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Javascript: sold out

23 Jan

Registration for the Javascript Tips & Best Practices event mentioned in my previous post opened on January 17 and co-organiser, Rafael Jimenez, and I held our breath.

We knew that lots of people, both on the Genome Camps and off it, were interested but we were less sure about the extent to which that would translate into actually selling places! Turns out that we needn’t have worried.

Places were sold out in a record 29 minutes. Now, there’s a waiting list and it looks as though we could run the same event a week later and fill it. Phew.

Screengrab from

Screengrab from

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13 Jan

Between February 26th and 28th, the EBI will play host to Javascript Tips & Best Practices: A hands-on workshop. Over the course of three days, participants will learn about Javascript for modern web development, as well as have an opportunity to talk about how they’re using Javascript in their work.

Since the summer of 2013, I’ve been working with my colleague, Rafael Jimenez, to take this from an idea to reality. Though we hope to have lots of interest from staff at both the EBI and the Sanger Institute, the event is open to anyone.


Inside the European Bioinformatics Institute

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Participatory design: including people in the design process at UX Cambridge 2012

2 Aug

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!

Participatory design workshop participants

Designers and non-designers working together to understand design problems. With Lego.

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UX lightning talks

31 Jul

These are my notes from the Cambridge Usability Group UX lightning talks event. This was held at Microsoft Research Cambridge on July 29, 2013, and the post-event trip to the pub was kindly sponsored by Red Gate Software.

UX lightning talks audience

A capacity crowd for the Cambridge USability Group UX lightning talks, hosted at Microsoft Research Cambridge and sponsored by Red Gate Software.

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Six degrees of Kevin Bacon: hydrozoan edition

17 Jul

Thank you to Zoe Rose for coming to the Genome Campus. Sketchnotes from her talk…

sketchnotes from Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (hydrozoan edition)

Sketchnotes from Zoe Rose’s talk “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (hydrozoan edition)”


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Improving the EMBL-EBI online experience: a poster on the EBI website ‘rethink’

16 Jul

Here is a preview of Jenny Cham’s poster for the ISMB/ECCB 2013 conference happening in Berlin, 19-23 July 2013:

Jenny Cham's ISMB poster

Jenny Cham’s poster for ISMB [PDF]

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”


ISMB/ECCB 2013 conference page

Introduction to data visualisation, with Andy Kirk

7 May

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.

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User research – the gentle art of not asking users what they want

4 Mar

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.

Information wayfinding – Tyler Tate

27 Feb

Tyler Tate - head & shouldersIt was great to have Tyler Tate come and speak on campus again. He was previously here, back in October 2010, speaking about maximising findability, and the “scent of search”.

This time round, Tyler was expanding on some of that thinking, and talked to us about information wayfinding – the concept of helping people locate themselves in an information space, and navigate around it efficiently.

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Vizbi 2013: visualizing biological data

6 Feb

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

Vizbi 2013: a workshop on visualizing biological data




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