Designing NCI's mobile cancer site

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BOSTON—With 50,000 pages of content on the National Cancer Institute's website, shaping the organization's mobile strategy was no easy task. Jonathan Cho, chief of communications technology for the National Cancer Institute, discussed the process during the Medicine 2.0 Congress.

Cho said that the vast quantity of information requires the organization to understand the content better than ever to make it relevant to the audience. Regardless of the particular user, everyone wants the latest and greatest information. However, Cho said they had to take away what's not essential and identify the core content that meets the real needs of users.

A big decision was whether to take the mobile web route or create a mobile app. "We chose the web route because it's not platform-specific." Another factor was that "anyone can create a mobile app but no one else is going to create a mobile version of the site."

The organization used the COPE model: create once and publish everywhere, which he said makes the data much more flexible. The project was designed for three distinct user groups: patients, friends and family; providers; and researchers and advocates. Cho said they had to determine the right content, including fact sheets, treatment summaries, an appealing design, usefulness for a diverse audience, increased visibility and promotion of its 1800-4CANCER hotline.

The mobile site was launched in January, and calls to the hotline have already increased by 11 percent in English and 44 percent in Spanish. "Personal devices have made it convenient for anyone to touch a specialist," Cho said.

Meanwhile, a technology publication rated the site a 10 for usefulness and ease-of-use and ranked it one of the 10 best federal mobile apps—although Cho pointed out that it's not technically an app.