Collaboration in current real-time groupware systems is often an awkward and
clumsy process. We hypothesize that better support for workspace awareness
can improve the usability of these shared computational workspaces. We
conducted an experiment that compared people's performance on two versions of
a groupware interface. The interfaces used workspace miniatures to provide
different levels of support for workspace awareness. The basic miniature
showed information only about the local user, and the enhanced miniature
showed the location and activity of others in the workspace as well. In two
of three task types tested, completion times were lower with increased
awareness support, and in one task type, communication was more efficient.
Participants also greatly preferred the awareness-enhanced system. The study
provides empirical evidence of, and underlying reasons for, the value of
supporting workspace awareness in groupware.
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