University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

A Supportive Journey

Tablet view of Holden Cancer Center website

Being diagnosed with cancer is hard enough. When the University of Iowa decided to create a new website for their comprehensive cancer center, they knew they wanted to make finding information and accessing treatment the easiest part of the journey. 


The University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) is an academic medical center committed to excellent patient care, research and education. We began our work together to re-imagine, design and develop a new website for the Holden Comprehensive Cancer, which was housed within the UIHC website.


When the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center came to us, their site was buried within the greater University of Iowa Healthcare website and it was focused on the technical work that takes place around cancer treatment and research. We helped them bring the patient journey to the forefront and create a site that works for users. This began by moving the Cancer Center to its own URL:

Patient-centric Design

We focused on making information accessible to the user, both in layout and in content selection. Patients, caretakers, and loved ones are all supported by the resources and treatments offered at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, and so the website had to acknowledge each unique journey. Through this patient-centric approach, we highlighted how the center is not only a hospital, but is also a resource of information and support for patients.

Holden cancer center patient and spouse
Holden Cancer Center doctor
Holden Cancer Center research
Website pages of Holden Cancer Center
Verbal Search Functionality on Holden Cancer Center Website

Clear Access to Care

We worked to ensure that site visitors, no matter where they entered or what they were looking for, could seamlessly find other related topics. A mega-navigation created a simple and quick way for users to access key information and quickly navigate around the site. We also utilized smart search, fixed calls-to-action within the navigation and voice search to create an experience that is intuitive, helpful and accessible for all people who may be experiencing some of the toughest days of their lives.

Prototype view of Holden website

Two Teams are Better than One

This was an extremely collaborative partnership between the Almanac team and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center team. We started our work together with several group and individual interviews to help understand the many audiences and departments that are within the center’s structure. We then worked with the internal communications team to understand and organize their content, guided by an in-depth sitemap that outlined each of the user journeys. Together, we assessed our prototype through on-site user testing, ensuring the design worked for the intended audiences.

View of sitemap for Holden website
View of content management system for Holden website
Postcard promoting new Holden website

Strategic Launch

The new site signified a big change for both Holden and the University. It was built on a fresh, new strategy to engage patients and visitors, which had implications for how staff would interact with patients as well. It was crucial to ensure that staff were aware that the new site was coming, knew where information would live and that they were excited about the opportunities the new site brought to their work. We worked with the internal communications team to create and implement an internal communications strategy including: a series of sneak peak presentations into the site, purposeful and specific requests for feedback and additional content prior to launch. This encouraged ownership of the new site and capitalized on an exciting moment of change.

Poster promoting new Holden website
Email blast promoting new Holden website


Creating and managing a robust site like the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is not easy feat. However, through our partnership with the team at the Center, we were able to work together seamlessly to ensure our patient-centric approach worked well for the intended audiences. The team at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center was beside us for the entire ride, which ultimately created a site that was clear, focused and on-schedule throughout the entire process.


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