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.
Following on from some email discussions, some of my EMBL-EBI colleagues asked me if I could give a general talk on the topic of user research.
They work on Ensembl, one of the joint flagship projects of both the Sanger Institute and EMBL-EBI. It is described as “[a project that] produces genome databases for vertebrates and other eukaryotic species, and makes this information freely available online”. It is a complex system that supports the activities of thousands of scientists around the world.
There were a couple of specific questions that they wanted to explore, and I tried to cover them. I also made the general point that to gain value from user research, we need to dig below the surface, to have articulated goals, and to have a mechanism for reporting findings and acting on them.
A big thank you for the invitation.
It’s about that time of year again! Vizbi, the conference for visualizing biological data, returns in March. This year, it will take place at the Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, between March 20 and 22. There are half-day tutorials available on March 19.
Early registration closes on February 8. If you cannot make it to Cambridge, USA, you have the option of virtual registration: this allows participation via streaming video, with the possibility to ask questions of the speakers
Some of you (especially if you’re interested in data visualisation) might like to attend the next Data Insights Cambridge Meetup event on Thursday, August 2, 2012:
The Data Insights organiser, Sobia Hamid, came along to the talk and workshop that Noah Iliinsky gave us recently, and she is keen to invite people from the Sanger Institute or the EBI who might enjoy it.
In this talk Marcelo Segura will show how increased experimental throughput techniques have lead towards the adoption of more sophisticated methods for efficient analysis of the resulting information. The talk will also attempt to stimulate a discussion about the use of high-throughput approaches in molecular biology as well the challenges for data analysis in the field.
The event will take place at the Fountain Inn in Cambridge at 8pm.
It was great to hear Noah Iliinsky talk about how to apply a design process to data visualisation. He spent three hours with us, starting off with a short talk, and then guiding the audience through applying this design process to their data in a meaningful way.
A fuzzy iPhone photo of Noah Iliinsky sharing ideas during his workshop for EBI Interfaces
Anyone whom I work with will know that I’m often asking “What problem are you trying to solve?“, and this of course applies as well to data visualisation as it does system or interaction design. So it’s no surprise that I find Noah’s work really engaging and inspiring. He talks about understanding your reader (the audience… the “user” – their drivers and needs); understanding your data (its characteristics and dimensions, and the message within that you wish to convey); understanding the choices that you can make as you apply a design process to visualisation, choosing how to convey knowledge and enable action.
Triangulating these gets you most of the way to good data visualisation.
I’m very happy to be able to invite you along to what should be a great Interfaces event in mid-July.
I’ll be hosting author, designer and data visualisation specialist, Noah Iliinsky, who has generously offered to give both a talk and a short workshop:
“Designing Effective Data Visualizations: Lecture & Lab”
Noah will introduce some of the basics of the design process and its application to data visualisation, and then you can apply what you’ve learned to your own data, with Noah as a guide.
WHEN: July 16, between 14h and 17h (in fact, probably finishing at 16h)
WHERE: Room M203, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge
[FR - 16/07/2012] – feel free to download all the notes and resources associated with Noah’s talk and workshop.
Cardsorting – May 3, 2012
In keeping with our workshops on the first Thursday of each month (after HSF), we will run the third User eXperience Design exercise on 3 May at 10:30.
We’ll explore ‘Card Sorting’, which is a method to identify clusterings of important information into subheadings and to design information architectures that make sense to users. It can be done manually or virtually using software.
For example, if you have data like ‘SNPs’, ‘Insertions’, ‘Deletions’, and ‘Structual variants’ you can quickly find out how people would break these up into categories, and what people would name those categories, using this activity. Jenny and Sangya have lots of experience of applying this technique in our field, so come and learn from them.
What: UXD workshop (Card Sorting)
When: Thursday 3 May at 10:30 (we have the room until 12, but people are welcome to stay for a short time if they have other engagements)
Come on Thursday! If you do go to HSF, take advantage of the tea and biscuits just after!
The Vizbi 2012 conference was held at EMBL Heidelberg at the beginning of March, and a few of us from the EBI were lucky enough to attend.
In an effort to share some of the ideas we picked up there, we will present a summary of … the whole conference, or our highlights at least! And now… here are the slides:
WHEN: March 30th, 15h00
WHERE: M203, Cairns Pavilion, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus
On March 1st, 2012, we had a different kind of event on the Genome Campus… a joint session between EBI Interfaces and the Hinxton Sequence Forum (HSF) , with the aim of giving people practical, hands-on experience of user experience design (UXD) work.
At the EBI, we have developed a lot of on-site expertise in the areas of user research and user experience design. During a recent HSF meeting, members expressed a desire to learn more about user experience design, and how they can take techniques and methods and apply them to their work.
So, it was a bit of an experiment. We had an hour and a half, and a great audience of 50 developers and researchers from both the EBI and the Sanger Institute, and we tried to give them a useful taste of the design process.
The message? Take the time to explore and define a problem before you start developing solutions.
Discussion at the end of the workshop