Nav: Home

Which free web apps for collaboration are the most user-friendly?

May 25, 2016

The Internet is teeming with Web apps that help people work collaboratively and complete shared tasks online, often over long distances. But which ones are the most user-friendly?

A study recently published in Ergonomics in Design: The Quarterly of Human Factors Applications noted the results of an evaluation of 20 popular apps for usability, including Google Drive, Skype, Doodle Poll, Gmail, Windows Hotmail, CoSketch, and DropBox.

The authors, Georgia Tech engineering psychology graduate student Lauren E. Marguileux along with six other grad students and a senior user experience engineer, selected only free apps with the highest Web presence. They assessed the functions of each app, learned how to use them, and evaluated each separately for usability. For instance, Skype was evaluated separately for its videoconferencing function and for its instant messaging function.

The raters measured each app against 10 usability measures, among them visibility and feedback, user control and freedom, error prevention, flexibility and efficiency, and aesthetics.

Some of the apps were rated more usable than others:
  • Cisco WebEx for synchronous text communication (but WebEx was in a dead heat with Google Hangouts for audiovisual communication)
  • Google Calendar for calendaring
  • Doodle for event scheduling
  • Zoho Docs for writing and editing
The usability scores were represented as percentages (see Table 1), and each app's most prominent pros and cons were highlighted. These rankings can help people find the apps best suited to their needs and optimal team productivity.
To receive a copy of "Online Collaboration Applications Evaluated Based on Ease of Use" by Lauren E. Margulieux, Dar-Wei Chen, Joseph D. McDonald, Keith R. Bujak, Thomas M. Gable, Cale M. Darling, Laura M. Schaeffer, and Laura H. Barg-Walkow for media-reporting purposes, contact HFES Communications Director Lois Smith (310/394-1811;

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is the world's largest scientific association for human factors/ergonomics professionals, with more than 4,500 members globally. HFES members include psychologists and other scientists, designers, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them. "Human Factors and Ergonomics: People-Friendly Design Through Science and Engineering."

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

Related Communication Articles:

Optical communication using solitons on a photonic chip
Researchers from KIT and EPFL used optical silicon nitride micro-resonators on a photonic chip that can easily be integrated into compact communication systems.
Why communication is vital -- even among plants and fungi
A plant protein vital to chemical signalling between plants and fungi has been discovered, revealing more about the communication processes underlying symbiosis.
Quantum communication: How to outwit noise
Quantum information transfer requires reliable information transfer from one quantum system to the other, which is extremely difficult to achieve.
Boosting communication is key in managing menopause
A University of Delaware student and faculty member have reviewed previous studies about how women manage menopause symptoms and found that they frequently use alternative treatments.
Preventing medical communication errors
Structured tools can reduce 'end-of-round time compression' during multidisciplinary morning rounds in the hospital, according to a new study out of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Technology communication: Worries through information?
In democratic societies, it is considered an obligation of researchers and politicians to inform the public about modern technologies and their potential risks.
Is symptom expression a form of communication?
Research shows organisms, including humans, express or suppress symptoms of illness based on need.
A 'communication breakdown' during general anesthesia
When ketamine is used for general anesthesia, two connected parts of the cortex turn to 'isolated cognitive islands.'
Polarization may cause climate communication to backfire
Political polarization may cause communication about climate change to backfire, a new Duke University study finds.
Gestures improve communication -- even with robots
In the world of robot communication, it seems actions speak louder than words.

Related Communication Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...