Can You See My Screen?

COVID-19 has brought about major changes in the way we work. Whether working from home, attending virtual conferences, our computer screens, using video conferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, VooV, Google Hangouts, Skype (are people still using Skype?), have become the primary interface to work.

After about a year of “zoom”ing, there is one quirk that happens all the time without fail but went unnoticed until I noticed it. Now I cannot unnotice it! During a zoom (teams, hangout, … what have you) meeting, whenever someone starts sharing their screen, the sharer will always ask “can you see my screen?”

One would expect that after about a year of using the same software, we would master it and would know how to share one’s screen without errors. I’m pretty sure I have shared my screen over 200-300 times (which is probably an gross underestimation, given the number of meetings I have in a day). But why do we keep asking if others can see our screens? Granted, the feedback upon sharing our screen is not very intuitive — it’s actually quite hard to know what the other meeting participants are seeing and if they’re seeing the screen or window that we’re trying to share.

Are others bothered (or amused) by this? As for me, I have started to conscientiously NOT ask “can you see my screen?” whenever I share my screen. It’s worked pretty well so far — I haven’t heard any complaints.

But I do have a few question that come to mind…

  • Is this just bad user interface (or user experience) design? How should the sharing functionality be designed such that the user sharing his/her/their screen is confident that the sharing operation worked properly?
  • If we have to ask “can you see my screen?” every time we share our screen, how much productivity loss are we incurring from this repeated utterance?

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