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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Stakeholder Wars

Most companies today understand the value of testing early and testing often. However, there are many instances in which this is still not the case. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen when UX testing was not done earlier in the design process of a pharma website.

Today, launching a new website has many highly-interested stakeholders, and each comes with their own unique set of expectations and agenda. Some stakeholders have goals of launching a new website as soon as possible. Others, such as designers, are interested in look and feel. Marketing is focused on ROI by getting patients to take the medication on an ongoing basis. And of course, there are the user experience folks interested in ensuring a seamless experience prior to launching the website.

We recently tested a pharma site to improve the overall customer experience for various tasks that were considered primary intents for the site visit. The client was keenly interested in watching how patients navigated the site and what information was critical in determining if the drug was right for them.

Their level of interest was quite high with this task since the pharma company was spending significant dollars on marketing, attempting to create awareness and ultimately drive potential users to the site to learn about the drug and move them into action with their doctor.

During the course of testing, one of the clients made a comment that they were struggling with patients accepting the drug and that, in most cases, patients filled their first prescription but never requested a refill. This was perplexing to the pharma company, because this was a drug that was considered a long-term drug and not a onetime prescription.

The users recruited for this study were either currently taking the drug or at some point in the past had taken the drug. As users navigated through the site and explored pages deep within the site, they learned that the drug would not be effective for 60 to 90 days. This happened to be the missing link for users and the Achilles heel for the pharma company. Most users expected at least some immediate results from the medication. Users at this point stated that this information of a 60 – 90 day response time was critical. Not having this information would result in them feeling the drug was ineffective and they would not refill it.  There was also a communication breakdown in the physician’s office with doctors not sharing this information with users when writing the first prescription.

In this instance, expeditiously getting exposure for the medication to drive revenue was the primary driver. Significant dollars were spent on TV ads driving users to the site to learn if the drug was right for them. The marketing was successful in getting users to the site, discussing it with their doctor and filling their first prescription. However, repeat prescriptions didn’t occur because users were unaware that the drug took 60 – 90 days to be effective because key content was buried deep in the site.

Stakeholders across many departments are interested in the website for different reasons, creating challenges for design, content, usability and very importantly the timeline for launching. The value of bridging the gap between departments, educating stakeholders on the importance of user experience testing early and often, cannot be overstated. In this instance, not testing early and often cost the pharma company millions in advertising/marketing dollars and resulted in the loss of significant revenue from patients unwilling to use the drug beyond their first prescription. Because the stakeholders cross many departments, driving this message of testing early and often to the executive team is often the only way to bridge this gap and overcome multiple agendas and expectations. Don’t let this happen to you. Be sure to incorporate UX research early in the product lifecycle to ensure the website is effective and to make the most of marketing dollars.

-Rebecca Ratliff, Vice President of User Experience Operations, Usability Sciences


Read more about user research and how it can bridge the gaps between stakeholders, or reach out to us to learn more about usability at your speed.

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