Designing things for others to use is a challenge. I’m a user experience designer, so I experience this challenge ALL the time.

That said, wading through an academic journal’s website can be an even BIGGER challenge – and I know I’m not the only one who’s been there!

If you’re planning on revamping your journal website, here are seven questions I think your journal’s board should ask yourselves as the website is being redesigned:

  1. Is anyone going to update the “news and announcements” section? Have you ever been on a journal website and saw a call for papers that you were excited about – and then realized it was from 3 years ago? (Hopefully those papers aren’t still under review!)

  2. Does my journal really need a “news and announcements” section? How often does your journal really have news that it needs to share? If the answer is “not often” then there’s probably not a strong need for you to have a “news and announcements” section. By leaving that section out of your website, you can save yourself the guilt of not updating it all the time!

  3. Do we need all of these sidebars? If your journal website layout looks like a WordPress blog from 2006 the site’s overabundance of sidebars is probably more distracting than enticing.

  4. Am I communicating “what I want to say” instead of “what my readers want to find”? If most of your visitors are authors looking for instructions on submitting articles, does that “share our site on Facebook” widget need to be so prominent? Is your journal’s author submission page buried in a drop-down menu, while your list of partner scholarly societies is front-and-center? If so, you may want to reconsider the information the majority of your site visitors will be looking for and make it easier for them to find it.

  5. Does my journal website look anything at all like a site where I would enjoy reading articles? This is very important, and takes some reflexivity on the part of your journal board to answer. If your journal website looks like the kind of site you wouldn’t visit unless you really, really, had to – then your readers probably feel similarly.

  6. Is anyone really coming to my journal’s website to read our embedded Twitter feed? Do you think visitors to your website are so impressed by your Twitter activity that they want to read it outside of their Twitter client or the official Twitter site? Leave the tweets on Twitter, I always say.

  7. Mobile and tablet Internet browsing has overtaken the Desktop – does my journal website have a layout for mobile and tablet devices? Take a look around. Do you notice all those people staring at their cell phones? They could be reading your journal’s content right now, if you make it easier on them.

If you’ve just finished or are in the process of a website redesign and have tips or questions to share, please post them in the comments section!

Rob Walsh
This post was written by Rob Walsh, Co-founder, Design
Tales from the Trenches