Skype Case Study
Product research and audit, User research, User interviews, Affinity mapping, User persona, User experience mapping, Product design, Usability testing.
Sketch, Post-its, Excel Sheets.
Work in a team to identify problems and/or an opportunities with an existing mobile application and utilise your knowledge to design a solution.
This is self-initiated project. The content and creator of this article is not affiliated with the company mentioned.
Skype Over The Years
Microsoft Corporation acquired Skype Communications. Shortly after its acquisition, Microsoft began integrating the Skype service with its own products.
Microsoft phased out its long-standing Windows Live Messenger instant messaging service in favour of Skype.
Microsoft announced that in 2015, Lync would be replaced by Skype for Business.
Skype launched its newly-designed desktop and mobile app with a radical change into flat-design, social media interactions and personalisation in an attempt to battle with other messaging services.
User Research & Interviews
The team sent out an online questionnaire of 10 questions and collected 26 responses. The questions focuses on the type of communications app users are exposed to, user engagement with Skype and what they expected out of communication apps.
The findings are summarised as the following:
- The participants ranged from 20 to 40, with 47.83% of them at the age of 25 to 35
- 96.15% uses WhatsApp, 65.38% uses Facebook Messenger, 42.31% uses Skype and 38.46% uses Google Hangouts and Discord
- More than 80% of them weren’t aware that Skype was acquired by Microsoft
- 29.17% uses Skype for personal only, 20.83% uses Skype for work only and 50% uses for work and personal
- Many users used more than 3 communication apps
- Less than 5% of the users engage in social media and sharing features in the current Skype app
- The most used features are video calling (80.77%), messaging (73.08%), audio calling (65.38%) and screen sharing (50%)
USER INTERVIEWS & AFFINITY MAPPING
We interviewed 9 users to find out their engagement, views, usage and experience with Skype. The results plotted on an affinity mapping and synthesised as the following:
- Users recognised Skype as a video call platform
- Users primarily use WhatsApp for personal usage and intuitively recognise Skype as a work usage tool
- Users are concern with how the bandwidth affects their call qualities, hence they use desktop for calls over mobile
- The feature that users valued and used the most in Skype is video calling (single and group).
Evaluation & Analysis
With a sea of choices of communication apps available in the market, Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger emerged as the dominant market within our pool of users. In order to get a clear understanding of how each app function, I whipped up a screen flow heuristic evaluation of all 3 apps:
View high-res versions here or read the detailed evaluation in my post on Medium.
KEY DESIGN ISSUES
- Flat UI design was built at the sacrifice of the visual hierarchy and usability of the app
- Increase in number of screens to access a feature
- Basic functions e.g adding a contact has more than 3 ways to do it
- Advance features e.g conversation translator are buried and not easily discoverable by users
- Multiple fancy micro interactions reminds users that their “actions are loading”
KEY USER FRUSTRATIONS
- Sudden and radical change for their long-term users
- Difficult to navigate through the app
- Unable to get what they need to be done fast
- Current users had to take the time to relearn the app
- New users express their frustrations on how complicated it is as compared to other communication apps
- Both parties take many steps to accomplish their goals.
- To build an experience that is user-centric and caters to the users' needs
- Improving the UI and visual hierarchy to help users to digest the information they need and learn how to use the app in a shorter time
- To reorganise the flow and position of features so that users can achieve their goals quickly
Our goal is to design an update of the app that provides a better user flow for our users through a reorganised user interface, and a reorganisation of key elements.
User Experience Mapping
With our user research conclusion, we created 2 user personas. While working on their user journey, key frustrations and wireframe (of the app), we noticed that there were several cross over in their pain points despite that being different individuals. Hence, I created the following user experience map that is applicable to our pool of users who shared a common goal of using Skype to communicate through text messaging, audio call or video call.
KEY/COMMON USER GOAL
To make group call.
1 REMOVING BARRIER IN USER FLOW
- Users can add another person to the call even if the first line did not pick up.
- Users can now share their screen, record conversation videos and audio calls
- Notification bell on the top left hand corner is replaced with app settings (previously together with profile settings). It is redundant as all notifications can be accessed with the bottom navigation.
2 DO IT NOW, DO IT QUICKLY
- A quick access button can be triggered by clicking on the profile picture. Users can do an audio call, video call, message and view user’s profile.
- Long press gesture is introduced and it triggers group selection actions e.g mute, delete, pinning.
- Quick button for adding contacts is included, which was previously missing.
- Users now have 2 tabs of “Chats” and “Group Chat” to differentiate their chat groupings, a feature that is lacking in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
3 SKYPE TRANSLATOR
- Skype Translator can be accessed from individual chat windows by clicking the “+” button, instead of it being buried in another user’s profile.
- Skype Translator now works as the app system, instead of a chat bot as a third party participant to the chats.
4 BETTER VISUAL HIERARCHY
- Sign in, contacts list, settings page's hierarchy is improved with larger headers and more spacing for higher breathability.
- Chat window has a better differentiation between cards, chat bubble and other content.
- Highlights screen is completely redesigned to allow users to browse efficiently and pleasantly. They can view by users of view by timeline.
- Translator is now build-in to chat windows instead of having it as a third party to the chat.
Users have to complete 12 tasks. Some tasks are specific instructions, while some are more conversational and feedback based.
USABILITY TEST 1
After testing 4 users, we noticed a trend of consistent fail rate. We decided to pause the tests and make iterations before we proceed for another round of testing.
- Usability tests: 4 users
- Average time take: 15.5 mins
- Successful rate: 53.1%
USABILITY TEST 2
We did another around of testing with new users and saw a significant improvement in our results:
- Usability tests: 4 users
- Average time take: 13.9 mins
- Successful rate: 82.8%
Where to sign out (0%)
Sign out was set under profile, but users head to settings intuitively for sign out. We migrated the sign out button to settings.
Dropdown button at call window (0%)
The drop down button was a downward pointing arrow, but users did not realised that it is an actionable button. Hence, we changed it to the 3 dot, which is a more conventional and widely recognised CTA.
- Where to launch Translator (25%)
The Skype translator button was originally placed in the “+” button, but users head to the 3 dot to launch translator. A few users feedback that the “+” was more of adding something into the conversation. We shifted the translator to 3 dots.
The success rate of those 3 questions increased by the following:
1) Where to sign out: 0% > 62.5%
- 2) Dropdown button at call window: 0% > 75%
- 3) Where to launch Translator: 0% > 62.5%
You can view the result excel sheet in detail here.