The Helmholtz Network for Bioinformatics is a user-friendly web interface for integrating complex bioinformatics tasks. It is a joint venture of leading German bioinformatics research groups and offers convenient access to numerous bioinformatics resources through a single web portal.
Our novel user interface focusses on problem and task oriented approaches, in an effort to overcome the common disadvantages of typical tool oriented web interfaces.
In the problem oriented approach the user is guided by a detailed, tree-like questionnaire ('Guided Tool Finder') towards tools suitable for solving specific problems. This approach does not require any previous knowledge of the available tools and allows our users to concentrate entirely on describing their problems. Furthermore, many HNB tools have been pre-configured with problem-specific optimal parameters to prevent novices from being confused by too many adjustable program parameters.
The task oriented approach is meant for solving more advanced biological problems that often require the interplay of more than one tool. Mechanisms have been developed that allow for the integration of programs and databases into automated program cascades (or 'tasks'). With this approach, no further user interaction (i.e. for data reformatting or transfer) is required once a task has been launched.
The user's input and output data are registered in a central 'virtual user space' and stored on one of the HNB servers for a defined period of time, allowing users to easily access their own data again for re-evaluation and re-use.