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Oxford English Dictionary


With 600,000 words and 3 million quotations from classic literature to films scripts and cookbooks, the Oxford English Dictionary is widely regarded as the authority on the English language.

With this incredible volume of content spanning 1,000 years of the English language, the oed.com redesign was a massive design and usability challenge. The OED name speaks for itself, but the PubFactory team needed to expand the site's functionality through creative design and intelligent features that resonated with both new generations and longtime users.

The new version of the OED online needed to:

  • Include new functionality such as the ability to search and browse the OED by wide variety of criteria including subject, region, usage, or language of origin; provide detailed information about the major sources of the OED; view search results as a timeline; and personalize the resource by saving searches and entries to a personal profile.
  • Present the information locked in the OED database in a much more accessible, dynamic, and productive way, while maintaining its reliability and scholarly authority.
  • Enhance the OED's online presence, and to match its preeminent position in the world of scholarship, and set a new standard for reference works, with the addition of the new historical thesaurus and a variety of interface enhancements.


Working with such a treasure trove of content could have proven to be an incredibly daunting process, but relying heavily on the PubFactory process, we attacked each piece of the process confidently, and with an extreme eye for detail. User experience played a huge role in the design process, which included extensive mapping and testing, before we even touched the visual direction.

Built on the PubFactory platform, the implementation process was fairly intense, from development through to integration. We had to be certain that the customized PubFactory features such as timelines (readers can browse timelines to see peaks and troughs of word formation through history) and advanced search (visitors can search or sift through results by date, geographical region, usage, and subject) were developed perfectly, providing the ultimate connection between UX, design and functionality.

Key Features

  • The Subscriber Home page gives a clear overview of the ways to browse the OED (search, browse, categories, sources, timelines, and historical thesaurus), as well as fresh content such as expert commentary.
  • The Entry text for each word on oed.com is optimized for legibility and successfully translates OED's strict typographic standards for the Web. With the volume of information displayed on each entry page, it was essential for the designers to carefully consider treatment of content (quotations, lemmas, etymologies), while dynamically accommodating contents that vary widely from entry to entry.
  • Users can intuitively scroll through the alphabet, jumping to word or date, by using the 'Word Wheel' on the right side of the entry and search/browse screens. Smart Scroll on the right side of each entry displays the major sections of the entry for a bird's-eye view of the entry contents.
  • Search and Browse results can be viewed in both list and timeline view. Interactive timelines show when words entered the English language. The timelines can be filtered by subject, region, and language of origin.
  • On the search results pages, the "barcode" element beneath each headword gives a visual sense of the length of the entry and the position of the sense within the entry. The user can further refine or widen their search and toggle into timeline view.


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Success Story

[The PubFactory team] was a great partner to work with on such a core project—they brought real creativity in design, understanding of user behavior, and engineering savvy—but they also understand the importance and value of the OED to its many readers.

— Robert Faber, Editorial Director, Scholarly and General Reference for Oxford University Press