Personas for the EBI resdesign

Example EBI redesign personaA lot of work has been going into the redesign of the EBI website  over the last few months. We’re steadily moving into the design of various things – content, navigation, pages, interfaces, and so on. As soon as we have something interactive, in whatever state, we plan to get it in front of users as soon as possible and test its usability.

Before that, though, we have to make something. One of the key things that we think will help us inform our design work is the use of personas. There is a lot of good information out there on how to create personas and how to use them, and my colleague Antony has already written about personas on the EBI Interfaces blog.

Recently, I worked with team-mates Jenny Cham and Andrew Cowley to produce personas for this project, and I wanted to share some of our work with you.

Do It Yourself

Go ahead and download the custom template for Word (.dot) and amend or adjust it to suit your needs. You can also download a little guide (.doc) that has an annotated example with explanations of each feature.

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Science & Social Media – Making Your Work More Visible and Engaging

The EBI Interfaces talk  on September 22 was “Science & Social Media – Making Your Work More Visible and Engaging“, given by Nicola Osborne, Social Media Officer for EDINA.

Science & Social Media prezi - click to go to the presentation

Click to go to the presentation

Nicola spoke about effective ways to use Social Media to communicate your work. This included 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 drew upon her extensive experience of advising JISC-funded projects, academic researchers and the wider community on social media.

Some key points

  1. Social media channels give you a way to engage with an audience or community, and start a dialogue;
  2. Go to where people are already, rather than trying to create a community in a vacuum (i.e. Twitter is not always the answer!);
  3. You need a strategy to manage this effectively – goals, time, resources, measuring success;
  4. You need to consider Who?, What?, Where?, and When? as part of that strategy;
  5. Think about how to [re]use content across different channels;
  6. Develop ambassadors. Create content for them, and let them communicate to their networks.
  7. Tell stories (this is engaging!);
  8. You must budget time and resources for effective social media activity
  9. Guidelines, written well, can help content authors
To find out more about Nicola’s work, have a look at her EDINA blog. You can also download the EDINA social media guidelines, if you’d like to read them.

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

Talk: Papers for Mac 2.0 – the Difficult 2nd Album

Papers2 image

The next EBI Interfaces talk will be given by Matias Piipari (@mz2), the iOS developer at Mekentosj, the company responsible for the popular Papers app.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 25, 14h00
WHERE: M203 (the function room next to Murrays restaurant, where the HSF meetings take place), Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton

Matias was at the Sanger Institute during his PhD, so many of you will know him already. He has since combined his interests in computational biology and development for Apple operating systems, and I know that lots of you already use Papers.

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Talk: Caleydo – Visual Analysis of Biomedical Data

Details of our next talk coming up…

Alexander Lex and Marc Streit from the Graz University of Technology in Austria will talk to us about the visualization framework, Caleydo.

TITLE: Caleydo – Visual Analysis of Biomedical Data

WHERE: Cairns Pavilion (M203) lecture room

WHEN: Monday, Sept 20th, 14h00

Caleydo graphic

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Interview technique

Amongst the tools available to user experience designers, and anyone wanting to find out more about how people use their “product”, we have interviews.

A face-to-face way of asking questions and gathering feedback and opinion. This is not, of course, the same thing as observing what people actually do, which is the realm of usability testing, but it can be really useful when employed appropriately, and at the right point(s) in a project.

Jakob Nielsen (you know… that usability guy) wrote a really good article recently, discussing the pros and cons of interviews. What are they good for? What are they not good for?

It’s dangerous to make big design changes because “users didn’t like this” or “users asked for that.” If you ask leading questions or press respondents for answers, they might make up opinions that don’t reflect their real preferences in the slightest.

Check it out.

Nielsen wallpaper from Happy Webbies

Contextual Enquiry

Contextual inquiry set-upOn March 24th, Jenny and I headed down to a medical research institute in London to carry out some ‘contextual inquiry’ interviews with staff there. Jenny is working on a major project where she needs to know more about how users, in this case, wet lab biologists, use the web and search engines as part of their work.

A contextual enquiry (or sometimes inquiry) simply involves watching someone perform tasks in their everyday environment. It is a kind of ethnographic study – i.e. going out in the “field”, and studying how people do things.

Contextual enquiry is a bit like a usability test, but you’re just interested in in watching what people do, and less interested in any problems that are shown up. Normally, you simply observe peoples’ normal activities, and don’t set them specific tasks as such. It is usually only done early on in a project, when you’re trying to get an idea of how your own ‘product’ can be tailored to different user groups.

We interviewed six volunteers, to find out more about their day-to-day use of the web, and how it fits in with their research.

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