Published 15 Aug 2017

Tib Catania, Chief Commercial Officer, EPG Health Media

The decision to include modern features in a pharma setting is relatively easy to make, but knowing why they could be of benefit marks the difference between the optimum user experience and an undesirable bounce rate. UX (user experience) is at the crux of web design and is the driving force for increasing HCP (healthcare professional) engagement. Amid the trials, successes and failures of website feature implementation, knowing which to develop in your site can be like ordering your Chinese takeaway from an unfamiliar restaurant: you know what all the dishes are but you don’t know if they will be any good.

There are some modern features of web design which have become synonymous with their popular ambassadors, such as Pinterest and their streamlined installation of infinite scroll. Etsy, on the other hand, discovered [the hard way] that infinite scrolling was detrimental to their primary objectives. This type of feature, if implemented incorrectly, can turn a practical website into a navigation nightmare. So, which elements transfer best to the world of digital pharma? And how can they be used most effectively to increase HCP engagement with clinical content, improve retention of medical education and advance the CX (customer experience)?

Infinite scroll: a design function which allows users to continue scrolling down a page, without having to click or tap anywhere, while content autogenerates beneath. It is compatible with desktop browsing, and is particularly successful with mobile browsing because of the practical benefits of scrolling over tapping. In November 2016, the percentage of web pages loaded from mobiles supplanted the percentage loaded from desktops.¹ Indeed, 43% of the users of (our independent website for HCPs)² browse from their desktops, while most prefer mobile or tablet. Application of infinite scroll within medical education is an obvious choice therefore, with a greater volume of content available in a single sitting encouraging longer browsing sessions. It also offers an opportunity to insert critical messages which otherwise might have remained undiscovered if the path of the browsing session were left to the user to define. The drawback is that with most examples of this feature, the user is unable to bookmark their place during a session. If the URL were to automatically update as they scroll, however, the user would be able to pinpoint information and save individual pages to ‘favourites’. Consequently, this then allows a more granular level of data capture from which to glean user habits.

For a more immersive UX, the design feature of parallax scrolling is best suited. Parallax scrolling allows the content on a webpage to be layered in a way that adds perceived depth to a two-dimensional display. Each layer of the content can be coded to respond at a different sensitivity level, creating the illusion of dynamism. Aside from looking impressive, the practical uses in this sense are limited. Strip parallax down to its basic concept, sticky columns, and it becomes a prime element for medical education presentation. HCPs can watch an omnipresent video whilst continuing to read the surrounding copy, view a graph or table whilst reading about clinical data, or watch highlights from the latest congress whilst perusing the agenda. Providing these content elements simultaneously means a more practical and desirable browsing experience and, as a result, better user engagement.

Personalisation of content, a design feature explored in ‘The future of medical content: The personal touch’, is better achieved with an established user database. Tailoring a user’s journey means presenting unique and relevant content, making the UX more practical and personal. The benefits to HCPs are clear, but the methods of data collection can vary. The most basic format (secreting all content behind a compulsory, lengthy registration form) is a deterrent for most casual browsers. Alternatively, by staggering a limited number of small requests for data, throughout different levels of the site, the user is enticed to browse deeper without feeling 0bstructed. Additionally, allowing users to register and log in from an existing account, such as Google+ or Twitter, reduces the deterrent further. Lastly, by introducing behavioural tracking, data can be captured from a user indirectly by ‘learning’ from behaviours of similar users and inferring that individual’s needs. Combining these data capture techniques results in a more streamlined navigation of a personalised user journey.

Complex web design encompassing every available modern feature is not necessarily advantageous in any industry, pharma included. The key is to establish objectives before undertaking digital refurbishment, such as ‘advance user engagement’, ‘facilitate HCPs’ knowledge retention’ and ‘improve UX’. With these goals in mind, it is then possible to cherry-pick which modern feature(s) are best suited. Knowing the reason why sticky columns can enhance the presentation of clinical data, for example, is equivalent to ordering your Chinese takeaway from your favourite restaurant: you know what all the dishes are and you know which ones are good. In digital pharma, we strive for the endgame of improved patient care via more manageable objectives like facilitating HCPs’ knowledge retention. And if we get this right, we are rewarded with longer browsing sessions, a higher returning visitor rate and a growing user database.