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Concept: Usability


User-centred design (UCD) is a type of user interface design in which the needs and desires of users are taken into account at each stage of the design process for a service or product; often for software applications and websites. Its goal is to facilitate the design of software that is both useful and easy to use. To achieve this, you must characterise users' requirements, design suitable interactions to meet their needs, and test your designs using prototypes and real life scenarios.For bioinformatics, there is little practical information available regarding how to carry out UCD in practice. To address this we describe a complete, multi-stage UCD process used for creating a new bioinformatics resource for integrating enzyme information, called the Enzyme Portal ( This freely-available service mines and displays data about proteins with enzymatic activity from public repositories via a single search, and includes biochemical reactions, biological pathways, small molecule chemistry, disease information, 3D protein structures and relevant scientific literature.We employed several UCD techniques, including: persona development, interviews, ‘canvas sort’ card sorting, user workflows, usability testing and others. Our hope is that this case study will motivate the reader to apply similar UCD approaches to their own software design for bioinformatics. Indeed, we found the benefits included more effective decision-making for design ideas and technologies; enhanced team-working and communication; cost effectiveness; and ultimately a service that more closely meets the needs of our target audience.

Concepts: Experience design, Web design, Graphic design, User interface, Software design, Protein, Design, Usability


In response to mounting evidence that use of electronic medical record systems may cause unintended consequences, and even patient harm, the AMIA Board of Directors convened a Task Force on Usability to examine evidence from the literature and make recommendations. This task force was composed of representatives from both academic settings and vendors of electronic health record (EHR) systems. After a careful review of the literature and of vendor experiences with EHR design and implementation, the task force developed 10 recommendations in four areas: (1) human factors health information technology (IT) research, (2) health IT policy, (3) industry recommendations, and (4) recommendations for the clinician end-user of EHR software. These AMIA recommendations are intended to stimulate informed debate, provide a plan to increase understanding of the impact of usability on the effective use of health IT, and lead to safer and higher quality care with the adoption of useful and usable EHR systems.

Concepts: VistA, Personal health record, Computer physician order entry, Usability, Electronic medical record, Health informatics, Medical informatics, Electronic health record


We examined the safety profile and usability of an integrated advanced robotic device and telecare system to promote medication adherence for elderly home-care patients.

Concepts: RITE Method, Pharmacology, Usability testing, Prescription drug, Usability, Pharmaceutical drug


A new form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device for people with severe speech impairment-the voice-input voice-output communication aid (VIVOCA)-is described. The VIVOCA recognizes the disordered speech of the user and builds messages, which are converted into synthetic speech. System development was carried out employing user-centered design and development methods, which identified and refined key requirements for the device. A novel methodology for building small vocabulary, speaker-dependent automatic speech recognizers with reduced amounts of training data, was applied. Experiments showed that this method is successful in generating good recognition performance (mean accuracy 96%) on highly disordered speech, even when recognition perplexity is increased. The selected message-building technique traded off various factors including speed of message construction and range of available message outputs. The VIVOCA was evaluated in a field trial by individuals with moderate to severe dysarthria and confirmed that they can make use of the device to produce intelligible speech output from disordered speech input. The trial highlighted some issues which limit the performance and usability of the device when applied in real usage situations, with mean recognition accuracy of 67% in these circumstances. These limitations will be addressed in future work.

Concepts: Augmentative and alternative communication, Usability, The Trial, Input/output, Methodology, Input, Message, Output


Microscale methods for cell-based assays typically rely on macroscopic reagent handling and fluidic loading protocols that are technically challenging and do not scale with the number of assays favorably. Here, we demonstrate a microfluidic platform technology called “Kit-On-A-Lid-Assay” (KOALA), that enables the creation of self-contained microfluidic cell-based assays, integrating all the steps required to perform cell-based assays. The KOALA platform allows the pre-packaging of reagents, cryopreservation of cell suspensions, thawing of cell suspensions, culture of cells, and operation of whole cell-based assays. The operation of the KOALA platform is user-friendly and consists of bringing together a lid containing the microchannels, and a base containing the pre-packaged reagents, thereby causing fluidic exchange in all the channels simultaneously. We demonstrate that the KOALA cell-based assays can be simply operated from start to finish without any external laboratory equipment.

Concepts: DNA, Usability, The Creation of Adam, Reagents for organic chemistry, Microfluidics, Reagent, Koala


Flux balance analysis (FBA) is a widely used computational method for characterizing and engineering intrinsic cellular metabolism. The increasing number of its successful applications and growing popularity are possibly attributable to the availability of specific software tools for FBA. Each tool has its unique features and limitations with respect to operational environment, user-interface and supported analysis algorithms. Presented herein is an in-depth evaluation of currently available FBA applications, focusing mainly on usability, functionality, graphical representation and inter-operability. Overall, most of the applications are able to perform basic features of model creation and FBA simulation. COBRA toolbox, OptFlux and FASIMU are versatile to support advanced in silico algorithms to identify environmental and genetic targets for strain design. SurreyFBA, WEbcoli, Acorn, FAME, GEMSiRV and MetaFluxNet are the distinct tools which provide the user friendly interfaces in model handling. In terms of software architecture, FBA-SimVis and OptFlux have the flexible environments as they enable the plug-in/add-on feature to aid prospective functional extensions. Notably, an increasing trend towards the implementation of more tailored e-services such as central model repository and assistance to collaborative efforts was observed among the web-based applications with the help of advanced web-technologies. Furthermore, most recent applications such as the Model SEED, FAME, MetaFlux and MicrobesFlux have even included several routines to facilitate the reconstruction of genome-scale metabolic models. Finally, a brief discussion on the future directions of FBA applications was made for the benefit of potential tool developers.

Concepts: Usability, Software system, Software engineering, Software architecture, Application software, Computer software, Metabolism, Computer program


Computer screen videos (CSVs) and users' facial expressions videos (FEVs) are recommended to evaluate systems performance. However, software combining both methods is often non-accessible in clinical research fields. The Observer-XT software is commonly used for clinical research to assess human behaviours. Thus, this study reports on the combination of CSVs and FEVs, to evaluate a graphical user interface (GUI). Eight physiotherapists entered clinical information in the GUI while CSVs and FEVs were collected. The frequency and duration of a list of behaviours found in FEVs were analysed using the Observer-XT-10.5. Simultaneously, the frequency and duration of usability problems of CSVs were manually registered. CSVs and FEVs timelines were also matched to verify combinations. The analysis of FEVs revealed that the category most frequently observed in users behaviour was the eye contact with the screen (ECS, 32±9) whilst verbal communication achieved the highest duration (14.8±6.9min). Regarding the CSVs, 64 problems, related with the interface (73%) and the user (27%), were found. In total, 135 usability problems were identified by combining both methods. The majority were reported through verbal communication (45.8%) and ECS (40.8%). “False alarms” and “misses” did not cause quantifiable reactions and the facial expressions problems were mainly related with the lack of familiarity (55.4%) felt by users when interacting with the interface. These findings encourage the use of Observer-XT-10.5 to conduct small usability sessions, as it identifies emergent groups of problems by combining methods. However, to validate final versions of systems further validation should be conducted using specialized software.

Concepts: Usability testing, Validation, Human behavior, Usability, Personal computer, Computer, User interface, Graphical user interface


Barcode medication administration (BCMA) systems can reduce medication errors, but sociotechnical issues are quite common. Although crucial to nurses' work, few usability evaluations are available for electronic medication administration record (eMARs) screens. The purpose of this research was to identify current usability problems in the Veterans Administration’s (VA) eMAR/BCMA system and explore how these might affect nurses' situation awareness (SA). Three expert evaluators used 10 tasks/elements, heuristic evaluation techniques, and explored potential impacts using a SA perspective. The results yielded 99 usability problems categorized into 440 heuristic violations with the largest volume in the category of Match With the Real World. Fifteen usability issues were rated as catastrophic with the Administer/Chart medications task having the most. Situational awareness was affected at all levels, especially at Level 2, Comprehension. Usability problems point to important areas for improvement, because these issues have the potential to affect nurses' SA, “at a glance” information, nurse productivity, and patient safety.

Concepts: The Real World, Affect, Nurse, Pharmaceutical drug, Patient safety, Usability, Heuristic evaluation, Evaluation


Human factors and ergonomics (HFE) approaches to patient safety have addressed five different domains: usability of technology; human error and its role in patient safety; the role of healthcare worker performance in patient safety; system resilience; and HFE systems approaches to patient safety.

Concepts: Systems psychology, Task analysis, Health care provider, Patient, Usability, Human factors


Accurate estimation of food portion size is a difficult task. Visual cues are important mediators of portion size and therefore technology-based aids may assist consumers when serving and estimating food portions. The current study evaluated the usability and impact on estimation error of standard food servings of a novel augmented reality food serving aid, ServAR.

Concepts: Statistics, Usability