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What's in the Article

  • 4 Major Factors in Successful Pharma Websites
  • The importance of working with an agency that understands ADA Compliance

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Building websites for any large company can be a stressful, lengthy process. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry has it harder than most. In addition to all the issues and challenges other companies face when developing a site, pharma websites are saddled with regulatory and technical concerns that need to be overcome.

Pharma and biotech brands must navigate everything, from ADA to the FDA to HIPAA to CCPA, prior to launching any new site or update. The red tape and approval process seems endless.

So what can pharmaceutical brands proactively do to expedite website development, while minimizing headaches? Here is a short list of what pharma brands should be doing to deploy great websites.

1. Pick the Right CMS

There are a lot of options out there, but in our opinion WordPress is by and large the best Content Management System for pharmaceutical websites. There are numerous advantages in building out a site on WordPress. It’s cost-effective, open-source, extremely popular among programmers, and very SEO-friendly.

Benefits of Using WordPress

Manage Multiple Sites Simultaneously

Particularly attractive to pharma sites is WordPress Multisite, a feature that is ideal for international pharmaceutical brands that need to support multiple versions of their site. WordPress Multisite allows a single administrator to exert full control over all sites through a single Super Admin login. This includes brand sites for different countries and different languages, which may have their own unique requirements and messaging. Some pharma and biotech brands may use WordPress Multisite to manage both HCP and patient-facing sites, as well.

Themes and plugins can be updated and installed across all sites from the same Super Admin account. The simplicity and efficiency of Multisite makes it the ideal choice for pharmaceutical websites.


There is a huge community of WordPress developers and designers across the country (and world). Not only does that make it easier to find the support you need, but WordPress developers are constantly innovating and creating new features, plugins, themes and more that can be utilized to continually improve your site. Even where WordPress falls short, like visitor tracking, it easily integrates with other programs like Salesforce, Pardot or Adobe.

The best pharma sites engage in ongoing enhancements to extend their capability and update their theme. The practice of constantly updating, rather than at major interludes, allows any new product be added to the theme, quickly and with minimal difficulty.

Reduce Regulatory Delays

Every pharma site faces multiple approval checkpoints and revisions in the process of achieving FDA approval. Regulatory delays are inevitable. When product managers face the challenge of meeting internal deadlines, while contending with regulatory delays, any little time saver can make a big difference.

WordPress can help shave days off of the approval process by making the update process faster. Developers can update multiple website versions at once through WordPress. Sometimes accommodating FDA regulation requires styling and formatting changes to content, which becomes time consuming with hard coding, but becomes much faster using WordPress.

2. Prioritize Security

The pharmaceutical industry undergoes more scrutiny and regulation than nearly any other, between HIPAA, new privacy laws like the GDPR and CCPA, and pending state digital privacy legislation. Ensuring the digital privacy of all patient and consumer data needs to be the number one priority of pharma websites.

When developing a pharmaceutical site, building in privacy and security needs to come from multiple areas at the same time. Not only does the site need to obey all HIPAA laws for medical privacy and confidentiality, but new laws in Europe and California require full disclosure on how you will be using any data collected and who you are sharing it with. The website must be built in a way that expressly notifies visitors of their rights, gives them the ability to opt-out of any data collection and allows easy changes, deletions, and updates to data.

3. Achieve ADA Compliance

Pharmaceutical website developers need to be skilled in building sites that meet with all ADA accessibility requirements. While ADA website requirements apply to all industries, pharma websites need to be extra mindful, for obvious reasons.

That means pharmaceutical websites need to include maximum flexibility in order to service visitors of all abilities. Experienced ADA compliant web developers need to be involved from the beginning of the process in order to make site builds move seamlessly from the outset. Treating ADA compliance as an afterthought can end up costing pharmaceutical brands significant time and money.

Some examples of ADA compliant website design include: 

  • Providing alternative reading or viewing options, such as alt text on images, transcripts or closed captioning for video and audio.
  • Designing the website with an intentional structure using markups
  • Color considerations
  • Allowing for textual resizing
  • Visitors must be able to manipulate the site through multiple options, including keyboard-only
  • Ability to pause or deactivate features like timers, animations, audio or video, or other automated functions
  • Able to be used properly on screen readers

4. Consider Marketing and Functionality Goals Prior to Design

A large portion of building out a pharma website takes place before any coding actually occurs. Knowing possible design, development and approval hiccups in advance helps to avoid bigger delays down the line. Making these decisions before designing will reduce major last minute changes.

  • Determine who will be using the site – is it meant to service both HCP and patients?
  • What is the main goal of the site and how will the brand be using any data collected (in a HIPAA-approved manner, of course).
  • Ensuring that a beautiful design is also a functional design is a primary challenge for pharmaceutical brands. That means brand managers need to ensure the designer they are using has the big picture in mind.
  • Functionality > Appearance (though ideally both are top-notch).
  • User process and funnel needs to be carefully considered in the design process. Too many site developers get handed a design to develop that lacks in usability or just isn’t programmable.
  • Pharma sites are trending away from dual version HCP/patient formats, instead becoming two distinct sites. Pharma brands are able to better tailor messaging and target their HCP marketing efforts when they know their visitors are not a mixed audience. Brands can build HCP sites with enhanced analytical and marketing features that set them up for better 1:1 marketing options.

Pharmaceutical websites are amongst the most complex sites to develop, so working with an experienced developer is essential to saving both time and money. Talk to your internal IT and product management team to determine how much and what type of help they need in the site development process and get all teams on board from the start.

Contact CMDS today at 732-706-5555 or click here to get started! We’re here to help.