An update on Skype for Mac
Over the last few days we’ve seen renewed interest in the design of Skype for Mac, and I’m going to give you some insight into our thinking and into our plans to address some of your concerns.
Some background: at Skype, we build products for users ranging from grandmothers in China to 15 year old students in Connecticut – and everyone else in between. We take a huge number of factors into consideration when designing software: from different usage patterns (video/voice/IM) to technical literacy; from age to cultural norms. All of these have an impact on everything from product and process design, user interface layout, iconography and more. And given this diversity of design decisions, some of them occasionally fail to please segments of our users. I’d like to reiterate our commitment to one segment in particular – those of you who’ve been vocal in your feedback on the most recent versions of Skype for Mac.
The shift in user experience from 2.8 to 5.X is a significant one, and we acknowledge that this was a lot to have delivered to existing users in a single update. Nevertheless, we believe that the 5.X platform offers significant advantages over the previous versions for the majority of our users, and this is borne out in the usage and opinion data we’re seeing from the Mac user base as a whole.
However, there’s still plenty of work for us to do and we know that not all of you prefer 5.X. To that end, we’ve taken a comprehensive look at the feedback from the last couple of months and identified two broad patterns. I’ve captured a distillation of some of the issues we have heard.
Some of you want to be able to multitask more within Skype
We’ve seen a number of comments from people who want to be able to make video calls and have IM conversations at the same time, or have multiple IM conversations visible at once – and many more permutations and combinations. If you’re in this group, you probably find the current 5.X interface less flexible than 2.8.
What are we doing about this? Two things. First, we’re making Skype 2.8 available for download from our website, and it’ll be available for the foreseeable future. Note that it doesn’t let you make (or participate in) group video calls, nor does it contain all of the performance improvements we’ve made in 5.X. But the last thing we want is to prevent you from using software you prefer.
Second, we’re planning to make some additional changes which will allow you to multitask more effectively within Skype, including a change to the UI which will allow you to continue an IM conversation with one person or group while participating in a video call with another, or when switching to another app.
It’s also worth pointing out the call monitor window, which has been in 5.X since the beginning, which shows you the status of the current call, allowing you to adjust volume, mute, and so on, no matter what you’re looking at. Additionally, the compact sidebar view should help you navigate quickly among a larger number of concurrent IM conversations.
Some of you want to be able to multitask more between Skype and other apps
This is how we interpret feedback about the overall ‘size’ of Skype. Many of you have commented about the size of the Skype window, and published screenshots of how you use Skype 2.8 in conjunction with other apps.
We introduced the contact monitor panel in 5.X, which gives you an easy way to see your contacts’ status while you’re doing other things. To display it, just press Command-3. You can choose whether you see all of your contacts, or just a certain group or groups.
On the other hand, we will be sticking with the metaphor of a primary, combined window which newer users and less frequent users find easier to learn. We plan to introduce overlay panels like the contact monitor to provide additional flexibility for those of you who need it.
The future of Skype on the Mac
Mac OS X continues to be a very important platform for us, and we’re very privileged to have such an active and vocal user community on the Mac platform. As Krishna said in his previous blog post, we’re moving to a much more rapid delivery cycle for our products, which should give us opportunities to iterate and improve on aspects of functionality and experience in a much shorter timeframe than we’ve been able to in the past. We’re committed to delivering regular improvements to the product – and those listed above are part of a direct response to your feedback. Please keep it coming.