MGH depression research website increases access to studies

Homepage of MGH Depression Clinical Research Program website

The MGH Depression Clinical & Research Program (DCRP) is a world leader in depression research. Its investigations have shaped depression treatment as it is known today, and current research is exploring innovative approaches like natural medication therapies and alternative therapies like yoga and low-field magnetic stimulation.

The Health Communication Core worked with DCRP researchers and staff to develop a website to enhance recruitment of study participants. DCRP typically recruits for an average of 10-20 studies at the same time. Depression research presents unique barriers to recruitment, including misconceptions about research, being unaware of one’s depression, and the characteristics of depression itself--lack of motivation coupled with feelings of hopelessness and difficulty taking action.

The website development process began with exploration of the program’s audiences and development of key messages that highlighted potential benefits of participating in depression research and addressed common barriers. These key messages informed subsequent development of the site’s content, colors, imagery, and organization.


Inside page of MGH Depression Clinical Research Program websiteGiven the audience and the issues they face, it was critical that the site’s graphic design quickly and effectively establish credibility with the audience and demonstrate an understanding of depression and its effects, while at the same time conveying hope.


HCC developed clear, simple, and concise content that can be easily scanned and offers multiple points of entry by visitors whose concentration, motivation, or level of engagement may be limited.

Site organization

Visitors may arrive at the new site in several ways--by conducting an online search for information about depression, responding to an ad about MGH depression research, or clicking through from a link on the main MGH site. Wherever they land on the site, prominent primary navigation provides them with one-click access to the information they are seeking. To make learning about research opportunities as easy as possible, “Contact us” is included in the primary navigation menu, and links to the page are included throughout the site’s content to facilitate potential participants taking this important step.


Studies page display options on MGH Depression Clinical Research Program website

Clicking on “Our Studies” provides visitors with a comprehensive list of all studies that are recruiting participants. Visitors can also view a subset of studies based on their interest, including type of treatment (medication, psychotherapy, natural/alternative therapies) or specific population (youth/college students, women, ethnic/cultural groups). Study description pages feature sidebars that provide easy access to similar research opportunities.

Mobile phone view of MGH Depression Clinical Research Program websiteThe site was formatted for optimal display on cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. After an online training, supported by HCC’s downloadable user guide, DCRP staff were able to quickly assume responsibility for keeping its roster of research opportunities up-to-date.