BioMed Central: publisher and journal sites redesign

BioMed Central front page
The previous design of the BioMed Central site
The previous BioMed Central publisher site

BioMed Central is an open-access scientific publisher, running over 200 scientific journals, most of which exist solely online. I was part of a large team involved in redesigning and reworking the publisher’s site, along with all of its journals into a more updated, responsive and suitable solution. Working as a Senior UX Designer, I was asked to oversee revising the functionality and design over significant parts, such as the Submissions and Memberships processes, the overall Information Architecture, and Journal home pages.

 

Information Architecture

Information architecture planning board for BioMed Central
Planning board for the BioMed Central Information Architecture overview

The Information Architecture for the site was one of the most fundamental parts of the design process, refining the old and archaic structure into something more usable and understandable. This involved not only the overarching publisher site, buts also giving consideration into where the sites for the individual journals fit in as well. Once devised, this process went through a number of consultations with stakeholders, as well as a number of iterations, refining the plan until it suited the requirements of everyone involved.

Memberships process

Whiteboard showing the process for governing memberships on BioMed Central
Memberships process board

In the memberships process, I was concerned with how BioMed Central provided details for member institutions – universities, colleges and other academic institutions, who would pay Article Processing Charges for each of their students and staff who wished to publish papers in BioMed Central journals. This included:

  • evaluating the requirements of member institutions,
  • designing processes for authors to find suitable journals to publish in,
  • devising ways for members to provide information on how authors can make use of the payment structures to pay the Article Processing Charge,
  • and, in conjunction with the Submissions process below, take the steps towards actually getting their papers published.

I worked with a team of developers and business analysts on this process, employing an Agile work ethic, evaluating each development and revising where necessary.

Submissions process

Sketch exploring the submissions process
An early sketch, exploring how the submissions process for a BioMed Central Journal could work

The submissions process for BioMed Central journals meant providing a new method for authors to be able to submit papers to BioMed Central journals for publication. This basically covered preparing the author for each stage of the submissions process, before they actually started it, as the submissions software itself didn’t support any kind of annotations or advice to be included on it.

We designed a simple process, using expandable sections, allowing both beginner users to get a full run-down of the process, and delve into as much detail as they require to understand the further intricacies, as well as the ability to provide a short overview checklist to remind more advanced users of the steps involved, before they start their submission.

Journal home pages

Journal homepage sketches
Sketches exploring plans for Journal homepages

Having over 200 journals, each with their own editorial team, we had to devise a way to meet their specific requirements, whilst also ensuring a sense of design unity across every journal. We consulted with a number of editors, from those running the most popular journals to those running the least well known ones, to get a good understanding of what they needed, and then used that knowledge to devise a system which satisfied those requirements in a uniform way. We created a modular system, allowing a set of different templates for each editor to choose from, so that specific content could be given different priority on the page, depending on what they chose.

Conclusion

The BioMed Central publisher site, along with its many journal sites, have now gone live into the new version, and the company is reporting a marked improvement in visitor numbers, article submissions and profit. Despite what was a rather complex structure, involving over a year and a half’s worth of work, large numbers of stakeholders, and a large team of individuals working on it, the business count the redevelopment as a success, and are very pleased with the result.

You can see more examples of my work in my portfolio, read my blog, or get in touch if you need more information.

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