EuroIA 2014 and activity diagrams

[May 2015] – I’m tending to refer to these things as “[key] activity descriptions” these days, since the “diagram” bit could sometimes be confusing. You could also refer to it as an “activity canvas”, too. Anyway…

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

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

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

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

Designing better web experiences for bioinformatics

The March issue of BMC Bioinformatics includes the first ‘how to’ guide for applying user-centred design (UCD) to websites for bioinformatics. In this post, written by user experience (UX) professionals at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) UK, we find out how UCD could positively impact scientific discovery in the life sciences.

Photo of paper prototyping for Enzyme Portal

Paper prototyping for Enzyme Portal

Bioinformatics services can be really useful for scientific research, but unfortunately they have a reputation for being too technical and hard-to-use. This is because it is usually the software developers who decide how bioinformatics software looks and behaves, rather than the biomedical researchers who actually use the resource.

In our article, we outline a better approach – focusing on what the users want.

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User Centred Design poster

Pascal Raabe (#jazzpazz), a graphic designer and student based in Bristol, has released a really nice poster explaining user centred design.

You can download it for free in PDF of JPG format, and you can order a high quality, A1 sized printed copy in return for a donation towards Pascal’s studies.

a peek at the UCD poster

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Review: User-centred Design – Value and Process

Jenny and I attended a talk given by Dr Rachel Jones of Instrata, and organised by Mark Dalgarno from Software Acumen / Software East.

Rachel’s talk, entitled “User-centred Design – Value and Process” covered both business cases for carrying out user-centred design (UCD) and the activities (the “why” and “how”) of it.

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Desire paths and routes to data

Desire paths are the worn tracks you sometimes see, cutting across a patch of grass, or through a hedge, where people frequently take a shortcut, rather than the designated path.

In terms of design and usability, perhaps we could begin to think about this when we create websites and applications. If we learn from what users actually do, we can aim to create better paths to data and information, and thus a better user experience.

Frozen desire lines

Desire paths in Oslo, Norway

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