How to tame dancing bears - User centred design in academic publishing


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Richard Ridge, information architect at Publishing Technology, explores the role that user-centred design can play in making scholarly research navigable for users.

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How to tame dancing bears - User centred design in academic publishing

  1. 1. How to tame dancing bears User centred design in academic publishing Richard Ridge – User Experience Architect
  2. 2. Ursine shuffling explained <ul><li>Increasing disintermediation has not resulted in the development of sites that are based on user needs. </li></ul><ul><li>Many academic publishers have little experience or knowledge of researcher needs and requirements. </li></ul><ul><li>Open access: two steps forward, one step back </li></ul><ul><li>Results are often sites that are cluttered, complicated and filled with gimmicks; what Alan Cooper calls ‘dancing bearware.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Current predicament of designing sites for librarians to be used by researchers is not viable. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Dancing bearware illustrated…. Name of Presentation in Footer Dancing bears
  4. 4. Common pitfalls: the context <ul><li>Publishers care about series, annuals, ISBNs, volumes, collections, issues, covers and ISSNs. </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers care about black holes, Charles Dickens, dyslexia, diodes, the highland clearances and fractured femurs. </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers are increasingly becoming ‘post-journal,’ thinking in terms of content rather than publications. </li></ul><ul><li>Expectations are more likely to be formed by Google and Amazon than by academic publishing sites. </li></ul><ul><li>Print and bibliographic patterns transliterated into digital are increasingly unhelpful. A book series is not a meaningful discovery route; an ontology might be. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Common pitfalls: focussing on features <ul><li>Dubious ‘value adds’ </li></ul><ul><li>Tools and features account for a small percentage of the user experience </li></ul><ul><li>End users want and use only a fraction of the tools that are often offered. </li></ul><ul><li>Given low user time on site, simplicity is critical if users are to take note of what your site has to offer </li></ul><ul><li>Anything with registration or that attempts to tie them into a single site is particularly disliked </li></ul><ul><li>Design experiences not features </li></ul><ul><li>Often more value to end user in culling features rather than adding them </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Discoverability is the overriding concern for researchers </li></ul><ul><li>Different routes to content discovery are far vital than bells and whistles </li></ul><ul><li>Related content recommendations are critical, including both automatically generated content recommendations and curated ones like companion blogs. </li></ul>Common pitfalls: focussing on features Common pitfalls: zombie patterns <ul><li>Copycatting and recycling of UI patterns and features seen on other sites. </li></ul><ul><li>No automatic reason to believe a UI pattern seen on another site was actually used </li></ul><ul><li>No automatic reason to believe that a UI pattern will work when translated from one site to another. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Common pitfalls: ‘functional’ designs <ul><li>Functional appears to be a euphemism for ‘not very nice to look at or use’ </li></ul><ul><li>Function versus form is a false distinction; people engage more with attractive designs. </li></ul><ul><li>Aesthetics matter </li></ul>Common pitfalls: lack of integration & consistency <ul><li>Online experience from many publishers is balkanised, labyrinthine and fragmented across their sites </li></ul><ul><li>Sites need a critical mass of content to feature on a researcher’s radar </li></ul><ul><li>Different sites with different designs for different content types but users are omnivorous in their reading preferences </li></ul><ul><li>Different sites with different designs for different business models </li></ul>
  8. 8. Common pitfalls: Search versus browse <ul><li>Over-complicated search options typically balanced by anaemic browse </li></ul><ul><li>Most searches are very simple but over-complication leads to dislike of using elibrary search engines </li></ul><ul><li>Unreasonable to expect users to know or care whether their search pertains to fulltext, keywords, titles or abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Boolean is neither understood nor intelligible </li></ul><ul><li>Facets and auto-suggest offer more elegant and simpler searching models </li></ul><ul><li>Browse is often weak and anonymous; ontologies form a better model </li></ul>
  9. 9. User centered design <ul><li>Iterative process for developing interfaces based on user research. </li></ul><ul><li>Utilise techniques like focus groups and surveys in order to gain initial information on user requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Define a set of key tasks that are to be accomplished on a given site </li></ul><ul><li>Draw up a set of ‘personas’ as a guide to concentrate attention during the design process on what users are actually going to do </li></ul><ul><li>Use card sorting for developing complex navigational groups or simple taxonomies. </li></ul><ul><li>Iteratively user test wireframe prototypes and beta sites </li></ul><ul><li>Use A/B testing, heatmaps and analytics to look for issues and adjust the interface in the light of findings </li></ul>
  10. 10. A way forward <ul><li>Research user preferences and concentrate only on things that matter to them </li></ul><ul><li>Concentrate on discoverability and optimising search & browse rather than on features </li></ul><ul><li>Apply a consistent brand, design and information architecture across all sites </li></ul><ul><li>Consolidate sites into a unified user experience </li></ul><ul><li>Test iteratively and set targets for areas like usage, bounce rate, time on site and ecommerce conversions. </li></ul>