Comparing screen sharing programs for remote usability testing

Today I'm reviewing several screen-sharing apps to conduct some remote usability testing. These particular tests have some interesting constraints:

  • My subjects are parent-volunteered kids, 8-16 years old and all in the same family
  • I'm on a mac, they're on PCs
  • Tests should be about 45 minutes long
  • If possible, I should be able to take over the screen to type in URLs

I tested on the following hardware

  • Presenter: Windows XP with 1920 x 1200 resolution
  • Client: Macbook pro running Leopard

Yuuguu

Pretty good, but not quite good enough for usability testing.

  • Free
  • Marginal refresh rate (I foresee missing some important clicks and mouse wandering)
  • Requires registration of host and client for optimal use
  • Very easy transfer of control to attendee
  • Nicely integrated chat notifications (for passing URLs, for example)

TeamViewer

Pretty much pure awesomeness after looking at all the other apps.

  • Not so free (free for evaluation, $39/mo or around $650 for full license)
  • Awesomely spectacular refresh rate
  • Transfer of screen control is more difficult than with Yuuguu, but not bad
  • Presenter can run a small executable without having to install anything
  • No account is needed on either side, however the presenter has to type in a 9-digit code plus 4-digit password to connect.

Mikogo

Very simple interface, but didn't quite cut the mustard. The Mac version has a permanently disabled 'preferences' menu item, indicating it's probably in beta whether they say so or not.

  • Free
  • Uber-simple interface
  • Extremely crappy refreshing, probably totally unusable for a usability test
  • Registration needed by host, but not client

ShowMyPC

Not too bad, except for that refresh rate. Darn you, TeamViewer, you've spoiled me!

  • Free
  • Surprisingly works for a mac
  • No installation required
  • No accounts required, just pass a (long) code (and don't forget to type the dash)
  • Fairly dismal refresh rate
  • Rather obscure interface (screen sharing button is a black box in a gray box in a another gray box)

Bosco's Screen Share

I *maybe* should have been wary of the playful doggy-centric identity, but I gave it a go anyway. Apparently you have to configure your router and firewall to get it to work. I don't think I'm going to start a usability test with a router configuration. No sir.

Persony

Pretty cool stuff, especially the 3D conference room motif </toungeincheek>.

  • Free for 1-to-1 meetings
  • Web-based, you just need to pass a code. You might need to install some Java though, which could really hang things up in a usability test.
  • Absolutely the worst refresh rate of all the apps
  • Setting permissions for different attendees is pretty nifty
  • Lots of features, like voice and webcam sharing
  • Did I mention the horrible refresh rate?

Conclusions

I guess we'll be using TeamAssist tomorrow on an evaluation basis. The other apps just don't compare in terms of refresh rate.

Sources

http://webtoolsandtips.com/freeware/screen-sharing-remote-access-web-tools/ - Good leads on several apps
http://www.masternewmedia.org/screen-share-top-25-best-screen-sharing-tools/ - Good list, not entirely accurate



Comments

I've been using the free version of LogMeIn for the past year and have been delighted with it. I use it to monitor my parents Windows XP machine, my mother-in-laws Mac OS 10.3 desktop and my kids OS 10.5 laptops. I run on a Macbook Pro with 10.5 installed.

First of all, free. Second, very easy to set up and I can monitor at any time that their computers aren't off or asleep.

I don't know if this met your other criteria for usability but I find it to be very helpful. I was able to update a MacAfee subscription for my parents remotely.

Hi Chris,
Thanks for the mention.

Silki
(http://webtoolsandtips.com)

I got confused:
" Conclusions. I guess we'll be using TeamAssist..."
Do you mean TeamViewer? I think so.. but for a moment it was funny that you evaluate several ones and your conclusion is to use one that you didn't evaluate.

You could also evaluate RHUB’s web collaboration device. www.rhubcom.com claims a high success rate for web conferencing behind strict firewalls leading to guaranteed attendance. Works for both Mac & PC, is very stable, with real-time collaboration.

ScreenConnect (http://www.screenconnect.com) has a pretty good refresh rate! In the long run it's less expensive than TeamViewer, as well.