The Concept


When we started this most recent JSTOR Labs project, we interviewed a number of our users about their mobile research habits, hurdles and desires.  What we heard was a resounding chorus:

“Research on my phone? Never. Not if I can avoid it.”
          “The screen’s too small.”
          “I use so many tabs – it wouldn’t work on my phone.”

And yet, they also all talked about how much they relied on their phone for other actions – email, texting, paying friends, etc. – which was more in line with all the data points we’ve all been reading showing that “mobile is eating the world.”

Our goal with this prototype was to poke at this paradox. We wanted to create a phone experience that wasn’t a stripped-down, small-screen version of the desktop experience, but instead was one that you couldn’t replicate on a larger screen. We wanted to provide functionality not available on a desktop or laptop, in an experience that took advantage of the way users interact with a phone.

To achieve that goal, we did another flash build.  The Labs team spent a week holed up at the Espresso Royale coffeehouse just off the UMich campus. We hung these signs up:

By the end of the week, we’d spoken with almost twenty students and faculty.  We showed them a series of paper and digital prototypes, and then designed and built an experience based on their input. The prototype we built – which we’re calling JSTOR Snap – lets a user take a picture of any page of text (say, a page of a textbook, or a syllabus, or a class assignment, or the first page of an in-progress essay) and it will return research articles about the same topic.  Users can then swipe through the articles to evaluate them and then save a list for reading later. When we put in their hands a phone with that experience on it, we heard:

“This could be better than doing research on my laptop.”

It’s still just a prototype – more of a concept car than something you’d want to ride across country – but I hope you’ll give Snap a try.  Just point the browser of your Android or IOS smart phone at http://labs.jstor.org/snap, and then share your thoughts and reactions on Twitter (#jstorsnap), email (labs@ithaka.org) or in the comments below.