Key design considerations for your digital pharma products

When designing digital products for pharma, you’ll need to consider a few important things. Here are some that we’ve found are often overlooked.

A woman sketches out wireframes for an app using pens and paper

When designing digital products for pharma, you’ll need to consider a few important aspects in order to ensure your end product will resonate with your audience, meet regulatory requirements, and be scalable across markets. 

These are some key considerations that we’ve found are often overlooked. 

Think about users’ needs and priorities

 

When determining the core aspects of your design, your audience and their specific needs should be the first consideration. 

When designing for HCPs, they tell us that they are time-poor and need to be able to quickly complete crucial tasks using tools that facilitate this. Therefore, the digital products we design for them should be straightforward, simple to use, and as intuitive as possible in order to maximise efficiency. Avoid unnecessary frills that will distract users from being able to achieve their primary goal, for example, check the dosing information for a new treatment.

The best way to determine the needs and wants of your specific audience is always to speak to them, conducting user research, even if on a small scale, to deepen your understanding. 

Business needs must be carefully balanced with the needs of users. An example might be when your brand marketers are pushing for large promotional banners on HCP site landing pages, but your research with HCPs shows they don’t pay attention to the messaging and feel that it gets in their way. Your final designs will involve a compromise between the two perspectives.  

Balancing regulatory requirements with design 

Working within pharma and healthcare, your app or website will almost definitely have to include multiple disclaimers and other elements of legal copy throughout, such as Important Safety Information (ISI) requirements in US markets. 

Instead of designing your layouts and then shoehorning in this content afterward, work closely with regulatory teams at the start of the design process to be clear on the elements you need to include to be compliant. Then, build your designs around these. This way, they don’t feel like an afterthought or require you to redo your designs to accommodate unexpected content. 

Think about how regulatory limitations will impact your user journey. The design process will involve a careful balancing act to create a compliant solution that is still visually impactful and embraces UX/UI best practices. We work with clients to create designs that display legally required information in a clear, yet unobtrusive way.

Three people photographed from behind as they look at a whiteboard with post-it notes on

Designing across markets 

If your digital product needs to be able to work across multiple markets and languages, your design decisions need to take this into account. 

Know the markets from the get-go and consider them as part of the planning stage. This applies even if you’re aiming for a phased rather than global roll-out. 

Make sure that elements such as buttons and menus will work if the text is much longer or shorter in its translated form. Think about how your layout may need to change if the text is flowing from right to left, rather than left to right as in English. 

Ensure that any imagery or iconography used within your designs is culturally appropriate and will be understood in the way you intended them to be across regions. A thumbs-up, for example, maybe a sign of positivity or approval in most countries, but in the Middle East and some West African nations, it’s an offensive gesture with negative connotations. Similarly, the ‘okay’ hand gesture, commonly understood in many countries, is seen as the equivalent of giving someone the middle finger in Brazil. 

We recommend creating designs in a modular way so that elements can be swapped in or out to accommodate local regulatory requirements. It also means that designs can be easily adapted if there isn’t as much local content available to include at the time of launch. 

A universal solution may not always be possible to find, but make sure these considerations are on your radar from the beginning of the process so that your designs can be adjusted as needed for international roll-out. 

The importance of wireframing

Wireframing is a crucial step in the design process — particularly when there are regulatory considerations to account for. 

Based on experience, we know that there will be multiple changes to your digital designs along the way. You’ll have multiple phases of approval as your designs are passed to different teams, stakeholders, and regulatory colleagues. 

Account for this by focusing on creating wireframes — a skeletal framework of a page on your website or app — rather than detailed high-resolution prototype designs that will be much more time-consuming to create. 

Circulate the wireframes to stakeholders for input and comments so that you can iron out issues and align on key design elements before you start the in-depth mock-up process. 

A designer works on wireframe app designs on a laptop

Consider your fonts carefully

The fonts that you use within your digital product require careful consideration. Your core brand fonts may not always be the most appropriate ones to use. 

You’ll need your font to be accessible and easy to read across all user groups. Avoid anything heavily stylised or elaborate, and stick to simple, clean designs where the letter shapes are well defined and recognisable. 

Ensuring your selected font supports superscripts and glyphs is also particularly important when dealing with medical information. You don’t want to get agreement on a font across your team only to find that you can’t present the required product information accurately. 

Finally, if your product will be rolled out across markets or include copy in multiple languages, you should also ensure that your chosen supports more than just English characters. 

The design process doesn’t stop when you go ‘live’ 

Finally, it’s important to remember that once your digital product has launched, or your new designs have been implemented in a live environment, that doesn’t mean that the process stops there. You should seek to gather information about how your designs are working for your users, in order to make iterative enhancements as you learn. 

With our clients, we recommend conducting usability tests, observing real users as they complete a set of tasks in order to identify any usability problems, collect qualitative and quantitative data and determine the participant's satisfaction with the product. 

You can also export data around how users are interacting with their designs — how many clicks are each of your links getting? How many times have different resources been downloaded? Heatmapping software such as Hotjar can provide further insight by collecting usage behaviour and mapping all the elements users interact with most to a master heatmap for a visual representation of what is resonating.

Use the insights gathered from these processes to make improvements to your designs on an ongoing basis. 

 

For over 12 years, we’ve been digital strategy and design partners for healthcare and pharmaceutical organisations around the world. We collaborate with clients to deepen audience connection through creating digital customer experiences that are truly aligned to their needs. If you have a project that you'd like to discuss, get in touch