A new face for 3.0
Firstly, a quick introduction. My name is Duncan and I’m an interaction designer here at Skype. I get to work with all kinds of interesting people, dreaming up new ways to make Skype useful, fun and usable.
Making Skype easy to use is something we take very seriously. It’s not enough to keep dreaming up cool new features, because if no one can figure them out, we’ve wasted all that hard work. So we’re constantly asking ourselves questions like: “Is this as simple as it could be?”, “Does this do what people really want to do?” “Could my hamster, Rambo use it?”
When starting work on Skype 3.0, we noticed that all the features we’ve been putting out over the last couple of years were really piling up. Great stuff like mood messages, video calling, and bookmarking useful chats so you can find them later were getting lost in the crowd of buttons and widgets. In short, we needed to do some spring cleaning.
]]>The challenge was set: re-design the Skype user interface to make it as simple as possible, while giving people access to even more cool features.
It was a tall task. Here’s what we did:
Chances are, when you’re looking through your history, you don’t need to find someone in the Skype directory. We took the old toolbar and broke it apart, placing each of the tools where they really belong, so you can always find what you need, when you need it. We then smartened up the tabs to make it quick and easy to move around Skype.
### Contacts tab
The Contacts tab is all about seeing which of your friends are online and getting in touch with them. We wanted to make Skype as easy as typing a few letters of a contact’s name to find them, checking they’re online and giving them a call to ask about that snazzy new picture in their profile.
By putting buttons to call and chat right on the contact card, it’s much quicker to get talking. The menu button puts you closer to all kinds of cool features like sending a photo to your mum or viewing your chat history with that special someone.
We created a contact card which you’ll now find all over Skype. Now you can always see who you’re talking to, what they look like and what kind of mood they’re in.
The address bar is really important. It’s the best way to quickly search for a contact or dial an ordinary phone number, so we made it bigger and clearer.
One of the problems with the old toolbar was that when you were in a call, the Hold and Mute buttons where usually hidden on the far right where you couldn’t see them. We’ve totally overhauled the call tab putting tools where you need them. Now it’s easy to mute your microphone, add another person to a call, start your webcam or quickly change your sound settings, right from the call tab.
Another nice thing here is Skypecasts. As more and more people are getting into creating and taking part in Skypecasts, we needed to design a version of the call tab to handle this. Now you can find an interesting Skypecast in the Live tab and when you join, it will open up right in the call tab.
There are some really cool new features in chats, but the old chat window made it hard to find most of them, so we made a new toolbar in the chat window where you can easily do things like add more friends into the same chat, bookmark it for later, and host a public chat.
### And last, but not least… it looks great
You should never be shy about leaving Skype open. We’ve worked really hard on making Skype into a beautiful application. There’s even a compact mode that you can turn on if you want to go for the minimal look, and if you don’t think it’s cool enough, don’t panic. You can personalise Skype with your own wallpaper. There. Much better!