Have you and your publishing team been putting off making necessary journal website updates this year? Many academic journal publishers, particularly those running lean open access journals, are aware of updates that they should make to their publication websites but unsure of whether they’ll be able to find and allocate the resources needed to address them.
Historically, the options available for journal website hosting and design have made it difficult for the less-than-tech-savvy to quickly make website improvements. Journal publishers have had to either rely on internal technical resources at their organizations or hire outside developers to create and manage custom websites; or journal teams have had to learn to use Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal to create custom sites. All of this can be quite technical and very time-consuming.
From having an easily navigable and mobile-friendly website design to meeting search engine optimization and indexing standards, there are countless user-facing and behind-the-scenes website factors to stay on top of, and planning and prioritizing updates for a custom site can be a lot for publishers of any size to manage. When it comes to making updates to a custom website, journal publishers can end up on a perpetual hamster wheel having to regularly set aside time and resources to assess their websites and make improvements large and small. Many in this situation end up tabling website improvements for as long as possible, to the detriment of their journals.
However, today, keeping a current journal website doesn’t have to involve learning to use complex systems or getting a development team to write custom code. Another option is to use a website template made for academic journals. For example, at Scholastica, we launched a customizable website template for open access journals with a simple editor tool that’s enabled journals in all disciples to easily maintain a modern web presence. There are many benefits to using a website template. Below we highlight the top three.
A key benefit of using a journal website template is that all of the design elements and updates needed for an optimal online reading experience are handled for you. With a website template, you can get the benefits of modern web design like sitewide search functionality and responsive or mobile-friendly pages without needing to have someone update your website code or to manipulate a generic CMS site with patches and plugins.
There are also countless behind-the-scenes aspects of maintaining a functional website that a quality template can take care of, such as ensuring that computers and databases can parse and interpret your website content. Among more technical areas that website templates can help you stay on top of are:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): A website template can help ensure that journal pages and articles are search-engine-friendly with clean code structures and rich machine-readable metadata.
- Indexing: Many scholarly indexes like Google Scholar and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) have website specifications required for inclusion that a website template made specifically for academic journals can take care of for you.
- Security standards and data compliance: You may have noticed some changes to the websites you’ve visited lately related to web security and data standards. For example, you may have seen that many URLs now start with “https” instead of “http”— the “https” signals that the website is secure. Sites that have not updated to be “https” now show a “not secure” warning in Google’s browser. You may have also noticed data policy popups on many websites, which have been enabled to ensure the sites comply with GDPR data standards. These are just two of the many security and data standards that a quality journal website template can handle.
- Continuous backups: Another factor outside of design that should not be forgotten is backing up the content on journal websites. When you use a hosted journal website template like Scholastica’s you can be sure that your content is always being backed up.
Each of these areas can get quite complex and require regular monitoring that many publishers don’t have the resources for. With a supported website template like Scholastica’s, journals get instant access to front and backend website improvements, so you’ll always have a modern website.
It’s also a lot easier to keep the information and images on journal websites current when you use a website template. Making even simple text edits to the pages of a custom website can require technical support. But with a template made for easy-editing, the power to make website changes is in the hands of journal editors and publishing teams. With a website template, if you want to add an announcement about an upcoming special issue to your author page, update the email listed for one of your editors, upload a new journal logo or cover photo, or make any other copy and image changes you can quickly do that on your own without needing to call in reinforcements. For example, with Scholastica’s journal website template you can choose your website colors, add your logo, upload images for articles, and even add a blog to your website all using a simple editor tool.
Using a website template can also help simplify your journal publishing process. Rather than having to set aside time for a webmaster to create a new issue page and configure article and image files for publication, when you use a journal website template you can upload journal articles and images and fill in relevant metadata fields fast. Journals that use Scholastica for peer review and publishing can even move articles accepted via Scholastica straight into publishing without having to re-input article metadata—all metadata from manuscripts peer-reviewed on Scholastica is applied to published versions.
Having the ability to quickly add individual articles to a journal website template without needing technical support can also free up journals to embrace a rolling publishing model, wherein articles are published as they’re ready. Publishing articles on a rolling basis has many benefits for journals and authors including getting new research findings out sooner so they can be used and cited and improving journal website SEO. The more often your journal publishes new articles the more opportunities you will create for search engines and indexes to ingest and display your content.
Using a website template can help journal publishers free up time to focus on other aspects of publication development, from editorial planning to marketing and promotion. And website templates can even open up new opportunities for journals, such as tracking publishing analytics. For example, Scholastica’s template comes with a publishing analytics suite that includes data on article usage, referring websites, and more. Just consider the kinds of initiatives you could make time for if you weren’t putting as much time and resources towards your website.