Last month, Anand Sarwate, author of the blog The Ergodic Walk, and Assistant Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, posted an article on the tools available for academics.
He opened it with an unusual question: “Why oh why can’t we have nice web-based software for academic things?”
Needless to say, it hit close to home.
We couldn’t agree more with Anand when he complains that most of the existing tools for academics weren’t developed with user experience in mind…or at least, not the conference management systems.
They were built to do the job and be functional, but not to delight. As Anand points out, many systems available were first developed by researchers who needed a solution for their own conferences and who then decided to make it available for other organisers as well. This means they didn’t necessarily have the capacity nor the will to improve it and sustain it. As a general rule, it’s fair to say that the industry doesn’t exude innovation.
Yet, the conference workflow –submitting, reviewing, accepting, publishing – is complex and packed with time-consuming tasks for organisers. For someone who has never organised a conference before, it can be a challenging experience. An easy-to-use and nice tool doesn’t just make the process more efficient. It makes the whole experience more enjoyable.
That’s why at Ex Ordo, we focus not only on making things as straightforward as possible, but beyond that, we put a lot of energy into crafting delightful experiences.
This means that:
- Every task is done faster and more efficiently
- The tool is pleasant to use
- Authors and reviewers also have a great experience
- Everyone is happy!
So how do we do that exactly?
1. We automate tasks
There are a lot of mundane tasks involved in the conference workflow. Tasks that require sending or replying to multiple individual emails, creating Excel files with all the submissions, or counting the number of words in each and every abstract. These tasks are low value at the scale of the conference but end up taking a huge amount of the organisers’ time.
Our system automates them so the organisers can concentrate on things that matter most: getting more papers in, finding good reviewers, promoting their conference…
For instance, we have a feature that allows the organiser to allocate all the reviews in seconds by just clicking on a button:
Instead of having to input all the abstracts in an Excel file and then match them with possible reviewers, they can just click on the button and then send a group email to all the reviewers.
2. We’re passionate about user experience
We wanted every user to enjoy using our system, so we created something beautiful. We haven’t seen any other system so far with so much attention given to the design.
We sweat the small things.
To simplify the process, we’ve created a set of to dos guiding each user through the tasks they need to carry out. For instance, an author who logs in for the first time only has one To do: Submit a Paper.
We’ve also made each workflow as smooth and as straightforward as possible.
3. We back it up with awesome customer support
Bugs and glitches are inherent to any system and tool. There will be things that will break and others that the system just can’t do. There will also be users that are less tech-savvy and need assistance.
Everytime we implement a new feature, everytime we design it, we have to make assumptions and decisions. And sometimes, how the feature ends up being used is not exactly what we anticipated.
We always have our great support team to make up for the things that aren’t working as well as they should. They are also here to guide the organisers, make sure their deadlines don’t slip and provide all the insights we’ve learned from other customers.
There will never be any system that can fit the processes of all the conferences out there because a lot of them are unique. We try to make our tool as customisable as possible. We learn from our customers and listen to their feedback to prioritize the features that we add. For example, we’re an IEEE preferred partner and IEEE conferences have very specific processes. As such, it’s important for us to offer a tool that adapt to the specific processes of IEEE conferences.
And unlike what Anand says, we do have a massive incentive to work hard on getting better: we have amazingly loyal customers, and we rely heavily on word of mouth and referrals. We need our customers to spread the word about how good our system is. And the only way our customers will do this, is by surprising them, by offering something that’s even better than what they hoped for, and by keeping them happy.
We deeply believe that academics deserve good tools and that these tools can contribute to advance research, to help researchers network and collaborate better and to make processes more efficient.
Are you thinking of designing a logo for your conference, then try this logo design tool.
Having said that, we still receive a lot of feedback from customers who had no idea that systems that could automate their conference workflow existed. They thought the only way was to do everything manually or through online forms. So part of our mission is to raise awareness on the tools that exist and can help researchers organise conferences.