Clinical Trial Websites: Challenging the Status Quo

Citeline Connect

October 8, 2018

OCTOBER 8, 2018

In this TrialScope Q&A, Chief Marketing Officer Naor Chazan discusses the current state of clinical trial websites with two user experience experts. See how pharmaceutical sponsors can implement digital best practices and principles of good design to boost transparency and patient engagement efforts.

Naor Chazan, Chief Marketing Officer, TrialScope: What’s the single, dominant theme you’re seeing when it comes to digital usability?

David Danilowicz, Creative Director, MRM//McCann:The biggest theme is the mobile-first approach. So the thing is everybody is moving to the mobile devices, whether you’re on a phone, or a tablet of some sort, and with the different sizes we want to make sure that the content that we design and deliver works on the device that you have. 

Lissa Richards, Director of Experience Strategy, Red Privet:I think across the board, we’re seeing a tipping point where more than 50% of traffic these days is coming from mobile devices. So for us, it’s really as a design team,changing the context of what is your default that you start designing with. Our team’s full of designers and developers who are used to thinking about the desktop first. And you start sketching, you start concepting, and you’re drawing something that fits on a big screen, and there’s so much space. And it really has taken us a lot of discipline as a team to shift that, and start with the default context as mobile. 

Naor: For a lot of clinical trial websites, the default user experience is sending the visitor to a government trial registry site to learn more about that sponsor’s clinical trials. Though these public registries play an important role, they’re still another completely different website, and a different experience that the sponsor can’t control. What are the risks of this approach? 

David: When you push people off your site, you kind of tend to drop them off as a customer, so to speak. Because you have a brand experience, and then you link them to an outside site and it looks totally different. It’s disconnected. [As a visitor] you may not know that you’re in the place that you need to be. This is a little bit confusing. So it becomes disjointed. We want to keep everything within the brand site if we can. But keep [them] there, keep it relevant to what the trial is, get them to the information they need, and then hopefully get them to sign up fairly quickly and easily. 

Lissa: Well, from the business side of it, sending people out to other websites, you lose control of that experience. Thinking about the context that people are in, I’m dealing with something — a medical condition or an episode of care — that’s scary, and I’m trying to find any way possible to make myself improve my chances, or feel better. And that’s a real tough time. I talked to a patient once whose son had a very complex medical condition. And she referred to the management of that as if she was a general contractor,because she had to go here, and here, and here,and talk to this person, and this person,and bring that all together. And she talked about how overwhelming that was. And on that particular project, which was a health system website, one of our main principles was, let’s connect the dots for people, bring everything together in one place about a given condition. That includes clinical trial information, information about the condition, what support groups the hospital might have, and the doctors. Putting that all in one place so that that mom doesn’t have to go looking for it.  You want to get someone to sign up [for a clinical trial], and you’re going to risk leaving that whole process up to a government website that you have no ability to impact or optimize.So the method of conversion of phone number, or the link to click to sign up, is hopefully prioritized on the [Sponsor’s] site, made very obvious to the user. I don’t have to wonder about how I proceed. Any time you have that choice in front of someone, or lack of clarity on how to proceed, you’re going to lose people. And if you’re sending someone to a federal website,the action’s not there, and you don’t control it.  

Naor: How important is the usability of SEARCH FUNCTIONALITY when we’re talking about a website for finding clinical trial information? 

David: That’s one of the most important things there, especially with a [clinical trial] site like that, because there’s so much on that website. And we can do the search functionality, simple as the contextual search. As you start typing, it will start pre-populating what it is that you’re actually looking for, and narrowing it down to where you need to be.  

Naor: What about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the benefits of keeping the trial information accessible on your own clinical trial website?

David: So the search is key, as well as what I call SEO components. So if our site’s set up correctly on the back end, with SEO and metatagging, we’re able to find that information,hopefully get us to the site or the page that we need to based off of that organic search. So it’s very, very critical that it’s set up correctly on that back end.

Lissa: You can’t understate the importance of search. We do a lot of user testing and user research where we watch people use websites. When we invite people to show us how they look for information,I fire up Google, and I start there. My experience starts in a Google search engine. So for clinical trials, making sure the data that someone might be searching on is readable by a search engine is super important.  

Naor: What about the emerging use of infographics and imagery to make clinical trial information more digestible for patients?

David: So imagery does help a little bit. But the infographic actually helps a whole lot more. Because the infographic, if done correctly, helps tell a story. It kind of guides you where you want to go. It kind of puts things step by step. Data visualization is a piece of an infographic, but it’s in detail where it’s simply read, and I get the information without having to try to figure it out. The other piece that I find that we haven’t done a whole lot of but it adds a ton of value, especially when you talk about age groups, is the infographic-style type video. So I may click here, I see something, but I’m not quite sure if I’m reading the chart right. But if I click the video, and I see the illustration happening as they’re speaking, it helps put it into a story format so I understand it better. So that’s something that does help, and we’ve seen it work. We just don’t do it enough. 

About MRM//McCann: MRM//McCann, named Ad Age’s 2018 Business-to-Business Agency of the Year, is a leading customer relationship agency that helps brands grow meaningful relationships with people. The agency leverages the power of creativity, the beauty of data and the magic of technology to nurture, encourage and sustain strong relationships between brands and their customers – in turn, creating meaningful experiences for people, while driving business results. MRM//McCann is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG) and a lead agency in the McCann Worldgroup network, with 40-plus offices across North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

About Red Privet: Founded in 2009, Red Privet is a customer research, digital design, and experience strategy firm that helps brands such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, Reed Elsevier, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, and Geisinger Health Systems identify Moments That Matter℠—those critical interactions where customer needs are met and customer loyalty is earned. Combining immersive research, thoughtful design and innovative execution, Red Privet creates pathways to meaningful engagement  to deliver positive business results for its clients.