Web conferencing has changed noticeably over the last couple of years. Initially participants of an online meeting were satisfied with looking at another person’s screen or collaborating on a virtual whiteboard. With the broad availability of advanced technology – e.g. the ubiquitousness of decent webcams – expectations have risen and we see that this has manifested itself in two specific user requirements:
1) VoIP- and Phone-based audio conferences
2) Video conferencing
Needless to say that users expect both functionalities to be integrated fully into a web conferencing solution.
And it does make sense. Setting up an online meeting and then in addition setting up a phone conference is so 2008. And video doesn’t even come into play in this scenario. For video, separate solutions have emerged that are now becoming redundant since a general increase in available bandwidth makes it possible to handle a shared screen AND "high definition" (HD) webcam streams at the same time.
So online meeting vendors need to adapt to these trends and we have already seen noticeable shifts across the web conferencing landscape. And since we need to make sure that our evaluations reflect the current trends and expectations of users we are shifting as well in how we evaluate web conferencing software.
Usability is still our number one priority. Any person invited to an online meeting for the first time should be able to handle the software intuitively. Consequently the usability aspect adds up to 25% of our overall score – where it has been the last couple of years. The biggest shift in our evaluations is due to the demand for conference call and video functionalities which is why we increased the weighting of the functionality aspect from 15% to 25% overall. Since vendors are clearly capable of including these functionalities every tool that doesn’t feature them will fall behind – on the market and in our ranking.
You can have a look at our test criteria and how other aspects such as security and cost transparency weigh into our evaluations here.