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What and how? HUB15 Joint event with Heidelberg User Experience (UX) workshop

When? Thursday December 4th, 18.30 - 21.00

Where? Grabengasse 3-5, Building 2170, Groundfloor, Hörsaal 4a

Who? A team of people working at several different life-science organisations within Heidelberg are organising HUB, with your help (just get in touch or add your comments to this page).

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User Experience design (or "UX") describes an approach to designing projects and processes that emphasizes creating an as-effective/usable/pleasurable experience for users as possible. As many bioinformaticians are involved in designing software/web tools for users, we thought this could be an interesting topic to explore at a HUB meeting.

However, as always, we aim to make the content of the evening as accessible as possible; for this HUB, while we feel that there are many ways in which the ideas we'll look at could be useful for bioinformaticians, we're focusing on non-bioinformatics-specific activities so that those of us interested in science communication, organisation, and generally in alternative meeting formats, will all find something relevant for themselves.

We're extremely pleased to be joined for the evening by an expert UX designer, Francis Rowland (lead UX designer at the EMBL-EBI, in Hinxton, UK)


Introduction (5 min)

Short intro announcement by Aidan Budd

Explaining briefly the idea of HUB and the rationale for running one on UX

Icebreaker (20 min)

Facilitated by Matthew Betts

Divide the people into pairs and ask them to take three minutes to interview each other. Each interviewer has to find 1-3 interesting facts about their partner which they write down on pieces of paper. Each interview should not be longer than maybe three minutes? Multiple interviews should be performed. Ideally one person does not tell the same fact to multiple interviewers. Bring everyone back together and collect the paper strips in a box. Randomly pull out facts, read aloud and let people guess whose fact it was. Adapted from the activity "Interviews" described here

Introduction to UX Design (20 min)

Presented by Francis Rowland

Presentation from Francis Rowland, Lead User Experience Designer at EMBL-EBI in Hinxton, UK (who also leads the UX Workshop running at EMBL 4-5 December), introducing us to key features and concepts of a UX approach to design.

Make It Be Good (30-40 min)

Small-group facilitators: Francis Rowland; Holger Dinkel; Aidan Budd; Jon Fuller; Tom Grace; Adam Gristwood; Laura Howes; Matthew Betts; Iman Meziane

We've chosen this activity as a way of getting us all involved in discussing our own experiences of encountering good and bad user experience design.

Francis will give a brief introduction to the activity, we will then split off into small groups (4 or 5 people, as usual, ideally with people you don't know [well]), and then you'll be asked to come up with an example of a good user experience and a bad one that you, yourself, have experienced.

In your small groups, you'll describe those good experiences and share the reasons you feel make them good

A facilitator listens to this discussion and begins to pull out any common heuristics or rules-of-thumb that they observe as being features of "good design" (e.g. fast response to user actions, clear response from the interface every time the user "does" something etc.)

In the same way, you will also, in the small groups, share examples you've experienced of bad user experiences, with the facilitator making notes of features/heuristics linked to "bad design".

Then, using the heuristics noted earlier as features of good design, if there's time, the group will consider one of the poor user experiences discussed in the group (ideally one that all/most in the group have experience with e.g. buying a Deutsche Bahn rail ticket from a ticket machine) to come up with some initial ideas on how bad features could be redesigned into good.

Finally, joining all the groups back together into one big group, you'll have a chance to ask our UX expert, Francis, any questions or problems that came up during this discussion linked to UX, and your understanding of it.

Welcome to my World (30-40 min)

Facilitated by Laura Howes

(This introduction is adapted form the one found at the link above by kateverrill, some of the text below is almost verbatim taken from there) A key part of UX is linked to an awareness that others see and know different things from what we see and know. "The best way to compare notes, so to speak, is to actually draw an external representation of what you think is happening. Welcome to My World gives players an opportunity to better understand other players’ roles and responsibilities."

All participants write one of their job responsibilities (e.g. "choosing and ordering new hardware for the lab") on a post-it note and stick it on their shirt.

Participants wander around the room, and pair up with someone whose responsibility they are either familiar with or curious about (ideally this is a mutual!)

In these pairs, participants take turns drawing their best representations of how they envision the other person's workflow around that job responsibility e.g. using boxes/arrows/flow-charts etc. Both in the pair do this at the same time, so there will be 5-10 minutes of silent sketching (as they are not allowed to ask questions of each other during this part of the activity)

They then show each other their sketches, and discuss how well the sketch corresponds to what they actually do, adjusting (either can do it) the sketch to more accurately reflect what happens in this process/responsibility.

Finally, volunteers are asked for to show their visuals to the larger group while describing any insights and observations they get from this.


Off together for the last half-hour of the Weinachtsmarkt that evening, maybe after that off to Marstall...


Short Report

Great, as always, to see a mixture of familiar and new faces in the crowd for HUB15 (25 people turned up). Particularly nice was the chance to meet, in person, with people previously only known by email.

The evening's activities took place almost exactly as planned - see below for some examples of what came out of the "Welcome to my world' activity. Indeed, the evening was impressive in the way it stuck so well to the planned timetable, thanks to the steady hand with which the sessions were led (particular thanks to Matt, Francis, and Laura, for that).

And it was also nice to combine the HUB trip to the Christmas Market with a full HUB meeting this time.

We look forward to using what we learned from Francis this evening, and also during the Bio-IT UX Workshop running today and tomorrow at EMBL that he's leading; particularly in the development of HUB-related resources.

We hope those of you who participated in the HUB enjoyed yourselves, and we look forward to seeing you at HUB16 in January; we haven't fixed the date yet, but the topic (or rather framework) has been chosen. We're going to go back to basics, and try out the "classic" unconference format of "Open Space Technologies" in which all of the content is chosen and created by the participants. We've never tried it before, as we're not sure how well it will work with a typical HUB number of participants (20-30), but we decided, finally, to try it out.

Please do get in touch if you'd like to get involved with the members of the HUB community who organise the events; whether your a bioinformatician or not, live in Heidelberg or Mainz, are only in the area for a few months or are settled here permanently, are an undergraduate student or retired professor, you're all welcome to join us!

Wellcome to my World 1 Wellcome to my World 2 Wellcome to my World 3 Wellcome to my World 4

Task List

A list of tasks that need to be done on or before the meeting day. Just sign your name to say that you'll do a task, and the same again when the task is done.

To arrange before evening Person responsible Done
List of registered people Laura Laura
Drinking Water and Cups? Karin
A4 signs in plastic envelopes to help people find the room Karin
Create the poster Matt Matt
Print and display poster where relevant
  • BioQuant: Matt
  • EMBL: Holger
  • DKFZ: Iman
  • ...
  • BioQuant: Matt
  • EMBL: Holger
  • DKFZ: Iman
  • ...
Advertise on linkedin Aidan Aidan
Stationaries Holger/Karin Holger/Karin
Send reminder email Aidan

To do on the evening Person responsible Done
Open the room Aidan
Hang up signs to the room Aidan
Setup and welcome attendees Adam and Iman
Tidy and close room Aidan

Aidan's to-do list:


  • notes for my introduction
  • laptop adaptor
  • Sellotape/Tesafilm
  • A4 paper for note-taking in "Make it be good" and "Welcome to my world"

To Do:

  • open room
  • hang up signs showing how to get to the room
  • set up "welcome" tables with sticky labels and pens on them
  • set up table with water and cups on it
  • arrange tables into pairs for groups of 4 people for "make it be good"
  • set up laptop with the beamer with Francis's presentation ready on it
  • put several sheets of A4 paper, with coloured pens, on each table pair