Compliancy, Creativity and Consumers – User Interface Design in the Pharma Space

Copyright 2009 MauroNewMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2009 MauroNewMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

By Guy Mastrion

The debates never seem to end about the ideal UI design. And the truth is there really is no ideal. However, there is a best-case scenario for just about every situation. It takes a thoughtful and wide-ranging assessment to understand what might be called the cost-benefit ratio or ROI of any solution.

The objective for the interface should be the lead driver of UI design; from that objective, a UI design strategy should dictate the range of employed tactics.

It sounds so logical and simple — which it is — but it can get quite complicated. Trouble finds us if we do not fully comprehend the scope of the assignment and all the stakeholders who must be satisfied before we enter into a solution. When this occurs, there is a very high probability that the job will derail at some point.

An idealized solution created in a silo may run in strong contrast to some of the constraints on the job. Budget for instance, may preclude a certain tactic, but that does not mean we cannot effectively execute a solution. After all, creativity loves constraint, and we are nothing if not problem solvers. So UI design solutions must be vetted through a thorough understanding of all project constraints and in the full light of the main objective.

A traditional print designer may design a great looking site, but usability may suffer if too much information is buried in drop down menus, for instance. Or a writer may craft a fantastic piece of body copy but unless that writer can weave a strong, consistent, and coherent brand story across the entire engagement, the cleverest copy will be meaningless. Additionally, a tricked-out interface with lots of small copy and moving graphics, for the wrong audience — like a 65-year-old diabetic with eye trouble — could turn into a disaster. In short, just because a solution is possible does not mean it is desirable. The solution must meet the usability needs of the audience.

Of course, the solutions may not be simple, but understanding the protocols should be simple (because they should be determined and agreed upon in advance).

In an age when consumers are actively seeking information and have many competitive resources at hand, making UI design decisions based on audience insight and not the whim of any one team member is critical to success. That’s why its essential to do the fieldwork and align with an experienced team that can build the needed innovation on the shoulders of past success. If your UI design fails to engage your audience at first blush, they will likely find a more fulfilling solution.

For pharmaceutical marketers, many of whom are still relatively new to the digital world, the needs of UI design are often an unwelcome surprise to legal and regulatory review teams. Often, they are quickly overwhelmed by the amount of linked information needing review. The implications of changes at too late of a stage are costly not only in money, but also in serious lost time. This in turn creates opportunity cost. For this reason, alone it can be beneficial to have a representative of legal and regulatory review playing an integral part of the UI design from project initiation. These review teams must understand the needs of the objective and the target audience and make informed contributions to the UI design. But this cannot happen if the reviewers are not included in the process and not feeling like a part of the team.

This is just one example of how pharmaceutical marketers must work to adapt their marketing development process to accommodate working in the digital age. Can you think of others? How can you tailor your internal development process to meet the needs of a more complex executional set?

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