EuroIA 2014 and activity diagrams

I had the privilege of giving a quick talk at EuroIA 2014, entitled “Maybe there’s more to this than user-centered design?”. As you might have guessed, I think there is more: I wanted to explore and share some thoughts I had about how we approach UX design in complex settings like scientific service design (and others besides). In recent project work, I’ve been using modified activity diagrams to help me characterise apparently important activities. I thought this might be useful for other people, too.

Picture of activity diagram template

Picture of activity diagram template – click to download a PDF version

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 

Continue reading

“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.

Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

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