6 Considerations for Life Science Websites

by | October 18th, 2016

Designing the your first life science website for your company? Redesigning your site for the umpteenth time? Whether your site is new or old, here are six things you should consider for your company’s public face on the web.

Note: This article was originally published on the Life Science Network blog.

1. Your Unique Goals

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Before you start building a website, you should have a clear idea of the role the site needs to serve for your business and for your users.

  • Which audiences does your website need to speak to?
  • Who are these individuals, why do they come to your site, and what do you want them to do once they get there?

With clear goals, you can design a site that supports user needs and business needs simultaneously.

Need help figuring it out? A discovery phase is perfect for that.

2. Content

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Your website content serves two primary purposes:

  1. Informing your users
  2. Communicating brand attributes

When planning content, it’s important to consider your user types and their informational needs.

  • What information will help them achieve their goals?
  • What information will encourage them take the next step (reaching out to contact you, for instance)?

Considering this perspective helps in planning the general structure of your site. This includes content you need, and where it needs to go.

When writing content, it’s important to consider both explicit and implicit messaging. Word choice and tone of voice can communicate about your brand and your values as a company while informing your users and helping them accomplish their goals.

A few notes on writing content

Writing for the web is not the same as writing scientific abstracts, investor reports, or even a press release. That is because people read differently on the web than they do in print. Some handy guidelines to keep in mind for writing web content include:

  • Use bullet points to make large paragraphs scannable.
  • Add headings to help users focus on what matters most on the page. This has accessibility and SEO (search engine optimization) benefits, too.
  • Reduce your text by half. Then edit some more. You might find editing apps help.
  • Employ CTAs (calls to action) to encourage your users to take the next step.

3. Visual Design

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There are a few things to consider when gathering your design ideas:

  • Audience values
  • Company brand identity
  • Business goals
  • Your design preferences

Design choices are often related to the stage in the pipeline in which your company or product currently sits. For example, if you’re currently in a pre-clinical phase and your primary audience is investors, you may consider scientific imagery. Designs with cells and laboratories may be more appropriate than doctors and patients at this stage.

Imagery for products and services that have reached consumers are also a bit more nuanced. If a product is intended to make a serious medical condition just a bit more bearable, images of athletes or beach goers may not be appropriate.

Some questions to ask yourself during design planning:

  • What visual elements speak to my user groups?
  • What visual elements send the right message about my company?

Is your company forward-thinking, or conservative and reliable? Brand attributes like this can be communicated with colors, shapes, layout, and imagery. Experienced web designers can tie together the many facets of visual design to make sure your website is communicating your message–to the right people–loud and clear.

4. Regulatory Requirements

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Does your company need to comply with regulatory requirements at this stage? Architecting the website properly can make these compliance issues a little easier. The right CMS (content management system) can ensure:

  • Announcements are scheduled
  • Change management is easier and smoother
  • Controls and permissions exist for writing, editing, approving, and publishing content

This means only the right people can see content until it is legally approved for publishing, and in fact published to the live, public site.

IR and publicly traded companies

If your organization is publicly traded, you may need to publish specific reports and documents at specific times. A CMS makes this easier than with a hand-coded site. But some companies also rely on third party investor relations vendors, such as NASDAQ. If you use one of these products, your digital agency should be able to support this. You’ll need visual design files that can be handed off to the IR vendor to be implemented within their system. That way the experience for the end user is one cohesive site, not two different experiences.

5. Hosting

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If your URL is like your house number on the internet, hosting is like the house for your site. Hosting services vary in price. Asking questions can help determine if the price is fair and if you need all the bells and whistles:

  • Do you offer an SLA (service level agreemen with a guarantee for updtime, disaster recovery, backups, and security?
  • Do you recommend dedicated or shared hosting?
  • What’s your update policy? Will you keep my app up to date, or do I need to hire a contractor to perform regular security updates?
  • Do you offer a WAF (web application firewall) and DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack prevention?
  • Will my hosting fees cover a staging site with required login?

6. Security

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HIPAA & HITECH

Information security is of growing concern for all types of organizations. Biotech companies in particular should consider the security of data that is collected via website. If you have a form to gather contact information from interested patients, you must adhere to HIPAA and HITECH guidelines.

SSL

Part of adhering to HIPAA will involve adding a secure sockets layer (SSL) to your site. But even if you don’t collect patient data, you may want to consider SSL none the less. It ensures confidentiality for anyone connecting to your site, and guarantees the data sent from your site to a visitor is not tampered with.

In addition, adding SSL can give you a slight boost for search engine optimization (SEO) since Google wants to encourage everyone to move to HTTPS connections. There is a user experience benefit, too: visitors are becoming accustomed to seeing the SSL certificate icon in their browser. Ensuring your site has this can help users feel more comfortable navigating to your site. In general it is just a web security best practice, especially if you have forms.

Form Security

Forms are not just an area for SSL. They can also cause user experience issues for your team, if they receive a high volume of SPAM or fake submissions. A common solution to this problem is CAPTCHA, those distorted word puzzles you need to solve before you can submit a form. The theory is that solving the puzzle proves you’re a human, not a SPAM robot. But these puzzles can turn away real leads on your site.

Non-CAPTCHA solutions exist to this problem, and utilizing them can help tighten security on your site, lest a SPAM form submission fools someone in your company in clicking on a dangerous link.

These six things are just the beginning

These are just initial considerations when setting out to build or update a life sciences website. There are also:

  • SEO and marketing considerations
  • Post-launch testing of CTAs, forms, and other site elements
  • Integrations for taking other business processes online to eliminate extra work, margin for error, and improve customer experience

Interested in any of these? Let us know and we will start working on our next blog post. Looking for other web development stories you can use? Sign up for the PINT newsletter.