Archive for February, 2008

no-bad-training-ipod-sm.jpgToday, we’re talking interface – specifically, eLearning systems. Platforms.

You know the drill. You login to the corporate system. Then you land on an intranet. Then you have to find the training page (maybe there are multiple training pages for different roles). Then you have to look for what you’re supposed to do.

Why can’t you just login, and have all your “stuff” presented to you? Personalized, based on your role, your training record, and your assignments. Plus, all the other non-training stuff too – all in one interface?

Answer: bad system design. Maybe it’s just a poor interface. More likely, it is that combined with the fact that you have multiple systems “stitched” together that aren’t well-integrated, so learners have to click around and seek what they’re supposed to find.

That’s not user-centered design. If I’m a field user, I don’t want to have to keep clicking, visit multiple pages, and look under virtual rocks to see what I’m supposed to do. Inaccessible training is unprofitable training.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Some of the older, mega-enterprise software systems will never be user-centric. There are better learning/content delivery systems available now. Software should be configured for the user; users should not have to be conformed to bad software.

Maybe you have good training – just bad ways of getting to it. That’s a zone worth leaving!

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marriott.jpgHave you registered for the SPBT conference, coming in May? What are you waiting for…go there now! (and check out that hotel ->)

From Med Ad News – articles on e-detailing/telesales (and impact on current sales practices) – here and here.

From Business Week – the 10 worst presentation habits. Plus, a link to a lot of other good presentation/communication articles.

Pharma sales articles from Selling Power magazine (may require free registration).

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Novartis Pharma US CEO Alex Gorsky resigns.

Genentech‘s Avastin and breast cancer – meets study goals, gets approved.

Heparin investigation gets ugly for Baxter. If you click on the link in the 2nd paragraph to look at the pictures of manufacturing in China, do so well before your next meal…uggh.

New treatment for Hemophilia A – Wyeth‘s Xyntha approved.

Prasugrel (Lilly/Daiichi-Sankyo), new anti-clotting treatment, gets priority review.

Stem cells and diabetes – an encouraging new study result.

Can statins ease irregular heartbeat?

Cancer drug Rituxan may be useful in treating MS.

Pfizer‘s Sutent linked to heart failure in some patients.

How a promising new potential treatment was unveiled through a very big mouse!

More Americans are taking more drugs. I would love to see some context around stats like this – such as, what are the possible healthcare savings that may be a result??

In defense of drug rep/doctor schmoozing.

Amgen probed for unethical marketing practices – another whistleblower case.

Stop leaking calcium!

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After Hours 2_23

A fascinating Flash animation showing 5,000 years of history in 90 seconds – specifically, the various empires that have ruled the Middle East. Very cool!

What does it look like when a bullet goes through 3 water balloons? Like this!

Panorama of Paris at night. Breathtaking.

Did you miss the lunar eclipse last week? Check out this spectacular photo.

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In the relentless pursuit of fun with technology business efficiency, I’ve recently put in place three new toys tools. Here are my off-the-cuff initial impressions:

1. Apple iPhone:

iphone-sm.jpgTired of a cell phone that wasn’t a great performer, and wanting to consolidate a number of functions (contacts, calendar, e-mail, music, etc.) into one device, I decided to shed the old technology garments and jump into a stylish new Apple iPhone.

I figured it was going to take a number of days to “figure it out” and bring the system up. Nope. In very little time, I had it activated, sync’ed up my iTunes music, connected to my Yahoo mail account, and easily explored many of the other functions of this very cool device.

First impression – where has the rest of the software design world been all this time? What a fabulous interface! As I have mentioned often to my clients, I am not at all easy to impress when it comes to interfaces – I’ve seen far too much user-hostile and non-intuitive design. The iPhone, however, is a delight to use – I was texting my 17-year old son in no time (and was he shocked when he found out I’d gotten an iPhone!) and my one concern – the flat-screen “virtual” keyboard – quickly became a non-issue when I began to use it. Sweet. Since I’m on the road a fair bit, this will make it easier to remain productive and in touch. Which leads me to…

grandcentral.jpg2. GrandCentral:

I now have a new “universal” phone number (973-947-7429) that reaches me wherever I am, courtesy of Google’s free GrandCentral service. My office line and mobile number still work, but this new number forwards calls to wherever I am – I just go on the website and tell it where to forward calls. There is also web-based voice mail and a bunch of other services. And, when/if I transition to different phone numbers or cell service (as I am doing with the iPhone), it won’t matter, because the one number can just be re-directed to the new phone. How cool is that?

3. And, speaking of new ways to do phone communications, welcome to ooVoo. I know, another silly-looking Web 2.0 name, but this is pretty slick – download the free ooVoo software, hook up a webcam, and you are making FREE video calls – no charge for phone or chat time. You can even set up multiple-person sessions.

I just began experimenting with ooVoo this morning, so I don’t have a full grasp of the potential business uses. But, like many of these new on-line collaborative tools, it’s very easy, very inexpensive, and powerful.
It doesn’t hurt that they’re fun as well!

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Perusing through the home page design of major pharma companies, today I arrived at Merck.com. First impression – visual overload! Lots of links and sections, not much white space, and the overall sense that it was going to be serious “work” to find what I needed here – or even to know what it is I need.


Of course, that’s a common problem with these big corporate sites, but the compulsion to toss everything into an up-front visual salad is, in my opinion, a fundamental mistake in interface design. Initial impression matters, and in the first few seconds, I, as a visitor, should somehow gain a connection to the company. Here, I just feel overwhelmed.

Merck does open up with a theme “Where patients come first”, which is actually better than some of the taglines that I’ve seen on other sites. However, there is a visual discrepancy that is just wrong – the most prominent graphic panel, top/center, has the headline “How patients come first at Merck” – but then the accompanying graphic is of healthcare professionals! If you’re going to talk about patients, reinforce that message with a visual focused on patients! (note: when you first come on the site, the panel is a little slide show making a few different points – reasonably effective, but the graphic above is where it “lands”)

As with the AstraZeneca site reviewed last time, this site is artificially constrained to accommodate least-common-denominator small-resolution screens. Sigh. The inevitable crowding effect, and the smallish font size, make the experience less pleasing.

Once you get past the home page and start navigating through the site, it’s pretty much big-pharma-info-overload-as-usual – tons of links, sections, and details, with navigation elements at the top, bottom, left, and right. That’s a lot of choices to make!

What distinguishes Merck? From this site, I simply don’t know. Yes, a website exists partially as in information repository. But, at the very top-level, it should immediately tell me about the company – make me feel something important. There should be a single, distinguishing message. I don’t see it here.

Prior website reviews:










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The article starts out this way:

    I look at the pharmaceutical industry from a public-relations perspective and I see this: A business that has lost its heart and its soul.

Kevin is an editor and blogger over at O’Dwyer, a P.R. news firm. He goes on to describe the downward spiral of the reputation of “Big Pharma,” and the many events that have led up to this current state. Lots of factors have contributed to the battering of the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry, and many of them are self-inflicted wounds.

Spin control won’t restore heart and soul. At the risk of seeming overly simplistic or moralistic, let me suggest three very concrete perspectives that, if embraced and practiced, will make any company sturdy and respectable:

    1. There will be many choices to make between maximized short-term profits, and doing what you know is right. Err on the side of choosing the latter.
    2. Assume that everything you say and do will be exposed someday (this used to be called the fear of God. Now it seems to be the fear of blogs!)
    3. Admit when you’ve screwed up.

Nothing brilliant or original here. Just good old-fashioned honesty and the Golden Rule, applied to business. But that’s where you get reputational capital – not from fawning Wall Street analysts, or spinmeistering P.R. professionals. As long as companies (& individuals) choose short-term gain varnished over with cover-up du jour, the public floggings will continue.

Hat tip on P.R. article: PharmaGossip blog

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A Keen Grasp of the Obvious

What kind of headline is this???

Healthy Lifestyle Is the Secret to Longer Life, Researchers Say

Hello? We needed another study to tell us this? And when you read the “findings,” it’s all so self-evident that you wonder why someone would bother.

Perhaps next we’ll read: Not Dying Lowers Mortality Rate, Study Says.

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This week, it’s time to review AstraZeneca‘s home page, in my occasional forays into critiquing the websites of pharmaceutical companies. I don’t do exhaustive site reviews here; just high-level impressions of the home page and the overall navigation design.

When you type http://www.astrazeneca.com into your browser, you arrive at the home page of the AZ International site. Because they are a global company, this is a reasonable choice on the part of the company. It takes a sharp eye (far upper right corner) to find the spot where you’d navigate to the country-specific sites (they did place a fairly prominent link further down for US visitors).


The site design is decent – the use of colors and graphics is better than a lot of the pharma sites I’ve reviewed so far. The width of the site is artificially constrained for older computers, a choice that I hope fewer companies will make in the future. Consequently, the site feels crowded, with a lot of very small text. As with many “Big Pharma” sites, the page is very busy – there are so many categories of information that it can feel overwhelming. However, at least there is an eye-catching graphic front-and-center, with a brief tagline and a reasonably well-crafted corporate summary.

Moving over the U.S. home page, I immediately noticed that the “pedigree” of the site was clearly a derivative of the global site – again, a smart move. However, in this case, because (I assume) the United States user base has a larger percentage of modern computers, the width of the page is increased somewhat, making it feel less compressed than the International site. This site has more variety in the use of graphics, but shares the solid use of color schemes (blue in this case; purple for International).


Going into the sub-menus on the left, the information presented in the middle and on the right changes intelligently, and the overall pleasant graphical design themes continue. There’s a lot of “heavy” information that healthcare/pharma companies have to present, and AZ uses the best method (IMHO) – a prominent graphic with summary statement, followed by a minimum of overview text, followed by links to various other pieces of more detailed information. I never felt “lost” on this site.

In short, this is pretty good execution. Some of the best look/feel and use of color that I’ve seen so far, and a better-than-merely-functional navigation scheme. All of these huge companies must make trade-offs and compromises due to their diverse audiences (patients, healthcare practitioners, shareholders, regulators, lawyers, employees, multiple countries, etc.) and AZ has done a better job than most making a good impression.

Prior website reviews:









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After Hours 2_11

How would you react if you walked into Grand Central Station and saw hundreds of people “frozen in time”? Probably a lot like this (video).

Admit it – you’ve always wanted to do something like this.

Making holographs in minutes – if you groove on interesting technology, you’ll enjoy this.

Extreme hail pictures. Cars don’t stand a chance against this stuff!

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