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Case Study

The MIT Press

Providing Readers New Ways to Discover Timeless Works of Literature

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The MIT Press is known for publishing works that showcase iconic design, rigorous scholarship, and creative technology. Their collection represents a strong heritage of art, science, and technology, which is displayed by their catalog of over 8,000 unique, significant works by pioneering authors including Noam Chomsky, Paul Krugman, and Patricia Churchland. The Press advances knowledge by publishing work that serves a global audience, and they have been committed to this effort for almost 60 years.

In late 2016, change was afoot at the Press. The marketing team was energized by the addition of a new director to their lineup, their website was long overdue for a modernization, and they had recently partnered with a design agency (Pentagram) to begin a brand overhaul.

And so they began their search for a seasoned agency to undertake their website redesign process. Enter Palantir.

The Key Results

  • Prototyping a semantic HTML framework for a responsive, mobile-first experience.
  • Developing a Drupal 8 website that provides the MIT Press with marketing tools for the promotion of their catalog.
  • Integrating MIT’s book data services into the Drupal site, so that editors can leverage existing tools along with those required for web publishing.
  • Supporting an e-commerce experience that provides the best user experience for customers.

The Challenge

The former MIT Press website was a Drupal 6 instance last designed in 2012, and aside from having an outdated technical stack, it suffered in overall user experience. The new site needed to make it easy for visitors to peruse the Press’ catalog of beautiful books with amazing covers. It needed to offer new and exciting ways to present content and enhance the search experience. Most importantly, it needed to continue driving that pursuit of knowledge that the Press endeavored to promote when they set-up shop in 1962.

Creating a Living Style Guide

We were fortunate to work with Pentagram, a design partner who authentically showcased the MIT Press’ refreshed brand identity. They provided a brand guide that we were able to adapt beautifully for the web. Palantir’s design implementation process began on a foundation of static compositions that we received from Pentagram.

Our design team expanded on these comps to build out a living style guide that addresses web accessibility standards and documents responsive content layouts, all while maintaining the integrity and feel of the original designs.

The Ability to Market Their Collection

Mitpress.mit.edu is intended to be the canonical source for all information relating to MIT Press’ published works. At the forefront of their team’s minds was one important question: how do we make it easier for readers to find the titles they are looking for, and ultimately, start curating their own collection of books?

Palantir addressed this need by building out a suite of marketing tools that the MIT Press publishing team had never before had. These tools allowed them to create new kinds of content to showcase information about the collection in new, visually exciting ways.

Scrolling through book landing page on laptop computer

The MIT Press team can now create book landing pages, self-managed static pages, campaign landing pages and custom microsites.

Custom API Integration

MIT Press’ internal database already housed a record of all of their books, including information like when a title was published, cover image files, and more. Because it was already part of their workflow as a publishing house, MIT Press needed to continue maintaining book information using that specific system.

The main challenge they faced was how to pull all of that book data in from their publishing system and expose it on the new website. Their previous workflow involved exporting a large file from the publishing database and then importing that data into the website, but this produced challenges as there was no control over editorial workflow or how information appeared on the site. It also meant updates to titles on the site only happened when they had time to import massive files to their site.

After migrating the site to Drupal 8, Palantir integrated custom Drupal entities with MIT Press’ custom API which provides all of their book data. Nearly all of the information about books and contributors comes from the MIT Press API, even related book titles. The MIT Press marketing team can now use information pulled in through the API to spin up the landing pages and other content that help showcase their collection.

The API integration between the internal publishing system and the Drupal website allows MIT Press content authors to continue using their existing editorial workflows, which frees up precious time for their team to concentrate on higher level strategic objectives.

We have quite a few different audience types, and Palantir has helped make the website accessible to all of them. They made sure the pathways are clear and prominent, making them easier to navigate, which will hopefully lead to higher conversions and more books being purchased.

Sara Fleming

Consultant

The End Result

Having a streamlined user interface has been the biggest win for the Press. Many of the titles they publish are ones that are considered timeless references in the fields of architecture, design, science, and technology, and the new site not only puts those works in context but also makes it easier for visitors to discover new ones as well.  

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