Open data in science requires precise definition of experimental procedures used in data generation, but traditional practices for sharing protocols and data cannot provide the required data contextualization. Here, we explore implementation, in an academic research setting, of a novel cloud-based software system designed to address this challenge. The software supports systematic definition of experimental procedures as visual processes, acquisition and analysis of primary data, and linking of data and procedures in machine-computable form. The software was tested on a set of quantitative microbial-physiology experiments. Though time-intensive, definition of experimental procedures in the software enabled much more precise, unambiguous definitions of experiments than conventional protocols. Once defined, processes were easily reusable and composable into more complex experimental flows. Automatic coupling of process definitions to experimental data enables immediate identification of correlations between procedural details, intended and unintended experimental perturbations, and experimental outcomes. Software-based experiment descriptions could ultimately replace terse and ambiguous 'Materials and Methods' sections in scientific journals, thus promoting reproducibility and reusability of published studies.