Apply the UPL

Principle 3: 
Design for Digital First

There is untapped promise in digital media. Designing for static print media misses an opportunity to create more engaging communications that consider interactivity, video... Read More

There is untapped promise in digital media. Designing for static print media misses an opportunity to create more engaging communications that consider interactivity, video, sound, and personalization. Digital media let us test and measure in a way that is impossible elsewhere, and we can use that flexibility to improve our communications not only in the digital realm, but also in our static print communications.

We believe that when we design for digital first, we learn more about patients, and are able to create higher-value communications that better meet their evolving needs.

Tool: UPL Rules

The UPL Rules provide detailed guidance on how each of the Principles can be applied in practice. We think the UPL Rules are the best way to get a good understanding of how to put the UPL into practice.

Below is a sample of rules pertaining to Design for Digital First:

Rule 15. Incorporate functions that allow the user to consume, explore, and expand information at their own pace.

  • a. Use dynamic, clickable images and links to break complex information into discrete parts. This allows users to selectively expand and collapse layers and levels of information.
  • b. Provide links to complete source data.

Rule 18. Don’t just build a website. Think holistically about patient experiences online and offline.

  • a. Consider the context in which patients are likely to access the materials, and how patients might use the information beyond the website.
    • e.g., A patient might share something from a website on Facebook or print it for use in a discussion with their healthcare team.
  • b. Don’t make assumptions about the way patients will reach a given webpage, or the order in which they will access content.
    • e.g., Consider the various channels and touchpoints by which a patient could access a website: mobile or desktop, email link, web search, or social media. Prioritize a channel but not to the exclusion of others.

Rule 21. Continue to produce print materials but in a digital context.

  • a. In print materials, prominently direct patients to useful web resources whenever it’s relevant to do so.
  • b. Provide downloadable, printable versions of all printed communications on the web so that everyone can access them.
  • c. Designing for Digital First doesn’t reduce the need for printed materials. Print is as important as ever, but digital allows us to overcome some of the limitations of print, e.g., expensive to produce and ship, slow to update.

Download the complete set of UPL Rules:

Ready But Limited

This tool still has areas for improvement, and more resources will be added over time.

Tool: UPL Style Guide

The Style Guide offers detailed guidance on how patient materials created with UPL should look and feel. It provides specific guidance on how to design for digital first.

Style Guide topic examples related to Design for Digital First include:

Digital Typography

Digital typography can greatly impact the readability of a body of text. It becomes even more important when designing for patients, as their physical and emotional burdens can affect their ability to read and comprehend.

The UPL Style Guide provides guidance for digital typography, in addition to print typography.


Download the complete
UPL Style Guide:

Primed & Polished

This tool has been validated extensively, and significant changes will be infrequent.

Case Study Highlight

This is an example of how the Design for Digital First principle has been applied to Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) patient communications.

Introducing Another Way to Talk About Cancer

This case study highlights how one concept was explained across different media including digital animations and print. The digital animations include sound and interactivity and can be viewed on multiple screens.

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