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Case Study: Mind, Body, HAART Website for HIV/AIDS

Posted Jan 11 2010 10:29pm

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Andrea Willaims’ first reaction to finding out she was HIV positive was to say “I’m going to have to live with it, not die from it.” Andrea is a community health-worker in Brooklyn who has been living with HIV since 1993. It isn’t always easy, but she stresses the importance of attitude, of forcing yourself through the hardest passages. After all, with a husband and kids, a close-knit support group and her career, she has a lot to live for.

Andrea’s story is one of several on Boehringer-Ingelheim’s recently launched HIV/AIDS resource website “Mind, Body, HAART.” It’s an information portal for HIV/AIDS patients, professionals, and educators. The site is primarily unbranded; although the BI logo  appears on page footers, there is no overt product logos or ads. As is common with unbranded marketing sites, there are many links that will of course transfer to their branded product site Viramune.com.

The site’s information structure is comprised of three discreet sections or paths for each intended target audience (patients, physicians, educators). However, the navigation itself is a bit confusing as links from one section lead to portions of another, the section landing pages don’t seem to path to the drop down sections, and some content seems accessible only by digging through numerous links.picture-53

The patient education section is robust and uses online video very effectively. Highlights include a 3D animation of HIV replication, and both physician and patient interviews and each video has an accompanying transcript for those who would prefer to read or to print and save the information. Additionally there are a variety of “tip sheets” and “fact sheets” and other PDF documents available to download, and a page of links to other web resources. The site’s interactive elements are limited to a “Locate an HIV test site” widget from the CDC and a poll that asks, “On average, how well would you say you handle stress?”

There is great use of video and if this site were launched in the year 2000 it would have been really awesome–but it’s 2010. Any effort to provide health information on an unbranded platform should be welcomed, but Mind, Body, HAART falls miserably short of its potential. Hopefully the site producers only suffered from too small a budget and too tight a deadline and not from lack of vision or social savvy. Perhaps this version of the site is really just the “phase I” of great things to come. Specific areas for improvement include:

1) Separate site just for patients — this is arguable and there are many benefits to a single URL for all audiences. But it is far better to create a patient-targeted site that can be fully optimized, while at the same time simplifying the content architecture.

2) Post the videos on YouTube and other places — you already paid for them, why wouldn’t you cross post them to YouTube, the second biggest search engine on the web?

3) Go social — this site is a “web 1.0″ information portal. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it is so easy and affordable to take it social even in simple ways. But there seems to be no Mind Body HAART profiles (or Viramune ones for that matter) on Twitter, Facebook, or other places. Even a “simple social” approach could be used to daily broadcast HAART information on Twitter, similar to how various CDC channels provide health education. If you really want go nuts perhaps this information portal should also have a tab for a true custom patient community.

4) Add a true sharebar — while there is a “share this” link it simply provides a form to send an email to a friend. That’s good, but what about a modern sharebar that lets people share on Digg, Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, or 300 other sites with just 2 clicks?

5) Make more search engine friendly — for a site that has the title “Living with HIV/AIDS” it was surprising that the word AIDS doesn’t appear in any of the keyword metatags on any of the pages (HIV does, but not AIDS). Also, the site was built with developer-friendly java-script code, but it results in SEO unfriendly URL’s like “http://mindbodyhaart.com/mbh/index.jsp?path=patient/default.xml” which is actually the url for the landing page for the main patient section. Plain word url’s with hyphen separation between words is a good practice to keep Dr. Google happy.

According to BI in their press release, “The goal of the site is to help enhance HIV/AIDS care and treatment by fostering an open dialogue.”  But it’s hard to have a dialogue when you’re the only one talking.

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