PKP Software User Experience Improvement Process
PKP has been developing user interfaces for over a decade, but we are now implementing a more formal process that will involve greater transparency, cross-team collaboration, and user involvement, resulting in visibly higher quality software.
With the launch of the new Open Monograph Press software last year and the upcoming release of the completely renewed Open Journal Systems 3.0, we have the opportunity to develop the best user interface possible for our software.
Community feedback, including the detailed OJS 3.0 Evaluation Report from the California Digital Library, provided extensive information on where we could make significant improvements. Input from other partners was giving us the same message, so we responded by forming our first PKP UX (user experience) Task Group.
The PKP UX Task Group brought together members of PKP’s software development team and the community support team; to review the user feedback received, design initial wireframes in response to that feedback, build prototypes, solicit user feedback on those prototypes, make revisions, and ultimately roll out enhancements to the interface. Special thanks to Co-Action Publishing, Ubiquity Press, and members of the PKP Members and Technical Committees for their participation in this process.
We’ve broken the process down into separate steps, each focusing on a different element of the interface:
1. Editorial Workflow: Stages Bar
According to testers, the colour scheme we were using to indicate submission progress was unclear and difficult to understand. Instead, we’ve clarified the status verbally in an unobtrusive way and standardized the appearance of the submission stages using regular tabs.
The Dashboard is an attempt to provide a quick overview of submissions and their status. Including tasks here was over-complicating the display and they have now been moved to the global navigation bar (see next).
Users indicated confusion between global and journal-specific elements. We made use of clearer separation between these levels, including moving site-wide tasks to a new top navigation bar.
4. Editorial Workflow Pages (Submission, Review, Copyediting, Production)
The goal here is to provide a clear workflow, from initial submission to final publication, without overly regulating how the system is used. Outstanding tasks must be clearly indicated, and next steps obvious and easy to execute.
User feedback indicated that existing icons were not clear. These are being reviewed and revised as we work through the various elements.
6. Plugin gallery
Plugins are an important way for the community to contribute to PKP software and we need to improve how these can be added, managed, and evaluated.
7. Reader Interface
Reader interfaces have advanced significantly since OJS 2 was released in 2005. This is an opportunity to implement new technologies and approaches to reading environments and sharing knowledge.
To date, we have made progress on the first three of these items and work continues on the outstanding items on the list:
Figure 1: Editorial Workflow Stages Bar
Figure 2: Dashboard
Figure 3: Global Navigation
We expect to have a working prototype in place covering all of these elements in the fall of 2014, and will then proceed with further rounds of user testing; to confirm where we got it right, and inform us of where we need to continue to revise and improve.
Each step of the process is tracked on our public wiki, and we invite everyone interested in the future of our software to visit the site, review our work to date, comment on what we’ve done, and get involved in helping us make things even better.
For more information, or to participate in user testing, please contact us