BioMed Central


BioMed Central is the biological publishing arm of Springer Nature, running over 200 journals, and well respected in the scientific community for being one of the first Open Access publishers. I was brought in as Senior UX Designer to improve the sprawling network of publisher and journal sites. This included creating a responsive and informative solution that would suit the requirements of both the publisher and the editors running the journal sites.

My team and I devised a solution to address key problem areas across the network of sites. This included the following plans:

  • Revising the information architecture of the site to make it more intuitive to users
  • Evolving the processes for institutional memberships and author submissions
  • Devising a way to make the homepage of each journal individual to their needs, but maintain the associations to the publisher brand

These efforts worked in combination with other teams, providing a complete revision of the site network.

Information architecture

The previous design of the BioMed Central site

The previous design of the BioMed Central publisher site

In our user research with authors and editors, one clear message came through – the original overarching publisher site was hard to use. This was the result of continual addition of pages and features, without consideration of the overall information architecture of the site.

cards on a table, showing ways to revise the information architecture of the site

Outcomes of the card sorting exercise to examine the information architecture

board with slices of text and annotations

Sorting through the content, devising the ways in which is can be grouped into pages

Information architecture planning board for BioMed Central

Planning board for the BioMed Central Information Architecture overview

We started by collecting up the contents of the current site, and working out what was still required. This was done by holding collaborative workshops with stakeholders and users, examining the results, devising new structures, and testing them again with the stakeholders to check our work. The work examined not only specific pages and their uses, but also down to the content itself, looking at whether it could be moved or assimilated into other pages.

Whiteboard with post-its and arrows showing a user journey through BioMed Central

Revising the user journeys

Whiteboard with sketches and user journeys stuck to it

Planning the user journey for the original and beta sites

Wide board with lots of post-its, showing steps of user journeys on the site

Plotting an end-to-end user journey

We then examined user journeys through the site, ensuring that important information could be easily reached. These were revised, examined, and then tested again with stakeholders.

Post its on a whiteboard, showing feedback from stakeholders

Example of the feedback from our stakeholder IA testing.

Through this, we were able to conduct a root and branch review of the complete site information architecture. Our iterative testing allowed us to ensure that our plans were in agreement with users and took stakeholder needs into consideration.


Membership institutions are a key part of the Open Access process, often providing funding for authors to publish their scientific publications. Therefore, it was important to ensure that they had proper representation on the site. On the old site, their pages were hidden away, and hard to find, and often not kept up to date. As with the information architecture exercise above, we revised the user journeys to access these sites, as well as examining the contents of the page. We also combined the member pages with the main search, as well as providing a method to quickly surface information, giving details before entering the membership page.

Printed page with post-its showing planned changes in content for a BMC membership page

Revising the content for membership pages

Whiteboard sketch showing a redesign of a search process

Revising the search function to locate journals and membership pages more easily

Whilst working on the membership and associated pages, we revised the work process to base it around the user journey. This way, we could ensure that a program of work would fulfil the entire journey, instead of working on separate parts in isolation.

Memberships process board

Board showing stages of work for the memberships process

Close up of the memberships work board, showing the stages of the user journey we were working on.


User research and testing had proven to us that the previous submissions process was difficult and confusing, with users often making mistakes. As the mechanism for the submission process could not be changed, we had to prepare the user for the process as much as possible.

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

This involved creating a reference, briefing the user about each part of the process, providing a guide through each step. This also included checklists, to ensure the user had everything ready before beginning the process.

Journal homepages

After ensuring the usability of parts of the publisher site, we then moved on to the journal homepages. As stated before, BioMed Central has over 200 journals, all run by editors with their own requirements for the page. We held a series of workshops with editors to examine those requirements, and got a lot of different results.

Rough layout of journal design using post-it notes

Outcome sketch from the journal homepage workshop

Sketch showing a layout for a homepage design

Outcome sketch from the journal workshop homepage

Sketch showing ideas for a homepage content

Outcomes sketch from the journal homepages workshop

Therefore, we devised a design that showed the publisher and journal relationship, providing customisation on the homepages for editors. This struck a balance between the unity of the brand, whilst allowing editors to promote desired sections of their journals.

Journal homepage sketches

Sketches exploring plans for Journal homepages

A prototype of the homepage for the Genome Biology journal, showing the tier system connecting the publisher and journal branding


The project to rework BioMed Central was a complex one, with many stakeholders throughout the company and its users. Our efforts helped ensure the company increased profit by providing a better experience to their users. This also helped me get experience in working in a large team, working on different parts at once, which I found highly beneficial.

  • Client :
    Springer Nature
  • Year :