Philadelphia, PA – Libby Wlochowicz, Director of DTC and multi-channel marketing at Amgen, shared some great experiences she had with a usability testing session that was used to evaluate 3 different sites across 3 different disease states simultaneously. The most interesting results they got were the ones that spoke to universal trends.

Libby opened with a few numbers that should sound pretty familiar to most of us. What patients are primarily searching online:

53% – Get ideas for how to manage a condition

52% – Explore symptoms for potential diseases or conditions

50% – Research a treatment prescribed by a doctor

And then depressed us all with this reality– only 2/3rds of patients have trust in pharma websites. We fared even worse with millenials.

So knowing that there was no where to go but up, the folks at Amgen took advantage of a unique opportunity – 3 different patient sites that all had kicked off redesign projects – to develop a robust joint usability test. They wanted to see if they could get to the underlying reasons for the distrust and disuse and course-correct their work in the process.

Partnering with Answerlab, they were able to translate their goals into 3 fundamental questions:

• How should they organize their sites?

• What images and design elements do patients prefer?

• How do we increase enrollment in product support services?

The testing was designed to be human and fun–picture users building their own navigation systems out of giant buttons and sorting through big content cards (representing pages) that they could shuffle, reorder, and organize under their home-made nav bar. Participants were surveyed on the types of video content that they would most like to see (smart given the high risk – cost – to high reward – engagement – nature of video). They also were able to probe on the best pathways to get patients to register for support services (are there too many barriers? just how many forms is too many forms…).

So what did Libby’s team learn?

Some information is sought regardless of disease type:

• Efficacy of the treatment

• New and upcoming treatment options

• Support groups that matched their needs

• Content shared by real patients who have the same condition or take the same treatment

• Information on side effects (the stuff we try to bury!)

Device usage varied based on the amount of information sought, and the physical location

• Personal computers were used most for in-depth research due to large size, ease of comparing information, and easy printing

• Tablets were used most for their portability and light weight. There was a lot of “second-screening” reported too.

• Phones were used for quick “in the moment” searches. Often used outside of the home to quickly look up disease information – many times right after conversation with physicians.

Imagery preference:

• Lifestyle imagery – thumbs down. People either had a take it or leave it attitude, or really didn’t like it.

• Diagrams and images specific to the disease or treatment – thumbs up! This is what people were looking for, visuals to make understanding easier. Don’t dumb it down.


This was interesting – the nomenclature they chose did not often come across to the users the way though it would. For example, patients repeatedly could not find financial information that they were supposed to be looking for even though there was a button labeled “financial assistance and support”. Eventually the researchers realized that for many people “finanacial assistance” meant “for poor people,” and the word most people were looking for was “savings”.


Lifestyle content was appreciated and gave the impression that the brand understood that life with a condition is multi-faceted, and sensitivity towards (and solutions for) a more holistic approach towards treatment aligned with new perspectives on health and wellness.

These findings are a great reminder that we need to make the time to test and evaluate the tools and resources we build. The same old model may not be keeping up with what our audience is expecting in a brand experience. A website is often the first (and sometimes the last) impression that a patient may have of our brand. We have to make every last button, slider, and navigation title count!

About the Author:

Jeffrey Giermek