User Experience Parallels with Patient Centric Drug Development

Marko Aleksic, Lead UI/UX Designer

There are many parallels between patient centric drug development and good web design. Ensuring the best user experience begins with an understanding of users. Knowledge of their online behavior, experience, and expectations will inform user flow mapping, layout, design and website functionality. Prior to release, user testing is de rigueur for final confirmation of your design objectives. This will tell you what’s working, what isn’t, and what you need to fix before you make your official launch. While this doesn’t guarantee user acceptance, it’s hard for me to envision any current web development scenario where this doesn’t happen.

For Clariness developers, ensuring a good user experience through ClinLife® applications is our mission, especially as digital preference continues to rise.

ClinLife is our global online community that provides resources for patients, volunteers and professionals. It is the port of entry for millions of patients looking for a clinical trial, or responding to a digital outreach campaign. It is also a robust administrative platform for clinical trial professionals. Investigator sites worldwide rely on ClinLife to efficiently manage patients through clinical trial enrollment. Below are some common principles we consider every day.

User Interface (UI) Considerations

  • It’s important to use similar features and layout elements as similar types of websites, to provide familiarity, relatability and promote faster adoption.
  • Consistency is key. It’s important to support the same design experience across devices. Color indicators on functionality should mean the same thing (in simple terms, think of a red button for delete or a green button for save). To the extent permitted by space, layout elements should be similar.
  • For step-wise processes, keep content focused and relevant to that specific action. Otherwise, the page will be overpopulated with unnecessary content. (Think of the steps a visitor goes through when signing up for a clinical trial.)
  • Content is king. Good web design should support content and functionality, instead of being beautiful for beauty’s sake.
  • Consider the similarities between good UI and clinical trial design. How are patient materials designed? How well are they communicated by patient-facing staff? How well are recruitment, enrollment, conduct and retention efforts coordinated and aligned? Is it a smooth experience for the patient?

Current Trends

  • Flat clean web design principles arose from the need to promote content. Everything on the website must serve a purpose. You can still incorporate eye-catching features, but they need to solve a particular problem.
  • Modular content block layouts (think Pinterest, Twitter) are replacing lists and table layouts. This provides a bigger area for an image, and offers more visual distinction.
  • Gesture-based design (taking root in design for mobile behavior) is now more often applied to web design in desktop environments. This includes placement of confirmatory actions on the right side of the screen, to accommodate majority of right-handed users. This also includes expanded use of the “tutorial approach” or breaking action into several simple steps, as it may appear on a mobile screen
  • Interactivity on a micro-level is expanding. There are more subtle visual cues to confirm actions taken. They may highlight transitions that show progress between web-based process steps and confirmatory actions. (Think of the common visual cues that appear when you forget a required field, or small animations that appear after you have clicked a button that show content is loading.)
  • These trends are focused on enhancing user engagement. When comparing this to trends in patient engagement, think about efforts to improve clinical trial literacy and the need to transition from medical terminology to patient-friendly language. Think about retention. How well is the patient supported at every step of trial conduct? Does your retention program address typical patient drop-out points in the trial?

Patient Perspectives

Patient-friendly web considerations significantly impacts design choices.

  • Consider the demographics of clinical trial participants and their preferences.
  • Presbyopia (the need for reading glasses). It’s more difficult for many people over the age of 35 to focus on objects within a close range.
  • Responsive Design. The majority of ClinLife® visitors use mobile devices. Ensuring mobile-friendliness is the foundation of everything we do.
  • Age of phones. Many older users have older phones, which influences layout and placement of critical items.
  • Color choice in healthcare design. Color evokes emotional responses that produce feelings of serenity or agitation. Color knowledge helps guide choices for patient-facing applications.
  • It’s about accommodating user needs upfront. Simple modifications can make a world of difference. Think about how this can be applied to clinical trial design. Flexible scheduling, free parking, help with transportation, meal vouchers, sharing results. Make the patient feel like a stakeholder instead of a subject.

We continually look at how people interact with our website, and see how the experience can be improved. When design is aligned with functionality & behavior, the impact can be significant. When considering patient centric drug development, similar principles can be applied to clinical trial design.