While I am keen to make it understood that UX design is not UI design, now and then, I am asked to help design a user interface. During the summer, I was pulled onto a project last minute: “Can you help us with this presenter interface?”. It turned out to be an interesting little exercise, and the end result seems to be pretty good.
To maintain your sanity, and as a tool for communicating the goals of user research, a plan is essential.
I’m not a fan of lots of documentation in a project and anyway, exhaustive development specifications and milestone reports are usually not part of the projects I work on at EMBL-EBI. Even so, for a given piece of user research, I want to have a plan, and the single-page kind that Tomer Sharon recommends is perhaps my favourite way of doing this.
A friend recently asked for an example of one of these single-page user research plans, so here’s one I drafted recently. I’ve anonymised it slightly, so it might seem a little bit vague!
Since the idea of considering the user experience of using EMBL-EBI bioinformatics resources took root about four years ago, we’ve been able to build on past successes and peoples’ trust, and expand that kind of UX design-related work we can get done.
More recently, we’ve begun to get more traction for carrying out research of users and their habits early in a project, to give us a solid foundation for design and development work. This is brilliant, since it brings us closer to the community and learn from their stories, but just like scientific research, user research needs to be planned. To have a record of this, I’ve adapted Tomer’s format very slightly, and now I have something that I can use myself, and that I can share with team-mates, project leaders, and other stakeholders.
This blog post is long overdue. At UX Cambridge 2012, I was lucky enough to be joined by my friends Mel Findlater (@melfindlater) and David “Sheff” Barker (@mcshefferty) in running a workshop called “Design for Society”. The aim was to give participants an taste of running a participatory design session, and we included both UX designers (conference attendees) and “real people” – in this case, long-term wheelchair users and their carers. Thank you to everyone who took part!
Here is a sketchnote for the UX talk Jenny Cham gave at ISMB/ECCB 2013 conference, in Berlin, on Tues 23 July.
Presentation Title: “Designing with the user in mind: how UCD can work for bioinformatics“
Here is a preview of Jenny Cham’s poster for the ISMB/ECCB 2013 conference happening in Berlin, 19-23 July 2013:
The poster tells the story of the EMBL-EBI website redesign
The poster (number B44 at the conference) is a timeline showing the process we used to redesign the website from start to finish (although it’s never really finished!) As far as possible, we applied a user-centred design philosophy – where evidence from users helped us to decide on the layout, the way search works, navigation, and other stuff.
We used BBC’s Global Experience Language (BBC GEL) as a shining example
BBC GEL provided the inspiration we needed to create style guidelines for the new site. These include a style guide, design patterns and other advice (such as UX techniques), which designers and developers can follow to make the look and feel (and behaviour) of webpages consistent across diverse services under the EBI banner. These guidelines will be available later this year, via the EBI website.
Acknowledgement of help
Jenny would like to thank Spencer Phillips (Graphic designer at EMBL-EBI) for his tips on improving the timeline and call out boxes in this poster. Thank you!
See you in Berlin!
As well as the poster, check out Jenny’s talk on Tuesday 23 July (12.00-12.25, Hall 7) “Designing with the user in mind: how UCD can work for bioinformatics”
I recently had the pleasure of attending a one-day tutorial on data visualisation, given by Andy Kirk (@visualisingdata) on the Genome Campus. I was particularly glad that we were able to organise for Andy to run his tutorial here since, rather like Noah Iliinsky and Miriah Myer, Andy frames his guide to data visualisation in terms of a design process; something close to my [UX design] heart.
Taking a step-by-step approach to exploring one’s data, learning about the audience and their goals, deciding on the purpose of the visualisation, and taking time to experiment with different possible solutions is an essential grounding to set down for people, I think.
The March issue of BMC Bioinformatics includes the first ‘how to’ guide for applying user-centred design (UCD) to websites for bioinformatics. In this post, written by user experience (UX) professionals at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) UK, we find out how UCD could positively impact scientific discovery in the life sciences.
Bioinformatics services can be really useful for scientific research, but unfortunately they have a reputation for being too technical and hard-to-use. This is because it is usually the software developers who decide how bioinformatics software looks and behaves, rather than the biomedical researchers who actually use the resource.
In our article, we outline a better approach – focusing on what the users want.
Activity-centered design (ACD) is a concept that appears to have its roots in activity theory, mostly of the Scandinavian flavour. It asks designers to focus on (wait for it… ) the activities that people are carrying out, and that a system should support.
It is a high-level view of tasks and goals and clearly does not focus on “the user” as an individual unit. Instead, it gives us a framework in which to consider what people do, or what we want them to be able to do, in a more-or-less general sense. This can be a very attractive perspective to take in situations where the user-base is very diverse, the goals are varied, but the broad activities are less numerous and easier to define.
Activity theory itself addresses the psychology of working and learning. It has influenced, and subsequently been influenced by, human-computer interaction research.