A very interesting thread popped up on the social network Quora recently. Justin Kiggins, had the most popular answer to the question “Why do scientists tend to prefer PDF documents over HTML when reading scientific journals?”
“For me, Justin wrote, “there is one primary reason that I prefer the PDF versions of scientific documents. PDFs have less clutter.”
“What can publishers do?” Asks Kiggins. Simple. Format HTML documents for readability and stop trying to distract me into reading something else.
At Wiley-Blackwell, we are taking the concerns of users like Mr. Kiggins seriously. For too long, scholarly publishers have been focused on adding more and more links and features to online HTML versions of their content, which has had the net effect of users running for the exit in this case, the PDF version of the same content. The PDF is at least three times more used than HTML versions of the same content, which presents two problems: 1) the mobile experience for users isn’t great; and 2) it is difficult for publishers to add value to online content through the sort of linking and enrichment that the Internet affords.
Enter “The Anywhere Article,” a prototype we’ve created, based on extensive user research that represents our vision of what a journal article of the future might look like. The thinking behind the prototype was to evolve our journals publishing business by:
- reimagining the online journal article reading experience
- making the HTML reading experience better than the PDF
- making scientific research easier to read for our end-users
Why Anywhere? Not only did we want to make our content responsive to different screen sizes, but also to give it layers of added value beyond the standard, print, PC, or PDF journal article experience. We did this by focusing on:
- Better readability. The content must be given its deserved place at center stage. We prioritized content in everything from font choice to minimalist information architecture and page layout. No distractions was a common mantra.
- Better presentation of information. A key design principle was to make sure that users could scan the article for the scholarly and scientific information that was important to them, and then, if they choose, delve into the details of that information without losing their place in the article reading experience. We strove to strike a balance between their initial scanning mindset and subsequent interest in the details of the content
- Better connections. From sharing an article with members of a journal club to annotating and highlighting an article for future reference in the lab, a truly strategic online journal article design enables all of these highly interactive and personalized activities in a way that is unattainable with the current download to PDF workflow.
You can expect to see the results of this work making its way onto the Wiley Online Library platform, as well as into our new mobile apps, in 2012. And youll find more details in upcoming issues of Publishing News.