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

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.

July 16 – Designing Effective Data Visualizations: Lecture & Lab

Noah IliinskyI’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.

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Highlights from Vizbi 2012 – March 30th

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 

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“Secrets of simplicity” – Dec 1st

Giles ColborneThe final EBI Interfaces speaker for 2011 will be design consultant, Giles Colborne. The author of Simple & Usable will speak to us about the “Secrets of simplicity“. There might be the opportunity for some audience interaction, too, beyond just asking questions. Giles is a really engaging speaker, and he will no doubt want to involve you, the audience, as much as possible!

WHERE: M203, Cairns Pavilion, Wellcome trust Genome Campus

WHEN: Thursday, December 1st, 14h00

As usual, if you don’t work on the Genome Campus but you would like to attend this course, please contact me and I can arrange for your visit.

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Upcoming talks, autumn 2011

We have three great events to go before Christmas (hey, they’re already selling Christmas puddings in the shops!).

October 17, 14h00 -15h00, Webinar: “Principles of Web Navigation: Advanced Design Techniques” (one hour) – James Kalbach

November 14, 15h00 – 16h00, Talk: “The language of software: the role of content strategy in software development” – Des Traynor

December 1, 15h00 – 16h00, Talk: “Secrets of Simplicity” – Giles Colborne

The webinar will be in C209 (near Sanger reception), and the talks will be in M203 (next to the restaurant).

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Science and Social Media – Sept 22, 2011

After a sumertime hiatus, EBI Interfaces will be back with a talk  towards the end of September with a talk on “Science & Social Media – Making Your Work More Visible and Engaging“.

Twitter birdy saying "science"

Nicola Osborne, Social Media Officer for EDINA, will talk about effective ways to use Social Media to communicate your work. Nicola will talk about strategies, tools, guidelines and ways to plan, manage and monitor social media to engage the people you want to communicate your scientific work with. She will draw upon her extensive experience of advising JISC-funded projects, academic researchers and the wider community on social media.

WHERE: M203, Cairns Pavilion, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus

WHEN: Thursday, Sept 22, 15h00

As always (though it perhaps isn’t obvious), external visitors are welcome to attend this talk. Please contact me, though, to arrange your visit.

To find out a bit more about the kind of things Nicola works on, you can read her Soapbox Science article written for nature.com.

Search UX: Going with the flow

Charlie Hull, organiser of Cambridge’s Enterprise Search Meetups, invited me to talk at one of their events about UX design for search.

I spoke about “going with the flow“, and how any search activity needs to fit within a user’s flow of overall activities. I also wanted to make the point that developers can have a big impact on UX design. In the world of search, part of this is the power of analytics, which can give us quantitative data about what people are searching for, and how successful they are.

Visualization Principles – Tamara Munzner

The visualization of data and information is not something I work on, but I still try to cover this subject whenever I can (hey, you know if you want to help me out on this, please get in touch!).

So, with that in mind, I thought that some of you might enjoy the slides from Dr Tamara Munzner’s recent Visualization Principles presentation at VizBi 2011.

Screengrab of Tamara Munzner's VizBi 2011 presentation slides

I really like the the visual language (“visual encoding”) that she covers; something that reminded me of a good article from Simon Collinson not long ago.

Anyway, there are lots of good, succinct points that give a easily-digestible overview of the principles of visualization. Now, I just need to ask her to give a talk at the EBI when she’s in the UK!  :)

 

Jenny Cham speaking at “User Experience in Software Development”

Our very own Jenny Cham will be giving a guest talk on 1-to-1 usability testing at the following evening event, organised by Mark Dalgarno of Software East.

There will be several invited speakers describing their UX work and plenty of time for questions and networking.

See you there!

When:      March 3, 2011 from 6pm to 9pm
Where:    Red Gate Software, Newnham Business Park, Cambridge
Cost:         Free, but you need to sign up in advance
Details:   http://softwareast.ning.com/events/user-experience-in-software

Talk: Feb 28 – Bronwyn van der Merwe – Developing a global experience language for the BBC’s digital services

TITLE: “Developing a global experience language for the BBC’s digital services”

WHEN: Monday, February 28th, 14h00

WHERE: M203 (the function room next to Murrays restaurant, where the HSF meetings take place), Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton

Grid overlay of a BBC webpageI’m really happy to announce that our first speaker of the year will be Bronwyn van der Merwe, the BBC’s head of design and user experience. Bronwyn’s background is in web development and design. She has worked at the BBC for over 10 years, where she has led a number of award-winning projects.

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