Category : Product

How to Tap into the Constellation of Assumptions

In the quest to provide users with the best possible experience, a key priority for all UX designers is to make their products as ‘intuitive’ as possible.

The term ‘intuitive’ has been adopted by UX designers to refer to products which require little mental exertion from users and, thereby, are easy to use, navigate and understand. However, using ‘intuitive’ in this way can be problematic. It can mask the real reason for why such designs require little cognitive effort from their users.

The term ‘intuitive’ may conger up the notion that a design is able to tap in to the natural instincts of its users. However, this is misleading. For instance, no one is born with the knowledge or expectation that the search bar of a webpage will appear towards the top of the screen.

Instead, ‘intuitive’ design taps into the constellation of assumptions, preferences, habits, learned behaviours, prejudgements, actions and expectations which have developed both consciously and unconsciously from their past experiences as a user. Indeed, this has led UX designers to call for ‘intuitive’ design to be relabelled ‘recognizable’ design. Yet, to abandon the term ‘intuitive’ in favour ‘recognizable’ would downplay the importance of cognitive ease which is crucial to the user experience.

However, does this then mean that ‘intuitive’ design is inevitably just the perpetuation of design details familiar to the user? No.

Whilst is it true that many ‘intuitive’ UX designs do just simply reflect the learned habits, assumption and expectations of users, good ‘intuitive’ UX design does much more.

Good ‘intuitive’ UX design is innovated albeit in a very particular way. It takes users existing constellation of assumptions, preferences, habits, etc., and détournes them. That is to say, it reroutes them, it hijacks them. It attempts to arrange them in new and novel ways. It uses them as the foundations for integrating innovative elements into a design. If successful, over time these innovations themselves come to inform what is considered ‘intuitive’. Consequently, ‘intuitive’ design is continually evolving; taking familiar design elements and blending them with fresh approaches.

 

Author: Adrian Paylor

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


Let me tell you a story

As we have been getting to grips with Agile ways of working we have been evolving the way we communicate within the team, the way we approach planning and refinement as well as the ceremonies. One of the most important things that we have found is the need to ensure our user stories are focussed on valuable end user outcomes.

We use the ‘As A, When, Then’ method which is a pretty standard way of articulating stories, but fully understanding what the value of the stories are has been the real challenge. Almost anyone can write a story which outlines the needs for a particular function, but are they able to write stories outlining how the end user, the most important person, really benefits from the creation of said function? This is the challenge that we have been stepping up to, and continue to learn and work on.

During the refinement of stories and acceptance criteria, we are starting to really dig deep into the user stories and asking ‘why are we doing this’. If the stories do not have a real end user benefit, why are we doing it? Ultimately we should be working on tasks that have a real benefit to our users, rather than something that we think should be done because we a) already do it, b) think it sounds like a good idea, or c) because we can. It is this mindset to writing stories that will help everyone, from Dev to Stakeholder, really understand how we are making a worthwhile product for the people that keep the business a success.

This is an ever-evolving process and it is great to have an open minded team to bounce the stories off for clarity, or to challenge the reasons for having them in the first place.

There is also the minefield of Business Requirements vs End User Requirements which can greatly assist in confusing the user stories. But that is a whole other story to tell…

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


Nuestra CASA es vuestra CASA

Record cards in wooden drawerOur recent user research has revealed that one of the biggest bugbears for our customers is getting hold of content when they’re not at their home institution.

A number of technologies aim to solve this problem, including VPNs, proxy servers and federated access. While all of these systems work, they also put extra actions between the user and the content they’re looking for. User research indicates that the more steps there are between intent & fulfillment, the less likely it is that the user will persist to the fulfillment stage. As a result of this, we’re always looking for ways to make the user journey smoother, and the CASA initiative recently launched by Google Scholar promises to help do just that.

Campus-activated Subscriber Access (CASA) builds on the existing Subscriber Links program, adding seamless authentication and content access to Google Scholar links to Emerald content. When readers use GS on-campus, CASA notes their institution and associates that with their device or Google account for 30 days. When they later use Google Scholar off-campus with the same device or user account, CASA will send confirmation of their affiliation to Emerald, and we will use that to verify their access to the content they wish to read. No passwords, no virtual networks – if you have a subscription, we’ll take you straight to the paper.

As this builds on Subscriber Links, CASA will automatically work if you have that set up for your institution – you don’t need to do a thing. The process is seamless for the end-user as well, and requires no actions on their part.

 

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


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

 

 

 

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited

 


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.

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


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.

 

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


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

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


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.

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


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.

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited


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.

 

© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited