Helping a research project transform into a business service

JournalTOCS.jpgThe impact

Since implementing changes suggested by the Software Sustainability Institute, the JournalTOCs website has seen usage triple, and turnover pass £100,000.

JournalTOCs is a free online service for students and researchers that provides notifications and allows searches of new journal publications. The JournalTOCs website now has a sharp new user interface, plus improved information for developers wishing to use the JournalTOCs API in their own applications.

“The meetings and discussions I had with [Institute consultants] Mike Jackson and Simon Hettrick in 2010 and 2011 had an important impact on the design, usability and functionality of JournalTOCs. We implemented all the recommendations received and, in short, made it a sustainable service. The Institute helped us cross the bridge from project to service, which is the harder and more daunting period of time after a project is finished. We, researchers with no customer and business experience, needed to face the task of creating a sustainable service using the outputs of the project. We will always be thankful to the Institute for the time, advice and guidance that they give us when we were starting JournalTOCs.” Santiago Chumbe, JournalTOCs Chief Technologist, School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Heriot Watt University.

The problem

The original JournalTOCs site was very functional – it worked well enough for users who understood its idiosyncrasies, but was less than accessible for new users. This in turn meant fewer new users, and less drive to improve the product.

The site also offered an API for developers who wished to provide a link to their own, third-party websites, but the technical information available was poor and the quality of service offered was inadequate.

The solution

Consultants from the Institute discussed the issues JournalTOCs faced, and the service they were keen to offer, at the JISC Rapid Innovation Projects Software Sustainability Workshop in 2010. Our consultants then undertook a thorough review of the JournalTOCs website and service.

A usability evaluation led to a set of recommendations on how to offer an improved user experience, both in terms of how information was presented and the services that were offered. The Institute also assessed the information available to developers who wished to integrate the JournalTOCs service in their own web-based applications. A comparison of JournalTOCs with relevant commercial offerings gave some much needed perspective on just how useful the product could be, and where its strengths lay.

Finally, the Institute was able to give some advice on rebranding the product, and on promoting it with a relaunch and a press campaign.

The team at Heriot Watt were open to new ideas and took on board the Institute’s recommendations, working to transform the site and creating a much-improved service for users.

JournalTOCs now offers access to the Table Of Contents (TOCs) of over 21,000 journals from more than 1,500 publishers. More than 5,200 of these publications are Open Access journals. Users can search journals by title or ISSN, and browse by publisher or subject. Users can also search articles within the TOCs. Alerts can be delivered by RSS or by email. In addition, users from licensed institutions can search in journals subscribed to by their institution, in Open Access journals and subscribed journals, or in the journals that a particular user is following. Librarians can manage current awareness on behalf of their patrons (e.g. filter alerts, personalised frequency and content of alerts, including full-text access via OpenURL, ezProxy and WAM links as well as IP authentication).

Further information

Visit the JournalTOCs website.

Read the JournalTOCs blog.