Design, Experiences, and User Preferences for a Web-based Awareness Tool


We describe our experiences with the design, implementation, deployment, and evaluation of a Portholes tool which provides
group and collaboration awareness through the Web. The research objective was to explore how such a system would improve
communication and facilitate a shared understanding among distributed development groups. During the deployment of our Portholes
system, we conducted a naturalistic study by soliciting user feedback and evolving the system in response. Many of the initial reactions of
potential users indicated that our system projected the wrong image so that we designed a new version that provided explicit cues about
being in public and who is looking back to suggest a social rather than information interface. We implemented the new design as a Java
applet and evaluated design choices with a preference study. Our experiences with different Portholes versions and user reactions to them
provide insights for designing awareness tools beyond Portholes systems. Our approach is for the studies to guide and to provide feedback
for the design and technical development of our system.