Kanker.nl: making it easier to share and find information about cancer

With a complete makeover of the web platform kanker.nl, iO helped (ex-) patients and their loved ones to find the information they need, and made knowledge sharing effortless in an engaged community.
iO kanker.nl




Create a community platform to share crucial information and knowledge about cancer. Effortlessly. secure and accurate.


A complete makeover of the web platform

What do you do if your life is turned upside down?

When you are confronted with cancer, whether it’s directly or indirectly, you want to get a grip on the situation. But how? The world of cancer information is cluttered and complex. If you are receiving treatment, how do you know if it is the best treatment for you or if you should explore alternatives? And how do you navigate all of the available information?

The kanker.nl platform answers these questions by being there for everyone in the Netherlands who has to deal with cancer: patients, ex-patients and their loved ones. It delivers on its brand promise ‘We are there for you.’ (We zijn er voor je.) by offering visitors validated, accurate and understandable information about the specific type of cancer. In total kanker.nl hosts 140+ specific dossiers for every type of cancer. The dossiers contain information about the disease, it’s symptoms, causes and effects, as well as data about how to live well with the disease.

The platform makes it easy for people to get in touch with fellow (ex) patients in a community with 29.000+ participants. Along with the community, kanker.nl gives visitors the possibility to communicate with experts via talk/chat/email. Medical care professionals are also on the platform to give visitors the opportunity to talk about their experiences or ask detailed questions. The platform also contains a searchable overview of local oncology medical practitioners and caregivers.

The first version of kanker.nl. was launched in 2013, and was in need of a serious update. So, Kanker.nl called on iO to completely rebuild the platform.

Stats: relevant data


unique visitors each month


active participants


bloggers share their experiences


discussion groups

The challenge: making it effortless

Kanker.nl was originally built at the request of KWF Kankerbestrijding, the Dutch Federation of Cancer Patient Organisations (NFK) and the Dutch Integral Cancer Centre (IKNL) and a collection of patient organisations (NFK). However, after successfully launching kanker.nl as an independent organisatie, the founding partners felt that the platform no longer satisfied the needs and requirements of it’s editors and visitors.

The original kanker.nl system gave visitors, participants, editors and moderators little freedom to upload information and articles independently. Blogging, changing settings, moderation or changing library content was difficult. All crucial factors for a successful community platform. And even if cancer is a daily struggle, sharing experiences and knowledge about the disease shouldn’t be another challenge.

In an intensive agile collaboration, we decided to redevelop the extensive online platform. Our goal? To make sharing experiences and knowledge about cancer effortless, all within a caring, safe and secure environment.

The strategy: a complete makeover

When we started working with the kanker.nl team, it rapidly became clear to everyone that the best way to go was to overhaul the site in its entirety. There were several reasons for this decision:

  • Custom-built on an outdated framework, the old website no longer met the current requirements in terms of coding and functionality.

  • Separate logins for user management and content management admins made things unnecessarily complex.

  • The front-end wasn’t optimised for mobile, leading to frustration for users viewing the site on mobile devices.

  • Moderators were running into practical issues regarding community management and content moderation.

Conclusion: it would be easier to start from scratch. From design to back-end and front-end development, content migration and integration with third-party systems – such as Gridline's search and thesaurus function.

Our collaboration included demos and user tests, and prioritised releases in two-weekly 'sprints'. The short intervals between sprints allowed the kanker.nl team to quickly check the website’s functionalities, so that they could provide instant feedback on the CMS properties. This ensured that the front-end of the website was user friendly, for the community, and the back-end was user friendly for the content editors and moderators.

Throughout the process, we focused on the following aspects:

  • Great UX: optimising the user experience for visitors, participants and editors

  • Ironclad privacy: taking above average care for privacy

  • Technical freedom: offering building blocks for future development by kanker.nl

  • Inclusive design: delivering on the brand promise ‘We're here for you.’ through a user-friendly approach

Great UX = better engagement

By directly offering content linked to a clear design, we provide an excellent UX. That way, visitors, participants and editors can quickly find all relevant information.

For example, thanks to search filters for every cancer subtype, patients suffering from a specific cancer can find the information they need at a glance, without information that’s less relevant to them ‘cluttering’ their screen:


Another example are ‘care paths’, which provide clarity about the steps in the care process, indicate the patient trajectory and clarify which actions will be taken at what time:


Ironclad privacy

Privacy is the distinguishing feature of the entire platform, as it’s extremely important to visitors and participants. So we recommended Drupal as an open-source CMS to ensure sensitive information does not end up in the wrong hands. After all, we know from experience it’s as tough as nails in terms of security. The main reasons for this are that Drupal has several processes in place for addressing security vulnerabilities, and also has a large and active Drupal community, with an excellent track record of signalling and fixing issues.

Technical freedom with Drupal

Another advantage of Drupal? It offers a lot of technical freedom, which guarantees that our platform is future-proof. Because of Drupal's modular character, kanker.nl can evolve easily, and keep up with developments in e-health,like new tools, information demands and changing legislation.

Inclusive design

We decided on a design that is clean and quiet, with extra attention to accessibility. For example, we increased readability by paying attention to font sizes and line spacing. By making sure everyone has a sense of belonging when visiting the platform, we delivered on the brand promise ‘We are there for you.’. On top of that, we put extra focus on content management and editing. During the development process, the target group tested the design concepts twice in a test lab.

The solution: empowering people to ...

Our goal during the entire project was to empower visitors by making the right information – as well as the experiences of others – easily accessible. The renewed and improved kanker.nl website has a fresher appearance, a higher degree of user-friendliness and various functionalities that facilitate dialogue and knowledge-sharing. They enable users to:

Find knowledge and information

Patients or their loved ones can now easily find information about cancer and information on treatments and the consequences of cancer in the online library, which is full of medically validated, reliable information.

Share experiences

Those who wish to can make contact, read or write a blog to share stories, or start a conversation in theme-oriented group discussions with fellow cancer (ex-)patients.

Get help and support

Visitors can ask care professionals questions or ask for expert assistance via mail, phone or chat. They can also find expert care workers in the area thanks to the kanker.nl Info line and Referral Guide (provided by the IKNL).

Use questionnaires and online tools

Handy questionnaires, practical information from nearby health organisations and online tools, such as the ‘symptom checker’, are available to those who want to monitor complaints.

'We have grown as an organisation, with the knowledge and expertise of the specialists at iO. Our collaboration means we can use our resources more effectively.'

Jacqueline Stokman

Jacqueline Stokman, Marketing & Communication Foundation kanker.nl

The Result: a trusted platform that’s there for you

The power of kanker.nl as an information platform is the combination of the information library and the community. The possibility to share knowledge, enter into dialogue and exchange experiences makes kanker.nl a platform that resonates with people.

But it’s more than that: the community is part of keeping the brand promise 'We are there for you.'. It means that thanks to kanker.nl, no (ex-)patient or loved one ever has to feel alone in their personal experience with the disease. It also means sharing the information with other websites, and collaborating with healthcare professionals to continuously improve the website is easier and more effective.

And it’s clear people have found their way to the platform: Kanker.nl receives around 750,000 unique visitors each month, with more than 29,000 people actively participating in the platform in 48 discussion groups. Of those participants, there are over 1200 bloggers sharing their experiences in around 250 blogs each month.

The icing on the cake?

Our collaboration with kanker.nl has attracted a lot of attention: the platform won many awards, including two golden Lovie Awards and the golden Dutch Interactive Award in the ‘communities’ category, the prize for the very best interactive work by Dutch companies. The latter underscored the difference the platform makes for its end-users, and also recognised the importance of the aspects we mentioned earlier: user-friendliness, mobile first, data privacy and a future-proof CMS technology. The jury said in their jury report on kanker.nl:

“The care with which they handle their community is tremendous. The numbers in terms of usage and reach are impressive and the design is very to the point. They have heard from the users what is needed during the redesign, and the agency has also demonstrably listened carefully to the wishes of the community. If you're talking about a community, this is the best example, and everyone else can learn from it."

There is no greater compliment than this after finishing a successful project that we loved working on.

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