Research into Janeway user needs during copyediting

Posted by Joseph Muller and Katherine Parker-Hay on 31 March 2023

 A blog post by Joseph Muller, Publishing Technologies Developer for Janeway

Joseph Muller is a developer working on the Janeway project. In this blog post, he explores a move towards human-centred software design, informed by User Experience research, that the OLH are experimenting with in preparation for redeveloping Janeway's copyediting interface. The project was co-researched with Publishing Development Officer Katherine Parker-Hay.

The Janeway tech team are lucky that people bring us ideas. ‘I often need X. Can Janeway provide that?’ ‘What if we made a button that does Y?’ ‘Can we make a setting for Z?’ 

But since we have only three developers (for the moment), it can be tricky to synthesise all these ideas into a sound design vision. Sometimes one set of needs clashes with another. Or, we might get three feature requests that partially address the same thorny issue, but more conversation is needed to arrive at bold, workable solutions.  

So, for the first time, we took a more methodical approach to understanding user needs, working in a cross-departmental team led by Katherine Parker-Hay (editorial) and Joseph Muller (development). We sat down with 14 editors, copyeditors, and authors, and asked them about their process around copyediting. They told us about their roles, workflows, and preferences – and a few of their gripes! – and they shared ideas with us about a possible future design for the copyediting interface in Janeway. 

We analysed the interview data using affinity mapping, a rapid, collaborative method for drawing themes out of qualitative data. This produced eight major findings about user needs. They shed light on some key challenges when taking a user-centred approach to the design of publishing applications: how to support communication between users, how to map workflows onto user interfaces, how to design differently for different roles, how to improve record-keeping features, and how to provide flexibility without losing coherence. 

We will use the findings as the basis for our upcoming redesign of the copyediting interface, later in 2023. 

About Janeway: Janeway is a digital platform designed for publishing scholarly research material. Launched in 2017, the platform provides a workflow for the submission, processing and presentation of scholarly materials. It is developed by Professor Martin Eve, Mauro Sanchez, Andy Byers and Joseph Muller at the Centre for Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck, University of London, and the Open Library of Humanities, UK. 

Janeway is currently being used by the OLH journals as well as by other external presses such as Washington University, Iowa State Digital Press, Huddersfield University Press, Michigan Publishing, the University of Essex and the University of West London among others. It will be used soon too by California Digital Library for their pre-print publications. The platform has also recently been awarded a $100k grant from the Next Generation Library Publishing project to test and improve publishing pathways and services for authors, editors and readers, for continued work on Janeway.

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