25 Jan, 13 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower
The Article of the Future project is Elsevier’s “never-ending quest to explore better ways to create and deliver the formal published record”.
In the latest phase of this ‘quest’, the project team have worked with more than 150 researchers, authors, publishers and editors to come up with multiple prototypes for a new article design, with each one tailored to a specific subject area.
Guiding design principles
During the research process, which involved usability testingng in a lab, eye tracking software and an online survey, the project team formulated three guiding design principles:
These in turn helped to inform each of the following design decisions:
- “The article is the basis. The Article of the Future format supports the ‘PDF’ look and feel for easy online reading.
- In-place content enrichments. The Article of the Future format integrates new content elements at natural positions in the article.
- Additional content and context presented in the right sidebar. Supplementary content and features, as well as information from external databases, are offered next to the article text.
- Clear navigation. The article outline links to sections and figures in the article
- Clean design. The visual load is minimized to encourage users to explore the article.
- Customized view. The user interface automatically adjusts to available screen size.”
The main objective seems to have been making the article layout as easy to read as possible. By providing a clean, simplified and minimalistic look and adding hierarchy to article elements, they have made it easier for users to focus on the article and (hopefully) spend more time reading it on-screen. Attention has also been placed on the interactive content elements within the article, which take advantage of integrated online functionality.
The eye tracking data indicated that participants scanned the central area of the design first, then the left pane and then the right sidebar. The middle content pane therefore displays the original article and enables the reader to interact with underlying scientific data: e.g. via Google Maps and interactive graphs/tables.
The left navigation pane displays a table of contents with clickable section headers (e.g. introduction, conflicts of interest, references) and individual thumbnails of images and tables.
The right pane provides access to supplemental information and additional features, which tend to be task or content specific. For example, “electrochemistry articles display structures of chemical compounds, whereas paleontology articles feature 3D fossil models and provide information on spatial distribution of the localities in which they were found”.
For more information on the project, see here: http://www.articleofthefuture.com/