T14 – User Experience Design for Computational Biologists



Date: Sunday September 9, 2018
Time: 9:00 – 17:00
Venue: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
Room: VIP_2nd

How can a computational biologist communicate the insights of her analysis in a way that a wet lab scientist will find intuitive and useful? In this tutorial we will walk you through the User Experience (UX) Design process that we have been following at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) to design and develop intuitive applications for wet-lab scientists, including practical advice on how to achieve impact and common pitfalls to avoid.


In this hands-on tutorial, you’ll have the opportunity to practice the fundamentals of UX design, including:

  • User research: Interviewing and observing users to understand their informational needs.
  • Design: Coming up with a wide range of solutions to address the needs that you have identified from user research.
  • Testing: Getting feedback from users on your designs to improve them iteratively.


By attending this tutorial you will gain a better understanding on how to communicate more effectively results from computational biology to bench scientists. You will be introduced to numerous collaborative research, design and evaluation techniques which will make it easier for you to ask questions from the point of view of a wet lab scientist and will help you work more efficiently within a multidisciplinary team. The methods and learnings are applicable to the design of a range of communication media, from stand-alone visualisations to presentations, publications and interactive web applications.


Provisional schedule

9:00 – 10:30 Introduction to UX Design
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee break
11:00 – 12:30 User research: Theory & Practice
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 15:00 Design: Theory & Practice
15:00 – 15:30 Coffee break
15:30 – 17:00 Getting feedback from users: Theory & Practice


Intended audience and possible prerequisites

The intended audience of this tutorial are Computational Biologists who want to communicate the insights of their analysis in a way that a wet lab scientist will find intuitive and useful.


This is an introductory course so no prior exposure to UX Design is expected but the participants need to be curious and willing to learn new methods and ways of thinking.


Material or infrastructure required (if relevant)

We will also need a lot of A4 paper, sharpie markers and sticky (post-it) notes.


Instructor’s CVs


Dr Nikiforos Karamanis is a Senior UX Designer at EMBL-EBI. He has led the design of the Open Targets web Platform and previously worked as a UX consultant and as the UX Lead of SwiftKey. He has a PhD in Informatics from the University of Edinburgh and worked as a Research Fellow at Cambridge University and Trinity College Dublin on user-centered design and evaluation of novel technologies for a variety of settings. Nikiforos enjoys spending time with users, developers and other stakeholders and helping them work together to achieve their goals using Lean UX methods.


Dr Karamanis has published over 20 peer reviewed articles. His most recent publication discusses how the UX techniques that will be practiced in this tutorial were applied to design the Open Targets web Platform, an intuitive application for drug discovery scientists (see Karamanis et al. 2018 Designing an intuitive web application for drug discovery scientists, Drug Discovery Today).


Dr Karamanis is currently leading the UX Design training program at EMBL-EBI, through which we are training bioinformaticians working for EMBL-EBI to apply UX Design to their practice. He has previously taught audiences outside EMBL-EBI, including the Visualizing Biological Data (VIZBI) 2016 conference as well as in courses organised by EMBL-EBI for external participants such as Data Visualisation for Biology 2017, Introduction to Bioinformatics for EMBL PhD students (November 2017) and the 2018 Bioinformatics Summer School.


Xavier Watkins is the project leader for UniProt web development at the EBI. He has worked on visualisation components for UniProt including ProtVista (Watkins et al. 2017) and has ran workshops on the creation of design systems within EMBL-EBI and in UX Cambridge 2017.


Contact information

Nikiforos Karamanis: niki@ebi.ac.uk