Renewing Multimedia Scholarly Publishing: A Streamlined and Mobile-Friendly Design for Southern Spaces

Emory University
Published August 19, 2015
Overview 

Jesse P. Karlsberg describes the features of the redesigned Southern Spaces website and places its redevelopment in the context of the need for multimedia publications to adapt to the ever-changing technologies and design conventions of the web.

Southern Spaces is proud to launch a fresh design for our journal today, stage one in a two-stage rollout of our newly redeveloped publishing platform. The new design emphasizes visual clarity, readability, richer multimedia, and a mobile-friendly responsive layout. The new site also introduces a dynamic, open source journal publishing platform constructed with the widely used Drupal 7 content management system. We look forward to making this toolkit for publishing multimedia journals available as a Drupal distribution this fall.

The new front page of Southern Spaces. Screenshot courtesy of Southern Spaces​.
The new front page of Southern Spaces. Screen capture courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Collapsable side navigation menu with recent photo essays highlighted. Screen capture of the new Southern Spaces site courtesy of Southern Spaces.

Our new site's design embraces a streamlined, minimal aesthetic uncommon in digital scholarly journal publishing but increasingly popular among long-form web magazines. Our home page highlights a rotating array of new and featured publications, followed by a scrolling list of the journal's publications, organized chronologically. A book icon at the top of the page (also present just to the left of the Southern Spaces logo across the new site) reveals a side menu offering ways to browse the journal's content organized by publication type, author, series/collection, or year of publication. Individual publication pages foreground accessibility through larger, more legible text and heading, improved navigation through an always visible expandable section menu, screen-reader friendly semantic markup, and a single-column design that minimizes distracting clutter and increases the proportion of the page devoted to the publication itself. The site's header, main navigation menu, and search bar disappear as you scroll down to clear more space for publication content, reappearing if you scroll up for easy access. Like our section menu and social media sharing buttons, it's out of the way but always present if you need it.

The design of individual publications on the new site also foregrounds rich multimedia, deepening our journal's commitment to multimedia publishing. All articles, photo essays, and short videos feature a full-screen cover photo. Our migration to Vimeo and Soundcloud—social media sharing sites with wide adoption across the web—enables higher play back quality for video and audio clips. In addition to the new players on the Southern Spaces site, audio and video clips featured in our journal's publications are also accessible through Southern Spaces's profiles on Vimeo and Soundcloud. Juicebox, our new image slideshow tool, enables full-screen browsing. Our new mapping tool, CartoDB, enables interactive maps. Our new, wider single-column design will also enable us to include larger images and other media in future publications using new HTML5 media templates. Four publications launched today demonstrate these improved media capabilities. Andrew Busch's article on gentrification in Austin and Elena Conis's review of Ellen Griffith Spears's Baptized in PCBs are copiously illustrated exemplars of our site's improved display of images. A blog post by Mark Auslander on a lynching reenactment that crossed paths with a Confederate flag rally features a variety of embedded media, including interactive maps, video, and numerous images. Elizabeth Engelhardt's blog post articulates how the open access presentation of multimedia content on Southern Spaces contributes to publications' effectiveness by recounting her use of an article on our site in her teaching.

Viewing Andrew M. Busch's Southern Spaces article "Crossing Over" on a phone. Screen capture of the new Southern Spaces site courtesy of Southern Spaces.

Reading this post on your phone? The new design incorporates a responsive design that displays elegantly on a range of devices, including smartphones and tablets as well as laptop and desktop computers. Page elements such as the site's header and section menu dynamically reconfigure to accommodate different screen sizes, as do images and other elements in the flow of text.

In contrast with print-based publications and digital journals that publish articles in PDF format, Southern Spaces "takes advantage of the Internet's capabilities to deliver audio, video, [and] images" alongside text. We believe that this commitment to multimedia publishing, which our peer reviewed journal has maintained since its 2004 inception, "facilitate[s] new ways of organizing and presenting research."1 These increased capabilities also tether the journal to technologies and design conventions of web-based publishing, which change much faster than corresponding technologies of print media. The new design we are launching today represents the second time we have redeveloped our site in response to these changes over our eleven years of publication, following a 2010 redesign during which we migrated from a static site to a dynamic one built in the Drupal 6 environment. In both cases we implemented a new design and publishing platform for future use while retroactively applying it to the journal's previously published works. Redeveloping our site ensures that our content remains accessible as the web changes. Including the entire back catalog of publications ensures easy access to articles, reviews, photo essays, and short videos, allowing these publications to reach a broad readership years after their publication.

Sustaining multimedia digital publishing through regular redesigns requires resources, but helps ensure a place for scholarly discourse in the broader ever-changing media landscape. Southern Spaces is committed to sharing the tools we use with others engaged in digital publishing to help make multimedia scholarship possible for a wider range of authors and audiences. The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship has worked to redevelop our site in collaboration with Sevaa Group, with the intention of distributing the package of Drupal modules we have assembled (including some developed for the journal) available for free in an easy to install form. As we proudly launch our new design today we look forward to sharing our open source journal-in-a-box distribution in the days to come.

About the Author

Jesse P. Karlsberg is Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities Publishing at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship and the consulting editor of Southern Spaces. He served as project director of the development of the journal's redesign and Drupal 7 distribution. Jesse received his doctorate from Emory University's Institute of the Liberal Arts in 2015. He is the editor of Original Sacred Harp: Centennial Edition (Pitts Theology Library and Sacred Harp Publishing Company, 2015).

  • 1. "About," Southern Spaces, accessed August 19, 2015, http://southernspaces.org/about.
doi:10.18737/M7XK62
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