Powerful search and fresh design for JCDA

JCDA Desktop view

Industrial has been building digital solutions for the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) for several years, from APIs to an online Member Services system. 

The Journal of the Canadian Dental Association (JCDA) is the flagship scholarly, peer-reviewed publication of CDA, providing dialogue between the national association and the dental community. It is dedicated to publishing worthy scientific and clinical articles and informing dentists of issues significant to the profession. JCDA is Canada’s only peer-reviewed dental journal. It is an online, open access publication that publishes original research articles that contribute to the literature. These articles are indexed in Medline, Journal Citation Reports and Science Citation Index.

Flagship publication in need of modernization

As the CDA's flagship publication, the JCDA needed a significant improvement of its user experience and underlying structure. The depth of information that could be found in the JCDA library was being concealed by a clunky user experience and inadequate search. Although the site was searchable using a generic Google search, visitors were finding it challenging to develop a good mental map of the topics available and how to navigate to them. The user experience was overdue for an overhaul: the visual design had become stale, the site was neither mobile-friendly nor responsive, and web accessibility standards were not being met. 

The CDA had business requirements that needed to be addressed as well. They wanted to move away from their commercially licensed Content Management System (CMS) towards a flexible, license-free and open-source platform. Also, they needed to boost the JCDA's revenue generating potential with an ad-serving solution. 

JCDA Mobile View

Optimize for different types of behaviour

The project began with a discovery phase. Moodboards and wireframes were used to establish the vision of the UI and UX design. The challenge was to create an experience that was light-handed, on-brand, modern, and intuitive to navigate. And, this new experience design needed to be seamlessly combined with a powerful CMS and search engine. We were able to take advantage of our deep knowledge of the CDA brand while designing; our moodboards and mockups could remain on-brand while introducing visual innovation, and the design validation process went quickly and smoothly.

To address the navigation problems, we began by overhauling the JCDA information architecture (IA) to expose the depth of topics to the visitor. Hierarchies were flattened and taxonomy was refined. The new IA provides a structured framework for topics that range from advocacy to pain management. 

We did away with the outdated tag-cloud, and implemented the navigation aid of a global topic drawer. Popular topics remain exposed at all times, but the user has the option to reveal the entire list of topics at any time. The new UI design, combined with the fresh IA, gives visitors multiple ways to access the same thing. Articles can be browsed chronologically, by topic, or by author. Visitors can rapidly and easily transition from casual browsing to targeted searching.

A faceted search, with Elasticsearch under the hood, allows the visitor to hone in on the right content within seconds. Elasticsearch is a highly scalable open-source full-text search and analytics engine. It allows you to store, search, and analyze big volumes of data quickly and in near real time. It is generally used as the underlying engine/technology that powers applications that have complex search features and requirements.

For JCDA, we paired Elasticsearch with our CMS of choice, Drupal. Drupal is an open-source CMS platform, popular for its flexibility and extensibility. We have implemented Drupal with Elasticsearch for other projects, and this has been one of our most successful pairings.

The new flagship

The new JCDA design is clean, professional and modern, while remaining on-brand. The new IA and navigation aids give the user an intuitive and sensible experience, allowing them to explore and find with ease. The underlying pairing of Drupal and Elasticsearch create a rapid and powerful search experience. The site is more approachable and enjoyable, and inviting for specialists and non-specialists alike. Also, close attention to accessibility standards mean the site can be accessed by visitors with varying abilities.