Illumina's flagship sequencing instrument, HiSeq 2000, was wildly successful in larger genome centers, but it was too powerful and expensive for smaller labs wanting to do sequencing on a smaller scale. Th HiSeq 2000 sequencing workflow, while functional, was also not suited to the types of customers Illumina was hoping to capture with the lower-end MiSeq instrument.
I was in labs doing ethnographic research with scientists in my first week at Illumina to make sure I understood their needs and their workflow well enough to build them something great. I visited with customers already familiar with HiSeq as well as those using a much older technology called capillary elecrophoresis (which the MiSeq was intended to supplant).
Realizing that these smaller lab customers would need a more streamlined interface, I started mapping out the workflow (both with the instrument software and with the physical reagents the user would need to handle to operate the instrument)View a PDF of the specification
One of the main realizations I had as I was trying to optimize the software was that there were difficulties outside of the scope of my responsibility. I got involved with the mechanical engineering and industrial design reviews to ensure that there was a voice for the user when down-select decisions for concepts were being made.
I also requested and got support for development of an ancillary software package that a scientist could use to easily create a sample sheet with run instructions. This was needed because the users I observed using HiSeq during research were typically entering the information into the machine from a laminated sheet that had been created for that purpose.
MiSeq successfully brought sequencing technology to a whole new market of customers while also providing a platform for larger genomics labs to do more quality control and application development on the MiSeq. It was the first instrument of it's kind to bring next-generation sequencing to the benchtop and it still leads the market to this day in its category.
When I visited labs after launch to do usability testing with the MiSeq, one of the users gave me the best compliment I could imagine: "It almost seems too easy!"Watch a video about the MiSeq