My last post looked at an overview of Dimdim Webinar from the public perspective – what you can find on their website. Now let’s dig in a little deeper and take a look at one of the most prominently touted tools in the new webinar offering – the Webinar Widget. This is an EXTREMELY long and detailed post going through the entire scheduling and use process. If you aren’t into Dimdim details, it’s probably not worth the time investment. But for those of you thinking about using the product, some of my findings are important.
To get to the widget, we’ll have to navigate through the beginning steps of scheduling an upcoming webinar. You sign into your account in a browser and click a big button labeled “Host Meeting” – My highly personal opinion is that this is a bit too much of a hangover from their days as a provider of ad hoc meetings… It’s not immediately apparent that this is how you would schedule an upcoming meeting, but that’s a trivially short learning curve to get over!
You can enter a meeting name of up to 40 characters. You get to choose whether your meeting should take place immediately or be scheduled in the future. There is also a dropdown selector in the upper right that lets you indicate whether this should be treated as a “Meeting” or a “Webinar” – Notice that I almost missed that selector in this photo… I had to go back later and reset the choice. It wasn’t grouped with other obvious selection choices and your eyes don’t naturally fix on that solo setting up in the corner. [Click on pictures for full size display]
I like the fact that you can choose from a variety of repetition frequencies. The date selector is also an easy to use popup calendar (not shown here). One of the things that threw me on first usage was that I set items on this screen and noticed there were other tabs with additional settings. But there is a big green “Schedule” button in the bottom right. Do I move to the other tabs first and then schedule? Or do I schedule and then move to the other tabs. On my first attempt I made the wrong choice. Clicking the Schedule button closes the popup window completely. No more settings for you!
Okay, not to panic… I’ll just go back in and edit my meeting options. But where is it? The screen that comes up with “Upcoming Meetings” only shows events scheduled for the next seven days, and there is no selector to change the reporting period.
Ah, but there is another piece of text not immediately apparent as a selector. You can click on “Search Meetings” and get a more flexible search tool that lets you look for meetings in a time period or by keywords. It took me a moment to locate how to edit the meeting. Although there are clear, separated options for starting and deleting the meeting, the command to edit the meeting is tucked into brackets next to the truncated meeting name. Not my favorite example of user interface design, but again – a quick learning experience.
This time I was able to add some additional options for giving the meeting a password key (one password per meeting – Dimdim does not support individual attendee passwords).
Flipping to the Widget tab, we finally get to the point of this blog entry! I can construct options for my Webinar Widget.
Time to put the widget somewhere and see it in action. I created a quick web page and embedded the code.
As you can see, the widget truncates long titles, but hovering your mouse over that text displays the full amount. I’m not too crazy about the fact that the agenda items on separate lines in my meeting scheduler are being displayed with an extra linefeed between them so people can only see one at a time with a not too obvious vertical scroll bar.
Also notice that Dimdim adds a promotional link to themselves. Rather than opening a new page, this pulls your users away from your site and replaces your content with Dimdim’s site. Naughty naughty!
Filling in an email address (Dimdim automatically filters for proper format in an firstname.lastname@example.org validation template) and clicking the Sign Up button changes the display to request additional registration fields. This is because I clicked the checkbox in my meeting scheduler asking for “Registration Fields.” As far as I can tell, there is no way to customize what is asked for or what is required/optional. (Small side note… I found that there is a minor bug in the tab order on the registration fields. Tabbing sometimes takes you to the next entry field, sometimes not.)
Upon filling in the information and clicking Submit, the user sees a brief thank you and an indication that a confirmation will be sent to his/her email address. The display clears and goes back to the default entry mode after a few seconds, which can be frustrating for the registrants if they weren’t paying attention and merely noticed there was some small type text which has now disappeared!
The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that I also selected a option in my setup screen to display a countdown timer, yet none shows on the widget. I couldn’t find any documentation about this in help or the online knowledgebase, but finally found a question in the forums from another user. It turns out that the countdown kicks in one hour before start time. I updated my test to try it out:
Interesting… It no longer gives me the option to pre-register! Now I have to wait until the exact start time rolls around. Let’s see how the display changes at that time:
Fair enough. I want to join in. So I click the button and I’m asked for my name, email, and the event password (since I set that in the meeting scheduler). But all is not well!
Ouch! It tells me I have to enter a “valid email id” – It took me a minute to figure out what’s going on. If you scroll way back up to my meeting options, I had clicked a checkbox saying “pre-registered email only.” So the effect is that no last minute interests can register or join by widget once it starts countdown mode. They are just out of luck. That would be a nasty surprise if it’s not what I had intended as an organizer. I thought the checkbox just meant people had to complete a registration form before being allowed in. Not that they had to complete registration some undocumented amount of time before my meeting starts.
I can’t believe you have read all the way through this. I hope the detailed walk-through has proved valuable. My overall impression of the Webinar Widget is that it is a nice idea with a few small implementation details that are either annoying or not immediately obvious. The lack of clear documentation and readily accessible help can be frustrating (Dimdim has NO technical support available by telephone or live chat – All you can do is submit problems in their user forum) and means that significant advanced testing of every possible option and scenario is critical.
My next posts will look at additional features of the product. Keep reading!