World's #1 Open Access Repository

SSRN is devoted to worldwide distribution of scholarly research. Their eLibrary houses over 800,000 papers from nearly 400,000 researchers across 30 disciplines and SSRN goes to great lengths to ensure download counts are an accurate measure of reader interest in an author’s work. SSRN and ITX teamed up to make this happen, with the resulting product earning SSRN the Digital Rochester’s 2018 Technology Innovation Award.


Strategy, Design, Development, Quality Assurance


The Challenge

To preserve the reliability of data collected, SSRN’s Data Integrity System detects unusual download patterns from either a computer’s IP address or strange activity for specific papers. This helps to identify external sources attempting to distort or falsify download metrics, and also encourages users to either sign-in or register with SSRN instead of downloading papers anonymously.

However, the page that the user is directed to when strange activity is detected––the Data Integrity Page (DIP)––lead to 20% of users exiting the site after viewing it. On top of that, the number of new users registering accounts on the website was low. It was obvious that changes needed to be made to the design.

The goal was to redirect users who are either exiting the site when hitting this page or choosing to download anonymously to sign in or register so that SSRN can more accurately capture their monthly active users.

The target objectives can be broken up into four main touchpoints:
  • Increase number of sign ins from currently registered users
  • Increase number of new registrations
  • Make explanatory text clearer to convey why a user has been directed to the Data Integrity Page
  • Decrease the likelihood of users downloading papers anonymously

SSRN challenge

Data Integrity Page

The Data Integrity System never restricts users from performing any activities on the site; it only presents the options for users to continue downloading the paper by signing into SSRN HQ, creating a free account, or staying anonymous.

To increase the number of new registrations and sign ins, ITX re-skinned the page. The main point of focus was to bring forward the functionality that would be most beneficial to gaining registered users. In addition, we wanted to make the explanatory text clearer and easier to understand.

SSRN original design

SSRN updated version

SSRN final version

The final version was designed with an improved hierarchy of calls to action available for the user to take. “Create an Account” is the most prominent option, along with form fields for the user to input their information. Below that is the option, to “Sign In,” for existing members. It’s still prominent enough to see but does not distract from the option to create an account. In smaller text and entirely below the box itself is the last option: “Continue to Download Anonymously.”

The re-design is also more successful because we reduced and improved the content to remove any unnecessary information. In the final version, the possible reasons for being directed to the DIP are shown in a comprehensive bulleted list rather than a block of text. Text segmented into sequential lists is more likely to be read because users can easily scan through it.

The Results

Over the span of three days of A/B testing, 50% of SSRN’s traffic was directed to the new version of the DIP to test the design. The final version outperformed the original in all trackable measures.


increase in sign-ins


decrease in anonymous downloads


increase in registered users (users registering new accounts)

SSRN results

The goal of decreasing anonymous downloads was a success. While the increase of sign-ins was a great achievement, the rise in users registering accounts with SSRN was staggering. They saw a 1,300% increase in new users in just the first ten days of the experiment when compared to the previous full month.