Publication: Effects of Awareness Support on Groupware Usability

Real-time collaboration in current distributed groupware workspaces is often an awkward and clumsy process. We hypothesize that better support for workspace awareness—the understanding of who is in the workspace, where they are working, and what they are doing—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 other people in the workspace as well. We examined five aspects of groupware usability: task completion times, communication efficiency, the participants' perceived-effort, overall preference, and strategy use. In two of three task types tested, completion times were lower in the awareness-enhanced system, and in one task type, communication was more efficient. The additional awareness information also allowed people to use different and more effective strategies to complete the tasks. Participants greatly preferred the awareness-enhanced system. The study provides empirical evidence that support for workspace awareness improves the usability of groupware, and uncovers some of the reasons underlying this improvement.




Carl Gutwin
University of Saskatchewan
Saul Greenberg
University of Calgary


Evaluating Groupware Usability
Many organizations, particularly in the design and manufacturing sectors, are becoming increasingly distributed.


Gutwin, C., Greenberg, S. 1999. Effects of Awareness Support on Groupware Usability. In ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, vol. 6 no. 2, 243-281.


@inproceedings {effects-tochi,
author= {Carl Gutwin and Saul Greenberg},
title= {Effects of Awareness Support on Groupware Usability},
booktitle= {ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction},
year= {1999},
volume= {6},
number= {2},
pages= {243-281}