- Author: Bruce Lidl
One of the oldest and most respected products associated with UC ANR is the journal California Agriculture. The quarterly peer-reviewed periodical, first published in 1946, delivers research and news to around 10,000 print subscribers and more than 200,000 annual unique visitors to the journal's website, calag.ucanr.edu
Until recently, however, the journal's website, launched in 2008 on a custom platform, suffered from three main problems.
Most importantly, the old site could only publish content in lockstep with the quarterly print edition of the journal. Nearly all academic journals now publish individual research articles online as soon as they are accepted and edited, greatly reducing the time between submission and publication; the lack of this capability frequently delayed the publication of California Agriculture by months, hampering the journal's ability to serve general readers, researchers and academic authors.
Second, the site required web programming expertise for even minor alterations, making maintenance and updates a headache for both journal staff and ANR IT.
Finally, the old site was not mobile friendly – a key drawback as more than 20% of site traffic comes from mobile devices.
To address these problems, the CSIT team worked together over seven months to shift the site to the SiteBuilder platform, build in the ability to publish individual articles independent of the journal's print edition, and refresh the site's aesthetics. Targeting accessibility, readability and discoverability, Will Suckow, Jim Downing, Debbie Thompson, Dave Krause and Steve Krause rebuilt the site from bottom up. Creating a custom template over the ANR SiteBuilder structure, the new calag.ucanr.edu employs highly-tuned CSS and jQuery on top of ColdFusion to give both users and site editors a wider range of options and tools. Search and printing functionality was streamlined, and a citation download feature was added, using the popular .RIS file format compatible with most bibliographic software. The new design emphasizes readability, particularly for online consumption on a large variety of devices and screen sizes.
The redesign maintained the journal's proven article import workflow: After an article is laid out in Adobe InDesign for print and PDF publication, an XML file is generated that then provides an efficient basis for automated conversion to an attractive HTML layout.
With a friendlier interface and more robust back end, the CalAg website provides a strong link to the journal's history and a clear guide for future development. CalAg will continue as a physical publication for traditional consumption, but is fully compatible with the requirements of current research.