PATRIC - Formative Evaluation

PATRIC is an online database of bacterial genomic data and it includes features that allow biological researchers upload and analyze their own data, especially for investigations into infectious diseases and their cures.


Consider the following scenario..

"A biologist finds a new and mysterious pathogen that is causing an unknown disease with no known cures. She takes a sample, gathers the bacterium's genetic data and uploads it to PATRIC. Using various tools on the website, she runs algorithms to break apart, analyze, and dive deep into the pathogen's genetic structure. She also compares the pathogen with thousands of other pathogens to find similarities between them, and possible susceptibilities to antibiotics. Eventually, she arrives at a cure that is mass produced immediately and succeeds at stopping what could have been a lethal epidemic."

PATRIC is a joint venture between Virginia Tech's Biocomplexity Institute and The University of Chicago.

The Challenge

Conduct a formal usability evaluation of a widely-used feature on the PATRIC website. Provide recommendations for design based on heuristics and research insights. Align website UI with and users' domain-specific mental models.

Project Plan

1) Stakeholder meeting to finalize important website elements needing evaluation

2) Defining benchmark tasks

3) Developing experimental plan and securing IRB approval

4) Participant recruitment and pilot testing

5) Conduct Evaluation

6) Analyze and create presentation

Current Progress

We have concluded that a specific feature called BLAST will be evaluated. We will conduct semi-structured post-experiment interviews which will measure subjective performance and frustration, and deliver insight into the efficiency of the current design.

We have decided to focus on evaluating a specific website feature called BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), because although it is a very widely used feature, it has not been previously evaluated. The purpose of BLAST is to calculate the percentage similarity of a queried genetic sequence to other sequences in a library or database. The interface of the tool is shown below.

More Details Coming Soon...

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