LaptopAngel.jpgBy Mike Jackson, Steve Crouch and Rob Baxter

How do I figure out if this software is "good"?

Assessing the quality of software - either your own or someone else's - is a tricky balance between hard objectivity and the very subjective (but very valid) individual user experience.  The Software Sustainability Institute provide a software evaluation service based on two complementary approaches developed over many years in the research software arena.  The service can help you to improve your software. It can assess the general usability, and can identify technical or development issues, as well as any barriers to sustainability

Why write this guide?

This guide describes the two approaches we take to software evaluation, providing a set of guidelines that researchers and developers may find useful in performing their own assessments of code quality, usability and overall sustainability.

How to go about evaluating software

The two approaches we use are complementary; either can be used, and sometimes one approach makes more sense than the other.

Our criteria-based approach is a quantitative assessment of the software in terms of sustainability, maintainability, and usability. This can inform high-level decisions on specific areas for software improvement. This approach forms the basis of our online sustainability evaluation, a web-based assessment you can…

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LabBook being used with a tablet and stylusBy Mike Jackson, Software Architect.

LabBook is a mobile app and online service to securely record and share experimental notes. LabBook's developers - Mark Woodbridge, Geraint Barton and Derek Huntley of Imperial College London's Bioinformatics Support Service - asked us for consultancy as part of our open call. I've been working with them to provide advice on the LabBook software, how it is developed, and how it can be moved towards an open source product.

Last week, I attended presentations by students on the Royal College of Art's Information Experience Design masters course, led by Kevin Walker. Previous courses have seen students working with galleries and museums. This year, for the first time, students worked with scientists as part of a project with the LabBook team on "Re-imagining the lab". Pairs of students shadowed lab scientists at work to understand how scientists work within the complex physical space of the laboratory and how technology might affect their use of this space. 


The first pair of students had shadowed a researcher in antibiotics. Due to health and safety concerns, the scientist had to remove their…

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