Updates to Mastermind: Search and Filter Interface Revisions – More Compact, Faster, and More Informative

These are some of the latest improvements we’ve made to the search interface in the Mastermind Genomic Search Engine. The updates are especially useful for users searching with smaller screen devices such as notebook computers or tablets.

When designing the interface for Mastermind, much consideration is given to the use-cases of our users. We want to make sure that the interface is a pleasure to use, but also fast and efficient for professional day-to-day workflows. These updates to the search interface are no exception, as we’ve made search components not only more compact, but faster and more informative at the same time.

Increased Vertical Space for Investigating Results


While we’re constantly working to decrease the amount of time clinical, pharma, and research users need to search and investigate genomic evidence, the nature of genomics is that we spend more time investigating search results than we do typing in the searches (at least when we’re lucky enough to have results to investigate).

Since most users spend most of their time in the variant and literature results of the “Search Results Detail Page” shown here, we wanted to maximize the vertical space dedicated to the results. This makes it easier to see more results at a time, especially for users on smaller screens, which means less scrolling and clicking, and less chances that you’ll miss something. To this end, we’ve decreased the vertical size of the search interface by 58%.

The general trend in user interface design has been moving toward “clean” interfaces, which often manifests in a way that hides elements behind menus to add whitespace to the page. However, in enterprise applications such as Mastermind, this would mean more time searching for options and clicking menus, and less time learning.

This became our challenge. How do we shrink the search interface on this page without hiding valuable information or adding clicks to search and filter results? Read on to find out!


New and Current Search Parameters All in One Place


The first way we’ve conserved space is to combine the current search parameters with the search box in a way that’s immediately visible and makes it obvious what the current page is searching. This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while, but the difficulty was in making the combined search interface both intuitive and performant (meaning when you click or start typing in the search box, we minimize any latency or lag in how quickly the interface responds to your interactions).


Unified Category and Source Filters


Another area of the search interface where we improved the use of screen space is the Category filters available in Professional Edition.

While the top-level categories are now hidden from view, clicking the new “Filter Categories” button shows the same category drop-down menu as before and pre-selects the first tab (the “ACMG Interpretation” tab) at the same time, so that selecting the first tab, which is also the most popular, is still only a single click away.

Not completely satisfied with the fact that we are technically hiding some information by hiding the top-level Category options until you click the button, we asked ourselves if there was any way we could show more information in this new interface. So, one other improvement we’ve made is to highlight the Category and Source filter buttons when any specificity filters are selected for the current search. Before, we’d show that you had at least one category/keyword selected under ACMG Interpretation. Now, we show how many categories/keywords are selected.


Clearer Total Results Counts


We’ve moved the count showing the total number of literature results to the top of the “Articles” column, making the count more intuitive and easier to scan for each new search.

This had the added benefit of creating a new space to show the number of variants for the currently searched genes as well, at the top of the “Variants” column.


Unified Navigational Buttons


The navigational (Share and Focus View) buttons have been placed together at the upper right corner of the page, making them easier to see and quicker to access.


Improved Responsiveness for Diagram Panes


This improvement is primarily for users with larger screens. Unlike the “Variants” and “Articles” panes, which greatly benefit from increased vertical space, the “Variant Diagram” and “Publication History” panes have little benefit from increased height beyond a certain point. When the panes with tabular data are taller, more results are visible on the screen at a time. However, with the diagrams, the only thing that happens is the bars and circles get stretched.

So, for larger screens, we’ve added a maximum limit to the height of the diagram panes. Smaller screens are still tall enough to be effective and useful. For taller screens though, the responsive diagram panes stop “stretching” vertically, thereby giving larger-screen users the benefits of taller results lists without detracting from the usefulness of the diagrams.


Improved Boolean Search Visibility


One of my favorite new features is the revised boolean search interface in Mastermind. The powerful boolean search capabilities in Mastermind Professional Edition allow searches containing many Gene, Variant, Disease, and Phenotype parameters in a single search. This would ordinarily cause the search box to grow and grow, squishing all other elements on the page for complex searches. To avoid this, the search input dynamically fades beyond 1 line, leaving the rest of the screen for the results.

Before, Mastermind would show an ellipses icon to show that there are hidden parameters in the search input. The revised interface now shows the first line of results and indicates to the user exactly how many more parameters are currently hidden – a single click reveals and allows interaction with the parameters to quickly and easily modify the current search.

We’ve also improved the in-page performance of clicking, typing, and interacting with the search input.

I hope you like these new improvements to Mastermind.

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