Just six years ago, Ward Rounds made a big change from black and white to four-color photography. This year with the transition to more online content, we felt we could benefit from another update to the magazine’s design. Responding to alumni feedback from a survey in the summer issue that content was hard to read, we decreased the story length, increased the size of the type, and added more white space overall, providing more room for visuals and different ways to help readers navigate through each story.
We also wanted to give the cover of the magazine a more contemporary look and feel. Retaining the magazine’s well recognized name – Ward Rounds – for the past 28 years was critical, but we changed the typeface and created a new masthead.
Illustrations haven’t been used as a design element in more than a year, but moving forward, we will add unique drawings as appropriate to make sure our approach stays fresh. We have introduced icons that indicate when there is additional content online – from Northwestern and outside media – and have added a navigation bar at the top of each two-page spread that names the magazine section. This same approach is repeated online.
Readers also told us that they would like more information about our students and their medical school lives and want to see more alumni news. We will incorporate more news about our students, and will work to include more alumni profiles, but to add more personal news, we need our graduates to submit more “Progress Notes.”
The number of individuals who access Ward Rounds online has continued to grow over the past year. Since we do not mail hard copies outside the United States due to postage costs, it is the one way our alumni and other interested parties living in other countries can stay updated on the school’s activities and progress. We have had individuals from 75 different countries access the magazine through the web. For the summer issue, we had 5,000 people view at least some of the Ward Rounds content online. The areas in which they seem most interested are the feature stories, Ward Rounds news, and the research briefs.
Many alumni told us they would access the online-only versions of the magazines two times a year, although others said they prefer to enjoy the experience of reading a print publication at home in a more leisurely setting. When asked what elements they’d like to see online, 55 percent asked for video and 25 percent for a blog. As a result, we will try to include video or audio podcasts in each issue and have launched our very own history blog (we need your help to name the blog), written by Special Collections librarian Ron Sims from the Galter Health Sciences Library. We hope you will respond to Ron’s posts and suggest ideas for future topics.
To make the magazine more interactive and to open a dialogue with alumni, we have provided opportunities for readers to comment on stories. We also offer an option for people to print or e-mail longer features for added convenience and an “enlarge text” button at the top of each article for easier reading. In addition, there will continue to be unique content online when there is a print issue.
We hope you will provide us with your feedback and suggestions as to how we can continue to improve the magazine content and design to better meet your needs.