We describe a recent pilot study into the usability of the
scientific workflow creation and enactment tool called Taverna. Both
programmers and non-programmers were used as subjects for a defined
programming task. We used a combination of user observation and
questionnaires to determine programming efficiency roadblocks in the tool.
More generally, differences between the roadblocks encountered by programmers
and nonprogrammers suggest that pilot studies are crucial to inform the
proper evaluation of novice programming tools. The study also suggests that
there is a high demand for reusable Life Sciences workflows, due to both
their ability to facilitate human-human communication about data analysis,
and their ability to simplify repetitive operations used by bench scientists.
Most roadblocks to Taverna programming are interface related, but a more
fundamental issue is related to data input and type enforcement. Despite UI
issues, we discovered users willingness to re-use and modify workflows,
which leads us to suggest that programs first be created in simpler tools as
a stepping stone in end-user development for the Life Sciences.
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