Website users invited to join the team at Cambridge University Press

It’s time we finally moved on from top-down website design and put the end user first, said Vicky Drummond, Head of Web Marketing, and Jenny Mathias, Global Marketing Director, both from Cambridge University Press (CUP), at the London Book Fair on 12 April. CUP is set to launch its new platform, which will combine the existing journals and books sites, this summer.

“We’ve had an online presence for 20 years now, but splitting 19 million pages worth of content over two platforms based on the format of the data—which isn’t relevant online anyway—simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Cambridge Core allows us to group content around subject areas but should also improve our search engine visibility.”

user centric

Vicky Drummond, Head of Web Marketing at CUP

In the new platform design, built entirely from scratch, all decisions are justified with end-user needs. To understand the users’ site journeys and preferences the team ran a global survey which included 50 face to face interviews. They identified four user personas: researcher, librarian, student, and author, who effectively guided the creation of Cambridge Core. “Persona-driven development allows us to put the user at the heart of what we do, and operate from facts based on research instead of guesswork. For example, our data shows most users are too impatient to perform searches on the site, which means we have to give them a clear path forward from the arrival page. Equally, we need to know what data they want when they do decide to make a search,” Drummond says.

Despite their different career stages, the team discovered all four personas had similar journeys to the site, typically prompted by a Google search. Once the users arrived on the platform, they were asked to perform tasks to test its usability. “The fact that most of the testers succeeded or failed in the same tasks tells a lot about how functional a site is. Often the simplest design features, such as a thicker outline for a text box, can make a massive difference in helping the user find their preferred content path.”

Agile software development means working towards continuous improvement instead of delivering a finished product, and encourages flexible response to change. The Cambridge Core team aim to achieve these goals by taking advantage of ongoing user panels.

“Really it’s about inviting the users to become as much a part of Cambridge University Press as its staff currently is.”

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