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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.