"How the heck am I supposed to use this?" You've most likely relied on bioinformatics software at some point in your research. And likely also felt overwhelmed or annoyed while doing so. The researchers that create these tools are sophisticated. The researchers using these tools are intelligent. So why are the tools so frustrating to use? Hint: it's not you. Here are 7 reasons many bioinformatic tools are overly complicated:

 

Complex data2The data presented in bioinformatic tools is complex, and riddled with exceptions and edge cases. Interconnected datasets are technically challenging. To make it worse, the data-sets are often large. How can the software creators present this data in a meaningful way?Predicting exactly how users will interact with an application is hard. Software creators must understand what works by conducting usability testing and collecting feedback. Many tools do not undergo user testing before they are available for general usage. Once the tools are available, they often lack a way for the community to provide feedback.Lack of feedback41Lack of incentiveThe creators of many bioinformatic tools are busy researchers. They try to solve their unique research questions and publish their findings. It’s not the usability of the tools that gets papers published but their novelty. Many of the software programs aren’t intended for general use. Rather, the tools are available to allow for the reproduction of the research findings.7 Reasons Why Your Bioinformatic Tools SuckSome creators of bioinformatics software see user-centered design approaches as an unnecessary delay. They might also see making the interface intuitive as a needless over simplification of their software. "The users of this software are smart, they'll figure it out."5Negative perception of design approachThe budgets of academic organizations often come from grants. Furthermore, the end users of the tools do not pay. Hiring a user-centered design specialist to assist in the creation of a tool can cost too much.7Budget constraintsFew people have the skill sets needed to create bioinformatics software. The creators must understand the science, be able to design solutions, and carry out testing. It becomes a challenge to find people who have knowledge in user-centered design, biology, and computing.6Challenging subject to design for3Both computational and bench scientists often use the same tools. Many nontechnical users find the command-line driven interfaces and non-existent documentation intimidating. The diverse needs of the scientists lead to more elaborate interfaces. How many of those buttons on the screen do you actually end up using?Diverse community of usersMatan Berson BenchSci Copyright 2019Matan Berson BenchSci Copyright 2019

 

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These challenges make the creation of intuitive bioinformatic tools an uphill battle. Fortunately, bioinformaticians can access guidelines and recommendations on how to make their tools more user friendly.

Like bioinformatic tools, the BenchSci platform must meet the needs of many users and present complex data. Therefore our team makes it a priority to incorporate user-centered design into our product development. We begin projects by understanding the needs of our scientist users through interviews. We conduct usability testing on prototypes we create. We then use what we learn to iterate on the designs with the goal of creating an intuitive solution. We combine this data with analytics to help us understand where users might struggle.

Needless to say, our users are crucial to ensuring that BenchSci is a useful platform for scientists. If you're interested in checking out some the designs we're currently working on in our lab, reach out below.

Want to play with our latest prototype? Our design team meets with scientists  regularly  to test the newest features on our platform. Reach Out Here
Written By:
Matan Berson
Topics:

User Experience

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