ECDS Launches Redesign of Atlanta Studies Website

The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) has unveiled the latest version of the open-access online journal Atlanta Studies. Dr. Kayla Shipp, Digital Scholarship Specialist at ECDS, consulted with Atlanta Studies’ outgoing Managing Editor Adam Newman and other members of the journal’s staff to identify areas for improvement before redesigning the website.

Slideshow (below) of new homepage vs older homepage. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Atlanta Studies is an open access, multimedia web-based journal published by ECDS. The website is an open-access online publication that features original scholarship and projects about the Atlanta region, open resources, and events such as quarterly meetups and an annual symposium. An outgrowth of the Atlanta Studies Network, which has been hailed as a “world-leading, civic initiative” (see blog post from March 2019), the journal is published by ECDS and led by an editorial board that includes members from prominent organizations and institutions throughout the metro area. Recently, Amy S. Li (Social Media Coordinator and 2019-2020 Digital Humanities Fellow at the ECDS) worked with Kayla Shipp to redesign the Atlanta Studies Network page, allowing website users to view project descriptions on the Atlanta Studies website directly.

Outgoing Managing Editor Adam Newman writes the following explanation for the Atlanta Studies redesign: “In late 2019, as we began approaching the journal’s fifth anniversary, we felt it was time to update Atlanta Studies as we continued to mature as a publication. We had last redesigned the site in spring 2017, and although we had implemented a few changes since then, we felt a larger redesign was now needed. In particular, in light of our growing readership over the past few years, we were hoping to improve the site experience for new visitors. At the same time, we hoped to streamline and automate what was a quite labor-intensive production process for our staff.”

To accomplish these goals, Kayla Shipp worked with Atlanta Studies staff to identify overall areas for improvement for the full website redesign. They targeted overall areas for the site’s improvement that included matters of sustainability, organization, and visual interest. Kayla also helped assess and optimize user experience on the publicly accessible front-end of the website as well as improving efficiency and workflow on the back-end. For example, while the original Atlanta Studies homepage required all new content to be entered manually by staff each time a new article or blog post was published, thanks to the redesign new articles and blog posts are now automatically posted to the home page, sharing new content as soon as it becomes available.

The updated website now also highlights one of the journal’s most unique qualities, which is the fact that the journal features both longer peer-reviewed articles and shorter-form blog posts, which often use a more informal tone. The solution introduced by Kayla’s redesign was to separate the blog posts from the articles in separate pages but use the same grid layout in order to visually unify the site. This visual consistency helps emphasize the importance Atlanta Studies places on both forms of content.

Visually consistent Articles and Blog page with dropdown menu, redesigned by Kayla Shipp

Ease of use was greatly improved with these functional updates in place, but the website still appeared flat and modular. Throughout the redesign process, Kayla notes that she was “drawn to the hero image on the original front page,” which featured an aerial view of the Atlanta skyline and captured the spirit of the regional studies journal. Kayla writes that the image nicely depicted Atlanta “as a whole from a distance but through the texture of the city’s archival past.” In formulating plans for the redesign, she shifted the website’s reliance on textual description to instead representing the message of Atlanta Studies through that image itself, which is now used across the site as a header image.

Kayla Shipp has also previously aided in the Fall 2018 website redesign for the Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation (JHR), another ECDS-sponsored open-access, peer-reviewed publication. The ECDS staff that run JHR have recently published a new Spring 2020 issue, which you can view on their website:

Link to redesigned Atlanta Studies website: