Eye on the Backdoor
by Marc Segers, Publishing Account Manager
Every site needs a homepage, and digital publishing platforms are no different. These front doors play a significant role in the branding, design and user experience of any online publishing platform. Understandably, much time and focus is spent answering questions about tone, color, layout, navigation, and marketing on these important pages.
Because of the expanding use of DOIs (digital object identifiers), persistent URLs, topic pages, and discovery services, researchers and consumers are increasingly finding their way into digital publishing platforms at the content/page level via citations, links, and searches in external resources. Therefore, it is just as important for developers to create excellent back and side door designs, which properly orient users as soon as they arrive.
After the user has found their way to your platform and read the article, where do they go next? And how can you provide a user with logical next steps in their research journey, be it through search or browse?
Organizing relevant links on a content page that allows users to find additional interesting content increases site usage, brand loyalty, and revenue. The difficulty here, lies in understanding what types of research questions a reader might have when they land on the page. Making educated assumptions about the context of a user's experience is a start. Another critical step is to consider the taxonomy needed to support relevant contextual linking. By understanding the research questions and professional/curricular language surrounding that content, publishers can provide relevant links clustered around recognizable terminology.
Of course, this presents some important metadata requirements for linking products. Is the content tagged with subject classifications or is the subject classification available in a separate format such as ONIX? Beyond the existing metadata, content enrichment and semantic markup can help publishers provide relevant links across their content.
Correcting a cross-eyed market approach
The development of digital publishing platforms can get even more exponentially difficult when publishers are targeting two or more distinct markets with the same platform. At CQ Press, I worked on several projects that took materials crafted for an academic reference market and combined them with professional content for the government and legal markets to create new products for both markets. While the logic and ROI of repurposing content is compelling, creating a single taxonomy that works for different types of users can be a task of Sisyphus. On top of that, organizing a front door for a dual-market site can be a challenge in itself.
One approach for a dual-market site is to maintain two distinct taxonomies that align with the different user groups. On the page level, clustered links around the two taxonomies can be branded and segmented to help readers find the most relevant academic, legal, medical, or professional content links. Mapping two or more taxonomies can create some interesting opportunities for visual browsing, allowing for a more exploratory user experience.
Introducing terminology and content linkages that are outside a user's primary orientation can allow for a certain serendipity that is less common in an online environment than it is in the physical world of research.
Creating a homepage for a dual-market site has its own hurdles. Often times, dual-market platforms force users to define themselves before moving into a browse or search experience. While there is a logic in this approach, requiring users to self-identify before moving into the content is disruptive to the user experience and creates more clicks before they find the content they seek. Bringing in a visual taxonomy browse and creating robust search filtering tools can help users quickly find the content that is relevant to them while providing orientation and context during the process.
A case for the microsite generator
Another effective way to address the dual-market challenge is to consider the development of a microsite generator as part of a digital publishing platform. The microsite generator is a recent development on our PubFactory platform. It gives publishers the ability to rebrand, re-skin, and regenerate new taxonomies for subsets of content in the platform. With a good microsite generator, publishers have the flexibility to create products for any number of divergent markets out of a common platform.
By investing in a good backend system, publishers can easily repurpose their content and target numerous niche markets with the same technology and content. The microsite helps ease the burdens of the dual-market platform homepage by providing separate unique websites for each arena of interest. In the same manner, the content page of a microsite can stay focused on the taxonomy and links most relevant for that specific market. A microsite generator is a powerful tool that allows a publisher to be nimble in pursuit of new markets and revenue streams for their content.
The goal of digital publishing is to take advantage of the new environment of atomized content that allows publishers to quickly repurpose their content and allow users to bounce between articles and enter at the most granular level. We've laid out the welcome mat at the back door, expecting it to get even more traffic than the front.