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Designing a Scalable Infrastructure for Journal Websites

April 27, 2020
Publishing scholarly content is the crux of all the IOS Press journals and enabling discoverability of that content is a high priority. Launching a dedicated website is an excellent tool for enhancing visibility while providing a platform for additional features to offer the journal’s audience. Read on to find out about the journey IOS Press has taken to maximize the digital experience of its new journal websites.

When incorporating digital operations as part of the IOS Press business strategy, we opted to build a modular digital infrastructure so we can address one building block at a time. Digital transformation infiltrates the why, the how and the what of business. It looks for answers to support the why, which in IOS Press’ case is helping researchers corroborate and communicate their research. Digital makes sense since research is a timely matter that needs to be accessible globally, which is why IOS Press has well-established digital offerings for its entire catalog of books and journals in the form of the Ebook Platform and Content Library, respectively, and through linked data via LD Connect.

Journals in focus
All IOS Press journals also have a dedicated section on the IOS Press corporate website, accessible to various communities – including authors, editors, peer reviewers, and readers. As journals develop, they grow. It is not only the amount of content that increases, but also the range of offerings to the journal’s audience that can expand to include information on clinical trials, webinars, discussion boards, blogs, and more. This necessitates a more expansive and robust web presence to stimulate the community and allow interactivity of content.

One of the key drivers for any new website is the need to create a home for content and features that do not readily fit into a standard journal format. Our initial approach to building new websites was ad hoc, leading to a multitude of sites with no interoperability and that were not scalable. Relying on different vendors and platforms has led to problems with maintenance and sustainability, and most importantly this approach was not scalable.

Our approach 
So we began our journey to create a framework that would allow new journal websites to be made easily and seamlessly in-house. We wanted to focus especially on interoperability, flexibility, maintainability, and scalability. We also wanted to use the open source Drupal software to formulate a flexible format, with capabilities to incorporate building blocks and a multitude of digital objects – for instance machine readable content and linked data.

Following our search for a project partner who could meet our requirements, we began working with Dropsolid. The company is renowned for enabling a direct digital experience for clients, providing them with the tools to create sites for themselves. We were also drawn to Dropsolid for their mission-driven approach, their strong Drupal expertise and open-source mentality, and their Digital Experience Cloud.

“We needed to get to a position where we had a reliable core framework from which we could deploy new websites that were connected to the company’s digital infrastructure,” comments IOS Press’ product manager Stephanie Delbecque. “Working with the Dropsolid and their Digital Experience Cloud was a logical step as the team members are pioneers in the personalization of Drupal technology which is the open source software we wanted to work with.”

Dropsolid’s solution was to ensure the platform performed as a content management system, allowed scalability for multisite options, and provided optional integration with other open API systems. The team developed a customized Installer Profile for the IOS Press platform, to allow internal deployment of new websites even faster and, gradually, existing websites can be onboarded into the set-up.

Digital building blocks
To build this profile, we methodically deconstructed our existing sites to see which functionalities were being used and gathered user feedback and analytics. This allowed us to make data-driven decisions, with the user at the center, about what features and layout to include within the IOS Press profile.

Stephanie Delbecque explains the process: “You can compare this whole set up with a Lego playboard: the platform is the board; and the profile is the instruction manual that explains which Lego blocks (features) are available to get the functionality you want, and which template (layout) to use to realize the required visual result. We continue to build new bricks (features), which are then available to all new sites and can be added to all existing sites as well.”


Future proofing
The structure allows for flexibility to personalize the sites according to the needs of each journal, as well as being able to add new features in the future. We can collaborate internally – whether it be with the marketing team or developers – in a transparent manner, thanks to the activity history. It is also possible to add third parties, allowing external collaborators to develop features within the final environment.
Future development and prototyping is always carried out on the profile first and then rolled out to all sites, so improvements for one site will benefit all. This centralized approach also increases sustainability, as well as scalability. It is very easy to add a new site and costs go down per new website.

In summary, our scalable infrastructure for journal websites has allowed us for has allowed for:
• Sites to be set up at the click of a button
• Transparent internal and external collaboration
• Interoperable modules through install profile
• Increased maintainability and sustainability
• Extreme scalability

We now have a platform with all our sites in one place and the IOS Press team who are busy setting up individual websites as and when the need arises, without any tech expertise. The fun part when creating new journal sites is to identify which features are relevant for the audience and incorporating them into the set up so as to maximize the digital experience.

Visit all the journal websites that are supported by the new technology via the links below:

Statistical Journal of the
Translational Science of Rare

Coming soon:
Environmental Policy and Law
IOS Press Labs*

*Not a journal website but a new platform for communicating our tech developments and collaborations

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will in future be found on the IOS Press Labs website.

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[Carmel McNamara | May 1, 2020]

UPDATE: Click to view this post on the Labs website!