1. Get to know your audience
The last thing you want to do is create something before understanding how your audience is already interacting with other resources. Are they reviewing sites on their phone when it comes to searching for answers about their diagnosis? Are physicians searching for info on their desktops? Are nurses using iPads to explain ideas to patients, while sitting next to them? These are important behaviors to think about prior to designing any digital asset. Consider conducting exploratory qualitative research before putting pen to paper in order to get a broad understanding of what your audience is doing today. Then you will be ready to design a prototype.
2. Create the digital asset for the most commonly used device
You can test multiple devices and versions of your digital resource within research; however, it’s best to optimize the tool for the device that is most commonly used – i.e., whether it’s mobile or desktop. This is important to encourage use of your resource – otherwise, if it is created in a format not typically used, it may not integrate easily into existing behavior. Exploratory research conducted before a prototype is created will give you direction.
3. Adopt the most appropriate methodology
Once a digital tool is in its initial stages of creation (i.e. wireframing), qualitative research is often the preferred method, so that a moderator can probe and understand why certain choices are being made. However, don’t assume you have to do interviews face-to-face. WATIs (web-assisted telephone interviews) could be a good option – esp. if WATIs are necessary to ensure a full recruit. An added bonus of online interviews is an ethnographic view into respondents’ lives as they can share their screen to show you which browser they use, and their digital devices. There are also agile methodologies you can consider that do not require a moderator at all – simply ask respondents to complete self-administered tasks.
4. Choose the right video streaming tool to capture interviews
Being able to view exactly how a respondent is using a digital tool is extremely important, especially if you are watching research remotely. Ensure you have the right video capturing capability in qualitative interviews. Whether you’re hiring a technician, or a video company – ask for picture-in-picture video capture. This way, you can see both the respondent’s face as well as the digital asset (i.e., if it’s on a desktop screen or iPad).
5. Screen your target audience
It’s important to get the right respondents in your study. In your screener, include questions that confirm your respondents are digitally savvy, have an appetite for consuming information online and are using certain devices (e.g. smartphone, tablet). Check if your respondents feel comfortable navigating a digital asset by themselves with a few people watching (i.e., other researchers or clients) – you may be surprised how regularly someone overstates their digital savviness.
6. Understand how your tool will be used in conjunction with other media
It is fine to duplicate information across different channels; however, you need to understand how people will access this information in multiple places. Understanding that a digital tool does not live in a vacuum – your audience may be using other tools to augment – helps you to identify where your tool fits in and how it can offer something different.
7. Understand how visitors are likely to discover / arrive at your digital tool
If building a site, consider that visitors might arrive through various ‘entrances’ – not always a homepage. If building a portal or app, there will be different ways someone may learn about the digital tool, which dictates how likely visitors are to trust or use the resource. Some answers you may want to uncover: for sites, does your audience search for a specific phrase in Google and enter your site at a particular page vs. the homepage? What is signaling your audience to choose your link? For apps or portals, what is the most likely way that your audience would learn about it (word-of-mouth, ads, email newsletters)? For both, is your resource competing with other options? These are all areas that should be explored in qualitative research once you have a more concrete idea of what is being built. This will help account for all of the realistic ways that someone will get to your digital tool, and for the team to think through whether there is enough context given: i.e., on specific pages (for sites), on ad copy (for a portal, app).
8. Evaluate your tool based on specific tasks
With every digital tool, there should be specific actions that you want a person to be able to complete, whether it is to read information, or download a printout, or sign up for a service. Think of what the key action is that you would want users to complete and ensure part of your research evaluates the ease of completing key tasks.
9. Consider additional stages of research to meet key objectives
There are multiple aspects to creating and testing a digital tool. It may be sensible to conduct separate sessions to meet different objectives. For example, nomenclature and site navigation are extremely important - if a respondent cannot get to the information because it’s not placed somewhere obvious, he or she may leave your tool and use another one. You may need to spend a full 60-minute session with respondents to understand whether categorization and labels being used on the site make sense. Another session may be needed to understand whether content on the site is easy to understand, compelling, and works in harmony with the overall communication strategy and brand message.
10. Re-evaluate your existing assets
It is important to re-evaluate the asset to account for contextual changes in the landscape. For example, if a site was originally created to teach your visitors about a new medication, but as time has passed the product is no longer considered ‘new’, it may be time to update the website with new information. A shift in the use of digital tools within certain segments could also create new demand for an asset. For example, if pharmacists are increasingly using tablets to explain things to patients, rather than using their desktops to share information – this would be a reason to optimize your tool in a new device. Continued evaluation and refreshes are important to keep your digital asset relevant and top of mind.