Today’s featured feature is a piece of functionality so rare that I can only think of one product that includes it. Cobrowsing probably isn’t even the right term to use, but that’s what Webinato chose to call their implementation, so I’ll stick with their shorthand. I would more accurately describe it as “in-session interactive browsing,” which is an ungainly mouthful.
The idea is simple enough… Let participants in a web conference access a live web page that they can interact with. This is different from screen sharing where a presenter might display a web page from her or his computer. In that case, participants can see what the presenter does as she or he enters information and scrolls, but the attendees can’t use the page themselves.
Obviously, the presenter can always distribute a hyperlink to the page in question. Attendees can click and open the page in another web browser window or tab. But this splits their attention between multiple windows and applications. As an event moderator, I still see too many instances of attendees getting confused when a window on their computer unexpectedly hides another window. Opening a web browser also invites distraction as people start surfing and clicking through to their saved favorite pages, follow other links, and lose track of what you were talking about.
I would rather keep webinar attendees in the session, with full focus on the webinar “console.” If the presenter wants to direct people to an interactive page, that is shown as just another piece of content in the session. And the presenter can close the interactive browser when desired, in order to move on to other activities or materials.
What are the use cases for this functionality?
- Leading attendees to an online survey or quiz created in a third-party web application
- Asking attendees to complete a web-hosted comment or feedback form
- Letting attendees complete a sales offer form
- Placing attendees on your company website contact page
- Taking attendees to a registration page for the next webinar in your series
- Or even taking attendees to a reference page or quoted source that allows them to scroll at their own reading speed rather than being forced to synchronize their reading with your scrolling
Vendors implementing such a feature need to make several decisions as to how their in-session browser works. Do you include a “back” button to let users backtrack through pages? Do you let presenters re-synchronize everyone back to the original web page or a new page whenever desired? Can presenters or participants resize or move the browser window in the console? Can you display other session materials simultaneously while the browser is open and active?
I don’t count this feature as a must-have for a webinar product. As I pointed out earlier, you can always allow people to just click a hyperlink and get to a web page through their own browsers. But I do think it can be a nice convenience and can serve to make interaction an integral part of a webinar’s flow, rather than a separate external activity.
[Extra note for completists and terminology pedants… “Cobrowsing” is a term that is already used for very specific collaboration products - typically in one-to-one peer sessions such as technical support or customer service. A full-featured cobrowsing product allows two people to simultaneously control and interact with the same web page. So a rep can see where a user has scrolled to on the page and what they are entering. Then the rep can take over and scroll or enter information on the same page to assist. That would be chaos in a web conference with many people all accessing the same page, and it’s the main reason I hesitate to use the same term for webinar functionality.]