Responsive Design in the Healthcare Industry

The latest advance in web design sweeping the Internet is moving into the healthcare/pharma space. Responsive web design (RWD) is a web design and development method that enables a Web site to respond to a user’s screen size and orientation as well as to provide an optimal viewing experience. Major brands everywhere have been embracing the trend in order to meet the rise of viewership on mobile devices.

The Good News for Pharma
The good news for pharma is that RWD can ensure safety information is prominent across devices and screen sizes without the need to pinch- to- zoom on smartphones and tablets, which may push safety information off-screen. RWD uses specific design templates optimized for various device screen sizes. Behind the scenes lies a single code source that smartly identifies a user’s screen size and then adjusts on-the-fly to deliver the presentation fed into the appropriate design template. While the total number of potential screens may seem endless the number of templates is limited.

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The Medical/Legal/Regulatory Discussion
Brand and agency teams are starting to approach the medical/legal/regulatory teams (MLR) about RWD with a healthy dose of trepidation. This is understandable as RWD is an innovative approach to web design and any innovation is met with caution at the MLR review table. However, this is one innovation that MLR teams should embrace with open arms. Account and brand teams should be running to the reviewers with the news of RWD possibilities and the new ability to ensure that safety information is front and center, regardless of what screen size is being viewed.

A New Logistical Hurdle
Despite the inherent good news brought with the advance of RWD it does raise a considerable logistic hurdle for the MLR process. Previously, MLR teams were only concerned with how a design looked on the desktop. Now they are talking about multiple design templates that accommodate a number of different screens from desktops to iPads to mobile devices. The habit of MLR requiring a fully-designed version of every screen can become a daunting and expensive task when the number of potential screens triple. It’s simply not practical or affordable to do design layouts for every content screen on every device.

Adapting the MLR Process
The trade-off MLR must be persuaded to make is that instead of requiring every screen be fully designed for approval, only a limited number of design templates should be submitted, along with the actual content, separately. The content is the same regardless of presentation template and can most efficiently be reviewed within a simple word document. The three or so main screen size templates that content may be displayed in should be judged independently.

The alternative to adapting MLR practices of reviewing every single screen is to continue to design desktop only versions of our brand sites and ignore the fact that more than half of users may be on mobile devices (pinching and zooming right past the heralded safety information) or go on with typical design and approval processes of every screen that may triple development costs for brands.

RWD is an exciting evolution of web design. As mobile devices continue to increase in importance, it will become essential for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to embrace it.

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