Librarian helping student locate online resources for his studies

How to get a better UX from publishers

21 June 2022 • Jane Charlton, senior marketing manager - community and content • Jane Charlton, senior marketing manager - community and content

When researchers access publisher sites, they want a smooth and rewarding user experience (UX). Help give them that – by persuading publishers to use federated access. Here’s how.

As a librarian, you want researchers to have a seamless experience when they visit publisher sites.

When accessing resources remotely, it’s often easier for researchers to visit a publisher direct from a search engine – and be authenticated via single sign-on.

They also want a personalized experience which recognizes their preferences while protecting their privacy.

This seamless yet personalized experience isn’t possible with IP-based recognition alone – but when you use federated access, you can make it happen.

Of course, when it comes to access technologies, it takes two to tango. So how can you persuade publishers to adopt federated access? Try these steps.

1. Remember: you hold the power

It’s in publishers’ interest to keep librarians happy. So show your commitment to federated access – because publishers won’t make changes unless librarians ask.

Explain why federated access is a good idea. Tell publishers about pain points you encounter with IP/proxy access and one-to-one bilateral SAML connections.

For example, say how time-consuming it is for you to make changes to configurations – and how frustrating it becomes if you can’t readily call on the IT expertise you need to set up and manage them.

Ultimately, you might ask license negotiators to include a clause in their model license which requires publishers to provide single sign-on via a federated access network.

As more customers ask for federated single sign-on, there’s a higher chance that publishers will implement it.

2. Show how federated single sign-on helps publishers, too

Publishers will move to federated access if they understand it’s in their interests to do so. Help by explaining the following benefits:

Smooth UX

Publishers want to retain subscribers and protect their digital revenues – but they can’t do that if users find it difficult to access their content. So better UX helps everyone. (For more info, see our guideance about the three main user journeys and how to get them right.)

Perhaps explain how users can face obstacles when they arrive at publisher sites via search engines. A researcher may not realize, for example, that their library subscribes to a certain resource, so they could abandon a search when faced with a paywall. Obstacles like these can mean they turn to a file-sharing site instead, which isn’t in publishers’ interests at all.

Ask publishers to look at the end-to-end user journey, removing friction that could turn users away. Consider telling them about services such as GetFTR, or ask providers of discovery services to make it possible for researchers to identify content you subscribe to as a library, as well as open-access content. Federated single sign-on makes this possible.

Personalization with privacy

As part of improving UX, publishers may want to personalize content for users – for example, enabling saved searches, offering annotated content, etc. At the same time, however, libraries want to preserve user privacy.

So you could remind publishers that, with federated single sign-on, it’s possible to offer personalization while also protecting privacy – which keeps library customers happy.


Managing one-to-one bilateral SAML connections can become complex for publishers, as it does for you – so point out that with federated single sign-on, life is simple. Watch our 20 min video to find out more.

When a publisher joins a federated network, every library in that network can access it, subject to the licenses they hold. So the approach is scalable.

Publishers can also worry less about proxy services or VPNs falling over and breaking access – because federated single sign-on is scalable and reduces or removes your organization’s dependency on proxy and VPN solutions.


In terms of security, single sign-on also makes it easy to disable access for individual users as protection against a breach – rather than removing access for an entire library.

3. Use your networks to make the case for better UX

There are many places where you can make the case for better UX – helping publishers to understand your needs. These include:

  • Library consortia or organizations who negotiate content licenses, such as Jisc or EIFL
  • Publisher user groups and forums, where you can provide feedback and request product enhancements.

4. Point providers to OpenAthens resources

If you have publishers who are still using proxy/IP access, now’s the time to persuade them to join the federated access community – to improve UX for you, for them, and for your users.

Why not direct them to our new hub on why publishers need OpenAthens? With luck, it will help them to help you on your journey to a better UX.

Resource hub. Laptop next to notepad
Single sign-on icon

Why publishers need OpenAthens

Help persuade publishers of the benefits of federated single sign-on by pointing them to our resource hub.  We provide educational content and raise awareness of the three key issues around IP-based access: security, poor user experience, and lack of personalization.


Why publishers need OpenAthens