This recent question on the Elsevier online submission system prompted this question to me.
It seems like there are lots of outstanding examples of bad usability and overall negative user experience with the workflow between scientists and journals. For instance, citing only things from the top of my mind:
- bad copy-editing (as in: they introduced many more errors instead of fixing them);
- old, unwieldy, and non-standard LaTeX templates;
- confusing or outdated instructions to authors on websites;
- confusing e-mail interface: for instance, in my experience, in all the e-mail I get from Elsevier journals, the editor in chief is listed as the "From" address, even when it comes from another editor. Another example that comes to my mind is a Springer journal which has no online editorial system whatsoever, and editors treat the submissions by bouncing e-mails manually back and forth with the authors and reviewers, with all the problems that this entails.
- the copy-editing phase taking months, and then corrections on the drafts needed "within 48 hours".
- complicated submission processes, in which the authors have to fill in manually lots of data that are unnecessary at the refereeing stage. or could be inferred automatically from the TeX source.
If one compares them with commercial websites, where the philosophy is "the customer is king; let's do everything so that they won't waste 30 seconds more than necessary filling our forms", the user experience seems poor, overall. It's not the kind of treatment I get on Amazon, Booking.com, or Google, for instance. Far from it.
I am not an editor at any journal, but if I were one, I would definitely try to complain about these practices and general approach. So, my question is:
Do editors (and editors-in-chief especially) complain about usability problems like these ones? If the answer is yes, why don't things get fixed? If the answer is no, why? Is it because they don't realize that there are these problems, because they don't care, or because they know no one would listen?