/ Q.A.: Basic Journal-ism: Tips for Electronic Publishers

Overall Design

JEP has been online since 1994 — and the previous design looks it. The journal is a classic example of what designer David Siegel calls a "first-generation" Web site:

First-generation sites were gray. Some had banners and were well organized; most had edge-to-edge text that ran on for pages, separated by meaningless blank lines.[1]

While this type of design was fine in the early days of the Web, design soon evolved into a second-generation model with "icons replacing words, tiled images replacing the gray background, red and blue borders around the images, and banners replacing headlines."[2]

"Ultimately, of course, it's content that counts the most, and an ugly e-journal with good content is clearly preferable to a beautiful journal with little substance."

Siegel argues that the best sites today use a third-generation model that "pulls visitors through using metaphor and well-known models of consumer psychology.... Third-generation sites form a complete experience — the more you explore, the more the entire picture of the site comes together."[3]

Siegel notes that third-generation sites have entry, core and exit areas. The entry area should grab the visitor; the core should direct and guide the visitor; and the exit area should cap the visit — and provide a convenient place for collecting information from the visitor.[4] The electronic journal theory & event comes close to this third-generation model, with a single screen offering the viewer the options of checking out the current contents, scanning the archives, searching the site, learning about Project Muse or getting subscription information. The opening screen is clean and uncluttered, welcoming the viewer to explore further. Subsequent pages carry the same clean look, but there is no clearly indicated exit page.