Documentation and Usability (The Course)
Documentation and Usability
Informatics tools are designed to be used by a broad audience, everyone from entry level graduate students in biology to working professionals. Designing good user experiences can help increase usability of tools, but even for tools with necessarily complicated user interfaces, good documentation and tutorials can have an outsized impact on use and usability. This course is designed to teach principles of documentation and tutorials to tool developers in the ITCR and beyond.
- About this course
- Target Audience
- Documentation: Why it’s worth the effort!
- The context of bioinformatics tool development
- Bioinformatics and usability
- Why documentation is worth the time
- Lessons we should borrow from user designers
- Thinking about user-centered development
- Exercise: Think about the user community for your tool
- General principles about user-friendliness
- What does good documentation look like?
- Major components of good documentation
- The documentation templates for this course
- Exercise: setting up our templates for your own use
- Creating a smooth getting started section
- The goal of a getting started section
- Aspects of a smooth getting started section
- Good examples of getting started sections
- Exercise: Create your own getting started section!
- Creating helpful how-to examples
- The goal of how-to examples
- Characteristics of useful how-to examples
- Good examples of How-to examples
- Exercise: Create your own how-to examples!
- Creating handy reference guides
- The goal of a reference guide
- Characteristics of handy reference guides
- Good examples of reference guides
- Exercise: Create your own reference guide!
- Creating clarifying code comments
- The goal of a code documentation
- Characteristics of clarifying code comments
- Exercise: Evaluate your own code’s comments
- Obtaining user feedback
- The goal of user feedback
- How to collect informative user feedback
- Exercise 1: Create a plan for user feedback for your tool
- Exercise 2: Determine a plan for usability testing
- Other helpful features
- The goal of these “other features”
- Forums/Knowledge Base
- Exercise: Determine which (if any) of these features would work well for your tool
- How to keep your documentation up to date
- The goal of documentation maintenance
- Keep your documentation in one, version-controlled place
- Do not consider a tool fix done before its relevant documentation update is also completed
- Make sure links work
- Exercise 1: Add a reminder for documentation updates to your task manager
- Exercise 2: Implement a URL checker
- About the Authors
Jeff is a professor of Biostatistics and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Data Science Lab. His group develops statistical methods, software, data resources, and data analyses that help people make sense of massive-scale genomic and biomedical data. As the co-director of the Johns Hopkins Data Science Lab he has helped to develop massive online open programs that have enrolled more than 8 million individuals and partnered with community-based non-profits to use data science education for economic and public health development. He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and Mortimer Spiegelman Award recipient.
Sarah Wheelan is an associate professor of Oncology and Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and has an appointment in the department of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a founder and co-director of the Center for Computational Genomics and a co-director of the Experimental and Computational Genomics Core.
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