People often present slide decks, images, charts, documents etc. during videoconferences. However, it’s hard for other people in the meeting to point to or highlight things. How can we make the experience of sharing these documents better?
I personally find the problem very interesting. It is something that I have experienced while presenting my projects and also while someone else is presenting their own projects or presentations. It is very hard for someone to refer to something the presenter had shown before. It is also not very easy for multiple people to collaborate online. That’s why I was very intrigued to explore more into it and identify the needs of the users and try to design a better experience for them.
Before starting on the challenge, I assumed that my primary user is a remote employee who often calls into meetings from his/her laptop.
Once I had some information about the user I was designing for, I started to explore more into how I could allow other participants to directly engage with the content being shown by the presenter. One clear method that allows someone to present their presentation/media/documents easily is the ‘Share Screen’ feature. However, in doing so, the participant on the other side is often left with no control over what is being shown and normally find it tricky to refer back to something, or point out an idea. Also sharing screens does not enable multiple participants to collaborate and work together. Thus, I started to explore some other ways that would allow for direct engagement for both the presenter and the participant.
After some thinking, I came up with this idea of having a fileviewer integrated with the platform that would allow the users to directly engage with the content once it has been imported onto the system by the presenter. Thus, at the beginning of each VC involving a presentation, the presenter will be prompted to upload the file they want to show.
Once this step was done, the users could see the file(s) uploaded. While brainstorming different ways to allow engagement with the product, I wanted to see if it’s possible to copy the experience and interactions that take place in a normal real-life meeting. This experience would enable the users to actively engage with the presentations and easily ask questions or highlight points just like it would happen in real life. Using this ideology, I started to explore some use cases that would help define this kind of experience:
- Brainstorming and collaboration with everyone in the group
- Making a point or asking a question
- Making private points/comments
Using these 3 main use cases, I came up with these 3 main features:
- Broadcast: This mode allows you to collaborate with others online in real-time thereby making brainstorming ideas, making points and having an active discussion much faster.
- Raise Hand: This function allows you to instantly inform the presenter and other participants that you have a point to make or a question you want to ask. If multiple people raise their hands, an order is created based on when you raised your hand.
- Private Mode: This allows you take private notes and comments which you can share by either ‘broadcasting’ or ‘raising hand’ to make a point.
There were many other functions I wanted to explore as well like enabling chats between team members to discuss points and ideas, having a whiteboarding option to write down notes and issues identified, etc. However, I felt that these features digressed from the main problem I was trying to solve which was to make it easier for participants to easily highlight their ideas or point to something discussed and collaborate in a meeting. Thus, I decided to focus on the 3 features mentioned above as they had a direct impact on the problems I was trying to solve.
Based on the high level assumptions and the use cases and functions identified, I sketched out a flow that would look something like this:
There are some questions that come to mind with this flow. What is the level of control you want to allow all participants have? Can they download the content available? Do you need approval before you can make your point? Or are you allowed to interrupt the presenter if you have a question or a point to make? How do you control access to the Broadcast mode? I tried to answer as many of these questions as possible through the proposed design but there are areas of improvement.
Designing interfaces for collaboration and presentation can often be tricky as you have to account for translating the social norms that are present in in-person meetings onto a digital platform. Looking back, I would like to explore more into the edge cases involved in the design and also try understand the technical constraints involved a bit more as well. I would also try to build this design out into a functional prototype so that some small scale user testing can be done to determine the success/failure of the design. I would give this prototype out to real users and see how they use it and record their feedback and use that to improve the design.