As leaders in digital innovation, we’re constantly considering and testing the impact of new technology and fresh approaches to hone best practise, enhance user experience and grow revenues. These are some of our latest thoughts and findings:
User Experience (UX) is an increasingly significant discipline within the mix of skillsets that goes into building publisher platforms. However it can seem like a dark art. Even those who get it sometimes wonder whether they fully understand what it is (or should be).
For instance, what would you say is the job of a UX designer? To design a user experience, surely? Wrong.
To control user behaviour then? Double wrong.
‘What we can’t measure we can’t manage’. It’s a deadeningly familiar mantra – and one that tells only a partial truth: if the entire focus of your management style is on stuff you can put a number to, then I’d suggest that there’s something seriously missing in your management toolkit.
Every now and then it pays to take a bit of a drone’s-eye view of your area of practice and chart out the key areas where the landscape is changing fastest. On my most recent survey of this kind – looking at the digital publishing landscape – it occurred to me that the totality of what I could see was having a drastic effect on one particular area of corporate planning: return-on-investment (ROI) calculations. In a nutshell: how do you calculate ROI intelligently when the nature of your investments is becoming so diverse and so fast-changing?
I don’t mind admitting that I’m in two minds about data visualization. Because just at the moment, with this particular subject, I think that’s the logical place to be.
You see, on the one hand – or perhaps I should say, in mind number one (which in this case is a Brian-Cox-enthusing-about-the-universe sort of mind) the possibilities are fantastically exciting. But with my more practical head on, I see a lot of complexity and uncertainty with which we have yet to engage in any realistic and detailed way. Beyond the generalities, it’s clear there is thinking to be done.
What role should institutional libraries play in helping researchers to comply with funder mandates regarding the open accessibility of data?
Reports from two think tank dinners held at the end of last year in New York and London seemed to indicate that researchers are coming to librarians more and more for help with this problem. In fact the library is, for many, a natural point of call. After all, librarians will tell you that their job is all about making information accessible; about discovery. At a conceptual level, at least, they have the skills.
The recent announcement from Elsevier that it has implemented a data-sharing infrastructure across its materials science journals underlines the fact that publication of research data is a hot topic right now. To my mind, the details of this particular initiative indicate sensible incremental enhancements rather than anything particularly innovative or ground-breaking – however, as a positioning statement, it sends a powerful message.
Nothing is closer to a publisher’s heart than their content. In fact it can seem almost sacrilegious to call it by such a cold and technical term: publisher content is a valuable and often unique thing.
This uniqueness also means that it is highly diverse. And it comes in many different shapes and sizes. ‘Publisher content’ could refer to a life-saving new discovery in oncology, a revelatory new monograph on Shakespeare – or even a series of videos detailing primacy rituals among rodents.
Recognise this story? You’re sat in a meeting and someone pitches a new feature for your website. It sounds like a great idea, so you build it. Six months later it’s languishing in obscurity, ignored by your users in favour of older tools.
Often this is the result of solutioneering; jumping to a conclusion about what users want without first establishing the nature of the problem your proposed feature will solve – or whether, for that matter, there actually is a problem in the first place.
Citing and sharing are two of the most important things that academic researchers do for the furtherance of scholarship. Therefore any changes in the way these activities are performed – and in the relationship between the two – are bound to be of interest to everyone within the scholarly ecosystem. And changes are certainly taking place.
Attending the Frankfurt Book Fair recently – where Johannes Gutenberg used to go to sell his books – it occurred to me that one of the most challenging conceptual leaps our industry has to make when it comes to digital is a changed perception of time.
More particularly, I was thinking about how the time gap between publishing your works to readers and seeing how they receive them – do they browse, do they buy, do they download, do they share? – has become vanishingly small.