Many thanks to the Ensembl browser users who have given us feedback in our recent survey entitled “Tell Us What You Think”! We learned some valuable points that are being addressed to improve our discoverability, functionality, and overall usability.
We heard back from scientists all over the world- the majority of you were in the UK, Netherlands, the US, and Germany. Represented fields include bioinformatics, basic research, clinical and genetics research, biotechnology and immunology. 50% of respondants work mainly with the computer, while the other half of you do at least some wet-lab biology. We even got responses from mainly wet-lab scientists (15% of respondants)- this is useful to us, as we strive to make Ensembl usable to the largest possible community.
So what did we learn? The use of BioMart and the Perl API by website-users has increased since our last survey a year and a half ago. We have more infrequent users, visiting our browser monthly or less often- though the majority of our users are Ensembl masters (frequent users). We believe that this represents the fact that an ever greater percentage of biological research involves at least some bioinformatics tools and hope this reflects a simpler, more straightforward website that does not need extensive study to use. Finally, 65% of our users take a genome-wide approach, while 20% focus on less than 10 genes.
So what did people like? Our tools are popular, especially the Variant Effect Predictor. The recent addition of sortable columns is also a hit. When you all were asked what other tools are desired, we were pleased to find that some (history) were already being implemented, while others exist, but seem to be hidden. On that note-
Those of you who asked for a record of recent actions in Ensembl, if you login (registration is free) a history of recent genes, transcripts, variations and locations you visit will appear in the tabs. Give it a try!
Many of you asked for tools and functionality that exist, such as CpG islands, (available as a track in Location view) a map of gene structure for all isoforms of a gene, and SyntenyView. To aid in the discoverability of these tools, our main search will be configured to also yield results from help pages. This should help people find what they’re looking for, without relying on browsing alone. Also, we will make more use of this blog by posting “Did You Know?” tips that will help you learn about functionalities of Ensembl and BioMart that may not be completely transparent. The archive (older) sites in particular don’t appear to be easy to find (the link is a small one, at the bottom of each Ensembl page), we address this in our FAQ section.
As for other requests for functionality we don’t yet have, these are being taken on board, and will hopefully lead to exciting new developments in the future.
Thanks again for your feedback!
The Ensembl Team