Team & Role
I was responsible for the design of the HUB. To ship the application, I worked with our onsite software engineer to first determine feasibility and ran weekly check-ins to review HUB progress and iterate.
Initially, I was given a simple (tedious) assignment to manually transfer inventory backlog from our excel worksheets to a separate in-house database, but it was painfully obvious that my department (Cell Line Engineering) could benefit greatly from a centralized app that could carry our work flow, data and deliverables. I was lucky to be granted the green light and autonomy to work on the Hub project – so long as I was able to launch with in 6 months.
Understanding both my team and my company's workflow and how they interacted was essential to defining the needs the Hub was design to meet. I needed to consider all possible iterations of each workflow, determine how that workflow should be represented on our application and determined how each workflow varied from co-worker to co-worker in my team.
Additional user research was conducted to understand the needs and pain points of the public (company) user – typically involving one-on-one interviews and user flows that were later used to improve our prototype.
Strategy & Goals
From the research emerged themes and painpoints that we set out to target. The ultimate goal was to build an easy to use, centralized hub that helped minimize human error and automate as much of the tedious, repetitive inventory labor as possible. Our HUB needed to empower our scientists to work on more science and less documentation.
Ideate & Prototype
Mockups of the HUB were designed with the strategies and goals developed from our research insights in mind. Weekly, I set up check-ins with the HUB developer to review his progress. At these meetings, each feature of the prototype was improved by walking through all possible user flows making sure that the HUB supported every departmental process. Monthly check-ins were performed with the Cellular Engineering department to leverage our manager and teammates as user testers. Their feedback was invaluable in catching details that my developer and I may have missed.
Example User Flow: Finding Relevant data on a Cell Line
The HUB immediately met our Interfacing & Collaboration goal. Our handoff request feature and easily accessible, transparent date meant that scientists from outside Cellular Engineering could quickly ascertain the cells they wanted and request their deliverables with a click of a button. Today 99% of deliverables of our cell line inventory are requested through the HUB – email is reserved solely for special requests and scientific discussion (as it should always have been).
Displaying data & Automating workflow
The HUB is an automated, easily accessible digital portal to all aspects of the Cellular engineering workflow, both public and internal HUB users had our entire inventory, database and point-person at their fingertips. Data is king and now no one needed to wait on emails to get what they needed.
At the end of the day, the HUB was designed to facilitate scientific work and make life easier for the scientists inside and outside the Cellular engineering group. The feedback we received for HUB design was very positive and useful for future improvements.
Hindsights for the future HUB
Look even further ahead
I built the HUB on the understanding of the Cellular Engineering (CE) workflow as it was at the time, I could not conceive of how complex our workflow would become in the next year. CE workflow has grown beyond the hub and there is now a whole arm of our work that cannot be adequately accommodated in our hub. In the next iteration of the HUB, more extensive interviews of leadership need to be undertaken to get a better grasp of our evolving workflow.
Service the User, not my idea of the user.
I would have asked our internal users what they DID NOT need instead of implementing features I “thought” would be useful. I would have asked for more feedback between each conceptualization of the hub.
Many of the features, automation and interactions I pitched to my manager and developer were never approved – I was often told I was "making everything too difficult." At the time, I didn't have a leg to stand on – my team had no reference or understanding how a well-designed tool could facilitate science and my lead firmly believed that scientists need only work harder and get more training to get results. Now, with the success of the HUB, I feel empowered to be a stronger advocate for the design needs of the users. With this experience, I've also learned that, in design (as in science) bringing evidence to the table is very powerful in getting you a seat at the table.