Simplify and focus website content
Deliver high-value marketing messages for a diagnostic product while better serving the needs of physicians and patients
Research and analysis
Created user-centered content strategy for product marketing at this maturing company
Provided rationale and questions to help marketing teams seek future budget for user research
Delivered detailed and comprehensive framework for writing and revising content
This confidential diagnostic company was in the process of revising their corporate and product-branded websites. The project had been delayed for nearly a year due to competing corporate priorities, possible vendor changes, and internal shifts in the organization, but there was a renewed push to move forward with the redesign. Each product marketing team had been asked to review and update their web content in preparation for the revision and were under increasing pressure to deliver content to the digital agency and web development teams.
The product site was intended to help the company connect patients and professionals to key messages, technical and scientific information about several products, information about process and procedures, and to provide access to other resources. It contained mostly unique content but had some overlap with separate corporate, patient-facing, and physician-ordering sites. As is common in the industry, the site also had separate content channels for healthcare providers and patients. The site sometimes received traffic driven by ad campaigns, but it was not a high-value driver of sales.
How we helped
The marketing team for the flagship product initially asked for help just with writing but the team embraced the idea of first creating a strategy for web content, something they had not done before.
In fact, we ended up working with a second team — between the two marketing groups they supported four products in three markets — to create a strategy-driven, user-centric process for writing and organizing new content.
Plans were crafted independently for the unique challenges and business goals of each product, built on an overarching strategy to connect people to useful content quickly.
For each product, we delivered a detailed content framework — a “blueprint” for writing — that described business needs and user objectives for each key topic, included the content necessary to support those objectives, and noted the documents, people, and resources to be used as sources for content development or validation.
Evaluating the webscape
We began by compiling a visual review of the company's multiple websites, the competition's sites, and general information sites produced by advocacy and public health organizations. This “webscape” helped the team shift from the narrow perspective of their messaging to a broader consideration of what people visiting their sites experience when seeking information on the web.
At first, the team didn’t think we should examine their existing web content: they didn’t like it and wanted it completely rewritten, so why bother? We insisted: creating a shared sense of what "bad" and “better” look like is an essential step. Even when everyone agrees that content misses the mark, it's not enough to say "It's bad." It's important to examine: In what way is it bad? For whom? Why is it the way it is?
We used a Mad Lib exercise What does success look like? to help the team define what "better" meant from their perspective. We then completed a heuristic analysis (i.e., does it follow good design practice?) of the existing website to show the team simple ways in which presentation and consistency could be improved.
What do stakeholders say?
Next, we interviewed marketing and customer service stakeholders and sales representatives to document marketing needs. We also wanted to hear from the sales team:
When was the last time you suggested that a customer visit the website?
When did you last hear a customer comment on the product website? What did they say?
What questions do people ask you most often?
What “go to” collateral do you always take with you when visiting a customer and why?
Our findings showed that the existing product marketing website was not valued by internal teams as a resource for themselves or others; they seldom used it and would only rarely direct people there.
Who are the real users?
Data suggested that patients used the site more than physicians, odd because the company ran other sites just for patients and concerning since physicians were more important marketing audiences. We needed to know more.
Once we began working with the team to describe user groups, it became clear that the company had good market research and analytics of web traffic across multiple sites but they did not know much about the people who visit the product-branded website. And, the team did not have the budget or time for user research.
Lack of user research is a common and significant hurdle to making meaningful content. Sometimes, you shouldn’t proceed without it.
In this case, the team was able to add simple activities onto already scheduled events with physician customers. Even this limited research gave us an important insight: physicians rarely visit the product-branded site. When they do, it is only to access the link to the ordering portal or to find a link to the published literature: at best, they are only passing through.
Target audiences for marketing were often not the people using the website
Existing web content borrowed heavily from marketing materials directed at physicians and was highly detailed, technical, and lengthy. Physicians, as potential customers, were well described and segmented in the market research but the people seeing healthcare provider content on the website were more likely to be people in practice support roles who might not be trained in science and were not making decisions about diagnostic tests.
Although challenging to learn, this was also a new opportunity: We recommended that the company budget for future user research to understand how people in support roles gather information for and share information with clinicians and what their challenges and successes look like. How can we better serve their unique needs?
Defining user groups and the tasks they want to perform
The team originally listed many audiences for their product-site content: physicians in several specialties, pathologists, nurses and other clinical office staff, lab personnel, payers, patients and family members, and others. After exploring what we did/didn't know, the team decided to collapse all those roles into two groups of users that were common across all four products: “Treatment Teams” and “Patients & Helpers.”
Based on marketing, customer service, and sales input and informed by limited customer research, we knew that people visit the product-branded website to:
research or confirm information
use the site as a pathway to a known or newly discovered resource
take action to engage with the company.
We then defined tasks in each category that Treatment Teams and Patients & Helpers might need to accomplish and grouped them into broader topics. We were explicit that this method relied on assumptions that should later be validated with user research, but it was a positive shift from creating content based on "What is it that we want to say?"
A blueprint for writing
Task mapping gave us a concrete way to perform a gap analysis of existing content and guide creation of new content. For each of the four products, we then produced a comprehensive content framework that described — for each specific user task — business and user objectives, key messages, source content, examples, and resources. We also created a supplemental resource to show how the corporate brand could be expressed in the style and tone of the writing, define key terms and their use, describe formatting and typographic conventions, and provide guidelines for writing headings (critical for quick scanning and ease of navigation).
This approach enabled us to deliver a comprehensive package to streamline the writing process and keep attention focused on meeting user needs.
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