A 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.
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.
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
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.
On 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.