Illumina: BaseSpace Sequence Hub
UX Research Internship

San Diego, CA
June - September 2017


Illumina is one of the leading biotechnology companies with 6000+ employees worldwide which focuses manufacturing and providing products and services that allow DNA/RNA sequencing, genotyping, gene expressions, and other genomics-related research.

As part of the 12-week iAspire summer internship program at Illumina, I worked at San Diego HQ's Product Development team for an enterprise bioinformatics software platform called BaseSpace Sequence Hub. BaseSpace Sequence Hub is a cloud-based informatics platform where one can store, manage, share, and analyze the sequenced genomics data.

My Role

As the UX Research Intern for the BaseSpace Sequence Hub platform:

  • Conducted card sorting activity on the information architecture of the BaseSpace Sequence Hub's help documentation
  • Collected and analyzed NPS and the user comments, identifying user concerns and opportunities for product improvement
  • Designed and conducted usability studies for the new Help system and the upcoming features of BaseSpace Sequence Hub
  • Synthesized and presented the findings from usability studies into digestible reports & verbal presentations back to the UX, PM, and engineering teams
  • Made concrete design recommendations and identified future user research opportunities by uncovering users' pain points and needs via data-driven user research
  • Increased internal user engagement by developing effective communication and user research recruitment channels in the internal networks
  • Developed best practices and strategies for participant recruitment, test design, and research documentation and protocols
  • Participated in other various UX efforts by the team and contributed to the discussion of future directions of BaseSpace Sequence Hub

My Process


Step 1: Define and Hypothesize
- What are the research objectives?
- Why are we doing this research? How do they relate with the product goals?
- What are the questions we want answered through this research?
- What are the hypotheses we have for these questions?

Step 2: Design and Plan
- Decide on the research methodology
- Design the research activity and tasks
- Set participant recruitment criteria
- Recruit and schedule participants
- Send out screening & pre-test surveys to participants (if needed)
- Run pilots

Step 3: Conduct and Iterate
- Conduct the research activity with recruited participants
- Take notes and recordings
- Iterate the research design as needed

Step 4: Synthesize and Communicate
- Review the notes and recordings
- Qualitative and quantitative data analysis
- Synthesize the top findings and prioritize opportunities
- Analyze user feedback to create actionable insights for the UX team
- Make data-driven design recommendations to the product teams


Projects + Impact

Q2 Net Promoter Score Analysis

Each quarter, BaseSpace Sequence Hub runs the NPS survey on how likely the users are to recommend the product to a friend or colleague. In addition, they are asked to answer an open-ended question: "What would make you more likely to recommend it?" By conducting an in-depth thematic analysis on the users' answers to this question, I was able to identify concrete user concerns and their wants and needs for each user group (Promoters vs. Passives vs. Detractors). The thematic analysis also identified opportunities for first-time user guidance in the onboarding process, aiding the future directions of the UX team. 

Card Sorting on Help Documentation IA

I joined Illumina at an interesting time because BaseSpace Sequence Hub was going through a huge revamp from ver 4.0 to 5.0, adding on some new features and functions that the software has not offered before. The team wanted to know how to best offer help to the users transitioning to the new version.  As part of this effort, I conducted a closed card sort on the new Help topics and how they can be best organized to help users understand the new features. Through conducting card sort with 20 internal users, I was able to evaluate the effectiveness of the Help documentation's information architecture as well as gain insights on the users' thought process behind new features.

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Usability Testing 1:
New Help Menu & Help Center Website

As part of the effort to offer the best help to the users on the new version of BaseSpace Sequence Hub, I conducted usability testing with on the newly designed Help menu and the Help Center website. By asking them to find help in a specific given scenario, I evaluated (1) if they can find the right help and (2) if they can understand the content they found. The findings uncovered in-depth insights on users' thought process and behavior on looking for help, and offered opportunities to improve the menu/website's UX. 

Learn more about this project here.

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Usability Testing 2:
BaseSpace Sequence Hub ver 5.0 features

The last big project of the internship was to assess the UX of some of the major upcoming features for ver 5.0 software. Through this research, I was not only able to identify room for improvement in the functionality and navigation of the new version and its features, but also to gather the current users' concerns specific to the transition from ver 4.0 to 5.0. The findings were presented to the product team to better meet user needs, help lower the initial learning curve of the software, and to improve the usability.

Learn more about this project here.


What I Learned

  • Cross-functional collaboration and communication: My stakeholders in this large yet fast-moving company ranged from product managers, sales representatives, technical support scientists, and to business analysts. By working very closely with different departments to conduct UX research activities, I learned to collaborate deeply and embrace the changes that come with it.
  • Parsing research into actionable insights that align with product goals: User research itself is important, but translating what users say into something directly actionable and workable for the UX and PM team is just as important. Doing this effectively not only helps advocate the user needs, but also helps build enthusiasm for future UX research among the stakeholders.
  • Appreciate all the tools out there: I've also had the privilege to try out various kinds of online tools that can help facilitate my UX research process, such as UserZoom, UsabilityHub, Survey Monkey, and Calendly. Call me old-fashioned, but I used to think that the more low-tech the research process is, the better. However, now I can't wait to discover new tools and try them out!