This paper presents results of the longitudinal usability and network trials that took place throughout the COVEN (COllaborative Virtual ENvironments) Project. To address the lack of understanding about usability design and evaluation for collaborative virtual environments (CVEs), a deductive analysis was used to systematically identify areas of inquiry. We present a summary of the analysis and the resulting framework through which various complementary methods were utilized during our studies. The objective of these studies was to gain a better understanding about design, usability, and utility for CVEs in a multidisciplinary setting.

During the studies, which span four years, we undertook longitudinal studies of user behavior and computational demands during network trials, usability inspections of each iteration of the project demonstrators, consumer evaluations to assess social acceptability and utility of our demonstrators, and continuous preparations of design guidelines for future developers of CVEs.

In this paper, we discuss the need for such activities, give an overview of our development of methods and adaptation of existing methods, give a number of explanatory examples, and review the future requirements in this area.

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