This article is part of the supplement: Semantic Web Applications and Tools for Life Sciences, 2008

Open Access Open Badges Research

A user-centred evaluation framework for the Sealife semantic web browsers

Helen Oliver1*, Gayo Diallo2, Ed de Quincey1, Dimitra Alexopoulou3, Bianca Habermann4, Patty Kostkova1, Michael Schroeder3, Simon Jupp5, Khaled Khelif6, Robert Stevens5, Gawesh Jawaheer1 and Gemma Madle1

Author affiliations

1 City eHealth Research Centre, City University, London, EC1V 0HB, UK

2 Laboratory of Applied Computer Science – LISI/ENSMA, Chasseneuil, 86961, France

3 Bioinformatics Group, Biotechnological Centre TU Dresden, Dresden, 01062, Germany

4 Scionics Computer Innovation gmbh, Dresden, 01307, Germany

5 School of Computer Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK

6 Projet Edelweiss, INRIA Sophia Antipolis Méditerranée, Sophia Antipolis, 06902, France

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Citation and License

BMC Bioinformatics 2009, 10(Suppl 10):S14  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-S10-S14

Published: 1 October 2009



Semantically-enriched browsing has enhanced the browsing experience by providing contextualised dynamically generated Web content, and quicker access to searched-for information. However, adoption of Semantic Web technologies is limited and user perception from the non-IT domain sceptical. Furthermore, little attention has been given to evaluating semantic browsers with real users to demonstrate the enhancements and obtain valuable feedback. The Sealife project investigates semantic browsing and its application to the life science domain. Sealife's main objective is to develop the notion of context-based information integration by extending three existing Semantic Web browsers (SWBs) to link the existing Web to the eScience infrastructure.


This paper describes a user-centred evaluation framework that was developed to evaluate the Sealife SWBs that elicited feedback on users' perceptions on ease of use and information findability. Three sources of data: i) web server logs; ii) user questionnaires; and iii) semi-structured interviews were analysed and comparisons made between each browser and a control system.


It was found that the evaluation framework used successfully elicited users' perceptions of the three distinct SWBs. The results indicate that the browser with the most mature and polished interface was rated higher for usability, and semantic links were used by the users of all three browsers.


Confirmation or contradiction of our original hypotheses with relation to SWBs is detailed along with observations of implementation issues.