Gotta Be Starting Something

Hello, world! My name is Asad, and I joined Emerald around seven weeks ago as a user experience (UX) Developer. First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone at Emerald. It is not always easy to transition into a new career, meeting new people and learning the ins-and-outs of a business, but the people at Emerald made me feel welcome and made the transition a seamless experience.

To be clear, I have never held the role of a user experience designer before my current position at Emerald. Sure, I had created wireframes, prototypes and assumption based personas, but I had never really delved into UX. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was only skimming the surface. There’s so much more in UX than meets the eye. To be completely honest, I thought UX was wireframing, designing and creating interactive prototypes. Sure, that’s a part of it, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. To get to the wireframing and designing stage, you need to know what you want to improve; you need to plan and conduct research sessions and come up with innovative solutions to problems that don’t just imitate other solutions but improve on them.

 

I think it is fantastic how the team is very well organised, and how we have a set UX process. That does not mean that we do not look for new solutions and software that may make our jobs easier. We have the freedom to look at new software, techniques, process changes and are actively encouraged to share these findings with the team

 

It was up to me whether I wanted to undertake a project myself so I chose to get cracking straight away and began to lead my first project. I was tasked with seeing if we could improve the way our customers consume content from Emerald. To find out what we can do as a business to help our customers find the content they’re looking for faster with as little effort as possible. The research began!

 

I began gathering data on existing methods of content consumption by conducting a competitor analysis with both direct and indirect competitors. I analysed the data that was accumulated to see what the best approach for Emerald would be and used all of that collective information to come up with a potential solution. Finally, I began to create a complete roadmap for tasks (with timeframes) of ways in which we can take the data gathered to create the potential solution I devised and showed key stakeholders to get their feedback.

 

Currently, we’re in the process of conducting further research, which may include wireframes and prototypes (the part I love) to get a better understanding of user requirements and to determine if the solution works for our audiences. To be honest, leading this project was daunting. I have never lead a project before, and I had never done any of the tasks that I was given previously. It was a learning experience, which was frustrating at times, but overall it was a worthwhile endeavour that I have learnt a great deal from. If everything was perfect and people knew every task that they started, the UX role would not exist. I am now at a stage where I am taking on multiple projects simultaneously, and completing tasks that I have also never done before. That is something that I am very proud of. Just remember, experiment, fail, learn, grow, prosper and repeat!

 

I would like to finish off this blog post by providing some resources for UX designers, especially if you are new to the whole UX role (like me), but also for UX pros. You can learn about the different processes that businesses go through, all the different terminology and current best practices (which are always changing). I wish you all the best of luck in everything that you do, whether that is UX or something else.

 

  1. https://uxmastery.com/archives/
  2. https://www.uxpin.com/studio/blog/
  3. https://www.invisionapp.com/blog

 

I have already learnt a great deal, and I am incredibly excited to learn more in the future with Emerald.

 


Moving on up

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, so when we learned that publishers were required to update their article pages to keep in line with revised search engine specifications, we took the opportunity for a little reinvention.

We were informed that we needed to move the abstract further up the article page, to aid search engine crawlers to index pages as efficiently as possible. Coincidently, this was something that we had already been thinking about as you would have seen in our previous blog post. We wanted our users to get to the content (the thing that they are interested in) as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

We listen to every bit of feedback that we receive from our users, and hoard these little nuggets of insight to ensure that when we make changes, we deliver things that are both relevant and useful. As we were having to make some changes, we decided to go back through everything we had related to the article page, and incorporate some of these suggestions and fix any problems that our users face.

Pre re-design

In a happy coincidence, the overwhelming theme in the feedback, was that the position of the original header box containing the journal information was forcing the content too far down the page. Meaning that it was hidden from view. Our users wanted the content in plain sight, they wanted it above the fold so that they could see it without having to scroll down.

So, at the risk of using too many sayings, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and move the journal information section to the right-hand column of the page. This then meant that the content was immediately accessible, and naturally created a section of tools and information relating to the article, to the right of the page.

 

This is not just an issue on Emerald Insight, even some of the biggest sites in the world experience this same problem due to different browser sizes and windows restricting visibility. Here are a couple of blog posts from staff at Google discussing the problem:

http://googlecode.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/introducing-google-browser-size.html

https://search.googleblog.com/2012/01/page-layout-algorithm-improvement.html

 

 

 

 

 

 


Better clarity on article pages in academic publishing

Hypothesis and goals

Recently one of the tasks for UX at Emerald has been to look into improving the article pages. The hypothesis and guiding goals behind this project were to improve layout to aid simplification in consuming and reading articles. The existing layout provided a cluttered experience for the user with elements competing for space, and a mixture of legacy features and displaced features competing for visual attention.

original article page

Discovery workshop

Our aim of initial research was to understand the functionality and features our users would expect as a minimum, and if there are any improvements we could implement.  To start with we held a discovery workshop with subject matter experts to explore the hypothesis and provide some initial pathways to research.

Personas

Starting out with our key personas identified from the discovery, we looked at Students due to being heavy consumers of our research. Our secondary personas were editors who would have great ideas on how to make improvements to support further research creation. we also considered authors, who both create and consume our articles.

Student persona

Analysing analytics and benchmarking

We carried out some benchmarking based on heuristic analysis on sites to explore how other similar sectors approached the hypothesis, what was working and what wasn’t.

Also, this was a good time to grab the analytics to reflect a variety of sections which were relevant to the research. This allowed us to gain data insights and patterns that may point towards sections that were working, and not. This combination allowed to formulate some initial paths to take in discovery.

Usability testing

We found a quick set of usability tests on how students used our article pages really helped us here. All remote with students, the insights we got here were useful and sometimes surprising!

Out of this early discovery we then had a priority list of improvements on which to explore within sketching exercises.

Collaborative design and wireframes

One of the great things about collaborative design is that it can involve a variety of people (Users, Subject matter experts, Developers, Product Owners & Stakeholders) and this approach means it’s a more open and broader creative thinking process which gives a perspective one group of participants just might not think of.

We sat down with pens, paper whiteboards and post-its, working together & talking through the scenario. Quickly producing (and binning) ideas that cumulated in a set of wireframe sketches ready to test.

A few key areas of the page were focused on, one of the existing issues was that the journal and article information, plus the article tools were all mixed in together visually. We took the tools and gave them their own panel in the sidebar, and made primary actions a focus, while pulling back the lesser used actions into a dropdown to create space.

Also, we took the journal information and gave this its own panel, again in the right sidebar. This had two positive outcomes. it brought the abstract further up the page, and vastly simplified the article reading flow by stripping the article flow down to basic essentials, thereby giving the article & journal information a separation and more defined sections on the page.

Other simplifications explored were moving citations and downloads to the foot of the article, and providing a dedicated section in the sidebar for citations and references.

Article page wireframes

Hi-fidelity prototypes and testing

Usually in a research and design scenarios our process would now move onto digital wireframes which we would prototype and test.

On this occasion, we took our first iteration of paper sketched wireframes and built a quick high-fidelity prototype to show some simple interactions in Invision. We could then take this prototype & test remotely with users and share out the initial idea with stakeholders.

From these results, we iterated feedback back into the prototype, adjusting and refining until such a point we had an initial release we could develop into a working mvp.

Hi fidelity prototype for article page

Reflection

The outcome was an evolved and improved user experience with defined sections for reading, tools and overarching journal information. The article is now simplified, with less visual noise cluttering up the natural article reading flow. Secondary tasking & information such as Journal information & article tools were placed in panels to create defined sections, making the article the primary focus.

Going forward over time we would take a further look at heat mapping and analytics to measure the outcome, and if there is any way in which we can further refine this area.

 


Agile ways of working for the win

This week we launched our new open access (OA) programme, Emerald Reach, to the world. This is the result of months of iterative webpage designs and builds, with lots of cross departmental collaboration to bring Emerald Reach to life.

We have created a portal within Emerald Insight with direct access to specifically browse OA content, and links through to the corporate website, containing the new OA policy information. What looks like a simple, yet sleek set of web pages actually has a lot of experimentation bubbling under the surface. This is the first time our users have been able to browse only open access content through emeraldinsight.com, marking an important shift in the discoverability of accessible content from Emerald Publishing.

Our developers spent a lot of time looking into ways of injecting CSS into our website to really highlight the OA content and improve the user’s experience site wide, not just on the new Emerald Reach pages. With quick turnarounds needed on design changes based on stakeholder feedback, the product team evolved its working in the most agile way yet.

The page is live and the Emerald Reach programme has been communicated to the world, but the story does not end there. There will be continuous user testing and iterative improvements on the pages using Scrum methodology as the offering develops and grows, so please check it out HERE and let us know your thoughts.


Explore Emerald Insight on the move

This week sees the launch of our new ‘responsive’ version of Emerald Insight, so grab your mobile and take a look.

I say ‘responsive’ because it won’t completely expand and contract fluidly regardless of the display size, it will snap into place because the page is serving something different depending on the device it is viewed on.

So what? you may think. It’s all just semantics. Well, we want you to know that this is a long-term project and the first in a long line of releases. We may be constrained a little by some platform issues, but we will continue to iterate and improve the site regardless, with future enhancements based on the feedback from our users – i.e. you.

Now that we can offer a tailored mobile experience, we feel we’ve made a big step forward, but we don’t want to stop there. Currently every piece of functionality that exists on the desktop site, is also visible in the mobile experience. Does it all need to be there? Could we strip some of it out? Can we hide elements and present a lighter and more streamlined user experience?

Over the coming months, we will be embarking on rounds of user testing across the globe. Tapping into the expertise of those who interact with our site and products, in order to truly hone the mobile experience and provide our users with all that they need to get the most from Emerald Insight on the move.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up your mobile and have a flick through the site. If you have any comments, thoughts or ideas, please get in touch. Any and all feedback is useful, we would love to hear from you.


ODI & Product checklists

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve released a set of checklists today, detailing what we’re doing to make the content we publish easier to find.
First off the bat is our NISO Open Discovery Initiative checklist. This helps us convey, in a standard format, exactly what we’re doing to increase the discoverability of our content.

We have also published checklists detailing what we do for each of our three main products, Books, Journals and Case Studies. These checklists include information about A&I services, social media and metadata. We’re working on a fourth checklist, covering our discovery-related activities for Open Access content, which we plan to release shortly.

The checklists can be found here


Take a peek at our monographs

As our Product digital team work on improving the on Emerald Insight content experience, incremental changes are being released onto the site enhancing its usability, discovery and not forgetting its aesthetic pleasure!

PDF Previews for our latest monographs (and the Transport eBooks Collection’s monographs) have now been enabled on www.emeraldinsight.com, allowing everybody, be they customers or inquisitive parties, the opportunity to view the prelims and first few pages of the first chapter. Not only is this a great way to give people a taste of the title, it allows Google to better index the content, aiding in the discovery for Emerald’s book titles.

 

Additional work is starting soon to improve on this offer by expanding the free preview to the whole first chapter of each new monograph on the site.


Heigh ho, Heigh ho, it’s off data mining we go

As a publisher, we want to meet the needs of researchers and academics who interact with our site to ensure that we offer the best user experience and functionality possible. With this in mind, we began a project to facilitate text and data mining on emeraldinsight.com, following requests from individuals and institutions in recent months.

So what is text and data mining, or TDM as it is often shortened to? Well, it is the analysis of large bodies of work by a machine, to try and identify trends that would not ordinarily be picked up through usual ‘human’ reading. For example, the processing of data contained in a large collection of scientific papers in a particular medical field could suggest a possible link between a gene and a disease, or between a drug and an adverse effect – things that a human would never piece together after reading thousands of articles.

Mine

With so much amazing content on our site, it was an obvious decision to enable this functionality. Hopefully by doing so, it will spark further ideas and research and perhaps even change the world!.. Okay, we are maybe getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but it is still a good thing that it is now available.

Having investigated a number of different options as to how we could do this, we decided to go with a solution that involved the use of CrossRef’s TDM facility. This meant adding additional data into current and future deposits with CrossRef, along with depositing a huge tranche of historical information. So far, we have provided data for over 200,000 articles, and this number will continue to grow over forthcoming weeks. We have also enabled access to the equivalent number of machine-readable files on our site.

Users wishing to mine the site are encouraged to inform us of their intention to do so, so they are not automatically blocked by our system. There are also the usual access restrictions in place, so a user will still have to be a subscriber to the content. But aside from those minor caveats, we encourage our users to use the facility and mine for that one diamond of information that is just waiting to be discovered.


Reading full books just got easier

The most recent development for users of book content on is now live on www.emeraldinsight.com in the form of full book download. All non-series book titles published from 2016 onward have the option to download the whole book title in PDF and ePub format. This is in addition to the pre-existing individual chapter download option. Not only will this provide more choice in how end users consume book content, the functionality will aid usage of the content which should make librarians even happier!

 

Work was carried out by the digital team and its business partners from Production and Customer Operations, helping to enable the required changes in the typesetting process, the implementation of the functionality on the site and the end to end testing.

Full Book DL

This development places the latest, highest value book titles in a great position for future product development, especially when considering potential new business models for Emerald’s customers.


Feeding RePEc for content hungry economists

Knowing what researchers need in order to do their job is something that all publishers work towards. A part of that focuses on ensuring content on the subject matter they are researching is discover-able. Over the past year we’ve heard from economists who want to access our abstracts as part of the RePEc service and during the last few weeks we’ve been working to make this happen.

RePEc (Research Papers in Economics – http://repec.org/) is a volunteer maintained project that collects data from various sources, then serves the metadata to users through a variety of different services. Emerald used to provide journal data to the RePEc, but technical issues caused it to fall behind several years ago.

Now, with the new digital teams in place, we are working to get our latest article metadata onto RePEc’s database, with the first steps to make some of our more recent journal metadata available. This is already underway with the creation of a new FTP server, the sourcing and conversion of content which has been successfully tested with a batch of 41 journal titles. Following on from this, we are working to make an automated feed live in January to allow the flow of new journal metadata to reach RePEc faster and with minimal manual intervention. This will then be extended to Book metadata, to better serve the needs of economics researchers.

Watch this space for further updates!