The two earliest web-based bioinformatics resources that I can remember relying on in my career were Pedro’s List and NCBI. (For those of you who need a little nostalgia trip you can see a copy of Pedro’s list here.) There are plenty of descendants of Pedro’s list in various forms–including our recently launched resource search tool. But the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) interface has kinda been…well…comfortingly stable–for a really long time. I looked in the Wayback Machine to see what the older interfaces used to look like. I was able to find one variant from 1997 which I had forgotten about until I saw it. But then I kept looking and found the version I am most familiar with starting in 1999. If you compare 1999 to 2009 you will see essentially the same layout. Here is a comparison of the previous interfaces, and then the new one:
Well, that’s all changing now! The NCBI is doing a MAJOR overhaul of the interfaces. You can examine the homepage look at the Preview site here (link may break when they move over to production with it), and you can look at the PubMed changes here, and even start using the PubMed preview site here.
This is a huge break with the past, and like all new interfaces will take a little time to get used to. But I have to say I like the organization. The left navigation will make finding the tools easier. The “Popular” box will be quick access to the most frequently used items. Highlights and news are available still as well. There are some things I’ll miss. We liked the site map layout to explain the features in an overview sort of way, and the preview page doesn’t link to that–it links to the alphabetical list. Might change, though.
Anyway–I think the new look is nice and effective. Of course we’ll have to update all of our NCBI tutorials with new shots of the interfaces. But it looks like the underlying tools don’t change much conceptually–but they may move the location of the items (like the PubMed filters). So as soon as the interface becomes the main site and appears to be stable we’ll make our changes.
This short Tip of the Week introduces the new interface briefly to get you starting to think about how to navigate around. Check it out!