Readers’ editor: A website needing more soft fruit

davidpayneWe like it when readers take the time and trouble to give us feedback. We’ve been particularly appreciative in the last two weeks as The BMJ’s new website beds down following its launch on 30 June. Some readers responded to the editorial published to mark the new website and the journal’s new name and logo.  Eighty readers replied to an email we sent out about the new site. Others used our customer service feedback form, and contacted us directly via email. Last week we did our first technical release since the new site went live, and we used it to tweak the design (based on your feedback), implement some changes we couldn’t squeeze in before launch, and fix some bugs.


Some readers struggled with the magnifying glass search icon: “I hope the definitive, ALPHA, version will not have the same compressed header bar that currently loses the search function and the old link to advanced search,” was a typical response. We have now replaced the icon with the term “Search” on the top navigation bar for desktops. We have also removed the “beta” badge.

We also discovered that the search simple and advanced search wasn’t working properly. We are continuing to refine this, but the problem we were having with results displaying 1970 publication dates for recently published articles is now resolved. If you find any, please let us know.

PDFs and printing

We’ve made it easier to download pdfs, and to print articles after clicking the “Print” button. This was broken when we launched. A couple of readers fed back about not being able to print articles in their “print” section. These are now back, and link from the print table of contents. Here, for instance, is the pdf of  the latest four “pico” research articles that appear in our current print issue.

“Empty” pages

Sometimes we don’t need to wait for readers to alert us to a problem. Shortly after the new site launched, Google’s Webmaster tool indicated that around 800 of the site’s 2m pages were not displaying any content. We identified three fixes to this problem, all of which were deployed. We hope this is now fixed, but do let us know if you find any more.

Here are some other changes that went live at the end of last week:

  • A new logo for CME/CPD to mirror the one now used in print.
  • A new section, Hosted content, linking to online resources produced by external organisations
  • Adding a “view more” button to the homepage blogs widget. This takes users to The BMJ’s blogs site, rather than to individual posts.
  • Increased page speed on mobiles devices by 10%. Visitors from mobiles are now spending 14.5% more time on the new “responsively designed” site than they were on the previous site.
  • Fixed a bug that stopped some images embedded in articles from showing.

Many readers got in touch simply to tell us that they like the new site. Narayan Bahadur Basnet, a consultant paediatrician from Nepal, said in a response to the launch editorial: “Thanks to the editor and all who have been involved in making the journal faster and easier to read.”

Neeru Gupta, a scientist based in New Delhi, described the website as “like old wine in [a] new, fancy bottle. The contents are as good as before with an attractive outer packing.”

But my favourite, albeit critical response, arrived via email from a US librarian who noticed the print section pdfs were missing.  He says: “The old format with columns and dividers put similar items together for contrast and comparison. The new is all oatmeal with no specifics to catch my attention. Slip some currants, gooseberries, blueberries, strawberries for visual color coding and meaningful groupings.”

We don’t ignore any feedback, and we will be implementing two further technical releases over the next month to address comments that arrived more recently.  Please keep your comments coming.

David Payne is digital editor, The BMJ, and readers’ editor.