Simplicity and familiarity—updates to the Skype user experience

This post was written by Peter Skillman, Director of Design for Skype and Outlook.

Our passion for bringing people closer together through simple, seamless experiences that “just work” is the foundation of Skype. Over time, we’ve grown beyond our origins of voice-only calling, adding video calling, messaging, group video calling, and a broad range of other features and services.

As Skype functionality has expanded, so too has its complexity. As with any feature rich product, maintaining simplicity while enhancing functionality is critical to usability. This past year we explored some design changes and heard from customers that we overcomplicated some of our core scenarios. Calling became harder to execute and Highlights didn’t resonate with a majority of users. We needed to take a step back and simplify!

Today, I want to share our focus on simplicity* to provide an overall better experience for you by making Skype faster to learn and easier to use.

Simplified navigation—We are refocusing on the fundamentals of why most people use Skype—to make a call (often with video) and/or send a message.

Our new navigation model removes redundant and underused features that create clutter—making it much easier to find the people you want to talk to and contact them in an instant. On mobile we are moving to three buttons at the bottom of the app—Chats, Calls, and Contacts. Removing Highlights and Capture provides a cleaner and more efficient user interface (UI) that is easy to navigate while still providing all the functionality Skype customers want. (Note: you will be able download all the Highlights that you have posted until September 30, 2018.)

For the desktop, we’re connecting to the Skype legacy while producing a navigation model that is familiar to our mobile experience. We moved buttons for Chats, Calls, Contacts, and Notifications to the top left of the window, making it easy for long-time Skype users to understand.

Easy to discover contacts, updated for simplicity—Our data suggests Contacts isn’t a highly used entry point for most Skype customers, but those who do use it find it a “critical” and “safety” mechanism to find people they may have otherwise forgotten in a long list of contacts.

Modern, fresh look and feel—Your content is king. We want to celebrate content AND give you a full range of color expression with light and dark themes. We toned down the visual range of the gradients and reintroduced a simplified Skype “Classic” blue theme—adjusted for contrast and readability. We also reduced some of the more decorative elements—such as notifications with a squiggle shape cut out—which weren’t core to getting things done. The result is a more elegant experience that brings your content to the forefront.

To develop these designs, our team worked closely with Skype customers. We looked at how people use Skype apps, performing extensive testing across global markets and building prototypes to test new concepts. We also created a UserVoice site so you can vote on the feature changes you want us to prioritize. While we have plenty of work left to do, we hope you find these changes simplify your experience and bring you closer to those who matter.

We are listening to your feedback and are wholly committed to improving the Skype experience based on what you are telling us. We hope this updated design makes Skype easier to use and provides a better Skype experience. This is only the beginning and you can expect many more updates over the next several months as we continue to simplify and improve the core experiences around calling, chat, and contacts. We are passionate about bringing you closer to the people in your life—so if we can do that better, please tell us. Watch this space for more to come in the near future.

Peter Skillman


*The new design is available on the latest Skype version (8.29) for Android, iOS, OS X, Linux, Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 operating systems.