Designing Without a Clue

Session Title

Designing Without a Clue


Melissa Beaver, NewCity

Session Type: Presentation

How do you design complex interfaces for genetic engineers when all you know about DNA you learned from CSI?

Along with my colleagues at NewCity, I’ve developed a collection of strategies and techniques that allow us to design effective UIs with highly-skilled users in complex domains — without getting a Ph.D. We’ll cover adaptations to standard user research techniques, including

* Interviewing users when you don’t speak the language
* User-facilitated prototyping and testing
* Collaborative infographics sketching


Melissa Beaver is a senior user experience architect at NewCity and has over 8 years of experience designing interface and observing the humans using them. Melissa has worked with the National Science Teachers Association, Virginia Bioinformatic Institute, Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Imperial College London, International Reporting Project and more. Her educational background is as varied as her work experience. Melissa has completed coursework for an MA in Musicology and is finishing her thesis for an MS in Human Computer Interaction Design from Indiana University.

Melissa likes to run… a lot. A competitive ultrarunner, she’ll be on the lookout for trails and long loops in and around Savannah.


  1. Posted September 16, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Are your strategies based on actual fieldwork? If so, where?

    Thanks. Providing this information would make your description stronger.

  2. Posted September 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Yes, the strategies are based on our fieldwork with genetic engineers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and Intrexon.

    I should also clarify that the “language” in the above refers specialized language—the jargon and specialized vocabulary within a domain—not a foreign language.

  3. Posted October 1, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Melissa- I’d love to see your strategies. The recent investment in Healthcare systems makes your presentation especially timely.

  4. Posted October 1, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    sounds interesting.