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GCN : October 2012
26 GCN OCTOBER 2012 • GCN.COM CASE STUDY The National Cancer Insti- tute's journey to the mo- bile Web began with some startling numbers. Within a six-month span last year, the number of people ac- cessing the institute's flagship Cancer.gov site spiked from about 600,000 viewers per month to more than 1 million. But visitors were in for a pain- ful struggle, since the website was not designed for small form- factor devices. Despite that less-than-optimal experience, mobile access continued to rise, leading Jonathan Cho, chief of NCI's Communications Technol- ogy Branch, to a couple of con- clusions. The numbers, he said, "told us we had not only highly motivated users, but a need we had to meet," Cho said. "What it came down to, for us, was recognizing that mobile was inevitable," added Lakshmi Grama, senior digital content strategist at NCI's Office of Com- munications and Education. SHARP RISE IN MOBILE ACCESS SPARKS MAKEOVER In January 2011, NCI kicked off its mobile foray. The months that followed took NCI through mar- ket research, website analytics, focus groups, prototyping, test- ing and, eventually, deployment. A mobile version of Cancer.gov debuted in February. The agency's initial step fo- cused on basic background re- search and website analytics. The research confirmed the importance of creating a mo- bile presence, but NCI needed to drill down. The key task: identify which groups of users had the greatest need to locate cancer in- formation via mobile technology. FIND CRITICAL USERS "I think we have nearly 50,000 pages of content," Cho said. "Ob- viously, it is a huge challenge just to filter through the content even on the regular website." NCI segmented the mobile user population into three groups: pa- tients, friends and family; health- care professionals; and research- ers. The agency conducted focus groups with those audiences. The focus groups, Grama said, revealed the "most likely audi- ence" for its content: patients and people concerned with family members or someone they know who has cancer. Other audiences were not as close a fit for mobile. Research- ers, it was found, access NCI con- tent as they investigate funding and grants, but not on mobile devices. Health-care providers expressed interest, but wanted to use mobile cancer information in the context of care. NCI's content, however, provides detailed evi- dence summaries that aren't nec- essarily geared toward a quick consult with a patient. "Clearly, we now had the audi- ence that was looking for content on mobile," Grama said, not- ing that NCI's website analytics backed up the user group find- ings. "We worked really hard on the research to understand our audi- ence," Cho said. "It really allowed us to target and segment the con- tent for those mobile audiences." NCI's next move was to settle upon the way in which it would serve up information to its pa- tients, friends and family audi- ence. Once again, NCI would go back to the research approach that became an important ele- ment of the agency's mobile ini- tiative. MOBILE DEBATE: ADAPT WEBSITE OR BUILD YOUR OWN APP? As mobile device populations ex- plode and agencies work to make their services mobile-friendly, the mobile website vs. mobile In setting up a mobile Web platform, the National Cancer Institute relied on Web analytics, market research, focus groups, prototyping and testing HOW ONE AGENCY FOLLOWED ITS USERS ONTO THE MOBILE WEB