a human face to the science, with lay-friendly explanations of the science and biographies of the researchers. “We wanted to be clear about what motivates us,” Garantziotis noted, “so people will understand the real-life repercussions of our research — that it’s not some abstract investigation, but has real-life and real-health effects.”
One way the website does this is with the story(https://joinastudy.niehs.nih.gov/your-role/stories/jeff-long/index.htm) of Jeff Long, Ph.D., an asthma study participant, who describes the value of taking part in a study.
The website will regularly post updates on the studies, as results and new scientific insights are published. “It will be a good way for the participants to see first-hand the fruit of their efforts — the results of their participation,” said Hall.
(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)