For over a year the author has been a keen user of Skype for Windows 5 as a Skype client that has simplicity, yet flexibility. It’s easy to manage contacts, follow conversations, handle video calls as well as archive and search conversation history. Yet, with the release of Skype for Mac 5, there has been a “Skype for Mac 5” fever outbreak on the Internet due to its lack of consistency with these features. Bottom line is that users are confused and, in many cases have gone back to Skype for Mac 2.8. On the other hand the Skype for Mac team says they are listening.
In the previous post in this series, Skype for Mac 5: Returning to Ecstasy – Step 1 – Consistency, after pointing out how widely Skype for Windows 5 has been accepted, I went on to discuss some consistency issues including the use of the left Contacts pane. It is primarily used for managing Contacts and selecting a Contact or Group with whom the user wants launch or monitor conversation activity, whether chat, voice or video. One key recommendation here was that, in Skype for Mac 5, not only individual Contacts but also Contact Groups should be managed in this pane.
This post focuses on the right Conversation pane which, for the most part, manages and, as appropriate, archives content associated with the user’s conversations such as chat text, call detail records and file transfer information. During Skype for Windows 5.x voice and video conversations it also displays, in the upper part of the pane, not only other party’s Skype profile graphic or video associated with the call participants but also user “controls” to manage how the call proceeds:
- a Call Bar beneath the image allows the user to manage the call activity, such as adding people, bringing up a dial pad, opening a chat window, sharing a desktop or file and, via the Call Quality Information tool, monitor associated hardware and Internet connection conditions. This latter tool has been discussed previously with a recommendation to adopt all the features of this call bar in Skype for Mac 5. Also note that, from the CallBar, there is an obvious icon from which you can open a chat window below the video image.
- during a video call you can select whether you want to continue to view the video within the Conversation pane (with an option to zoom in on the image), in a separate “pop-out” window or Full Screen. There is also an option to capture a snapshot.
Recommendations for the Conversation Pane
- Use the right pane solely for conversations; move all the Contact management activity, especially Contact Groups, to the left Contact pane.
- Invoke all the features of the Skype for Windows call bar, including the Call Quality Information tool; this has been a most useful tool during calls in ensuring that all the audio and video hardware is working during (or prior to) a call.
- Include the larger blue Chat icon, not a barely visible down arrow to open the chat window.
- Invoke the Snapshot/Zoom/Full screen/Pop-out feature bar. When in an HD video call with Full Screen Skype is approaching a telepresence effect that will be even more useful with newer (HD) webcams that can pick up an entire small board or meeting room.
- Invoke these changes while leaving available the existing View options to have a small Call Control bar that remains visible while in other Mac desktops and to have a list of contacts online. Useful options but they should be “Mac” enhancements to the feature set of Skype for Windows 5.
- As with Skype for Windows 5, invoke a “Home” screen for viewing some conversation history information and manage the User’s Skype profile.
- I’m neutral on whether to invoke Facebook; occasionally I find it useful.
- Keep the indicator on the left of the panel for expanding the video image to the full width of the Skype window.
Bottom Line: Users are not only looking to have all the primary Contact, Calling and Conversation features available across Windows and Mac (and potentially Linux) platforms but they are most comfortable when there is consistency between the User Interfaces. In some cases there is a feature that is currently available in Skype for Mac 5 (such as viewing Full Screen) but it’s the User Interface triggering “button” or icon that should have a base level of uniformity across all platforms.
One may say that most users have only one platform but I am in a family where some members run on Windows while others run on the Mac. Also during cross platform calls it is features such as the Call Quality Info or Sharing icon that I ask the other party to use or seek out when they are having difficulty with, say, their hardware or features such as screen sharing.
Other posts in this series:
- Skype for Mac 5 – From Ecstasy to Agony
- Skype for Mac 5: Returning to Ecstasy – Step 1 – Consistency
Other views on this issue:
- Ignore the Code: Skype 5 Ideas
- Dan York, Disruptive Telephony: My 3 Main Issues With Skype 5.x For The Mac
- Balance Network: Skype 5 for Mac Redesign, “A little more than just a Chat Style”
- Attack of Design: Skype Beta for Mac’s Usability Failings
- Hudson Barton, Aaytch: How To Fix Skype-for-Mac 5.x
- Andy Abramson, VoIP Watch: Skype Has Another Set of Outages Yesterday
- Keith Lang: screen shot on how to organize Contacts
- Jaanus Kase: Skype 5 for Mac: spatial arrangement and inconsistent single-window design
- Skype for Mac 5.0 Goes Gold: Incorporating Beta Feedback and More (voiceontheweb.biz)
- What’s New in Skype 5 for Mac? (appreaders.com)
- Skype’s "Easy Conference Call" – A Hidden Gem (voiceontheweb.biz)
- Skype for Windows 5.2 Released: Subtle Window Dressings (voiceontheweb.biz)