Sunday, April 1, 2012

Skype Audio/Video Conversations Usability Issues

By Mahmoud M.Orabi
Skype provides a high quality video/audio conversations and it is preferred for use by many users around the world for its high speed and quality conversations support. However, it has some usability issues such as video conference confirmation, status-specific sound settings, and pc-to-telephone customization.


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1. Video camera or sound conversations can be started without confirmation

When someone gives you a call you get the following dialog:

When you get this dialog, you can accidently click on “Answer Width Video”. And this means that the camera will be turned on right away. From a personal experience, this happened to me three times, and happened to many of my friends as well. And the reason is that you can just simply click on the button on the middle directly.
In addition, when I am doing something at any place, I get this dialog on my way, and it is placed on the middle of the screen. The possibility of accidently accepting these calls is too high, and can happen to anyone especially when they are doing certain tasks require a lot of mouse interaction.

1.1 Suggestions

Accepting incoming calls must consist of two steps in order to avoid accidental incoming call accepting. For instance, after accepting a call a confirmation dialog must show up to ask if you are sure about your previous action.
In addition, the incoming call dialog must be placed at the right corner of the screen near to the system tray. Thus, this will reduce the possibilities of accidently accepting calls. 

2. Sounds settings and incoming calls must be changed based on the current status

If my current status is “Don’t disturb Me”, then this means that I am busy and do not want to get distracted. However, regardless my current status, I am still getting the incoming calls, and with its sounds notification which makes it even more embarrassing if someone is in the middle of presenting something on a video conference call.
The incoming calls dialog still shows up and you have to hide it or wait for it till it finishes.
In addition, the sounds notification is still active. For instance, when someone types something for you, this makes a sound. Given that my status is “Don’t disturb Me”, this means that I do not want to get distracted by these sounds as they are mainly to alert the users that they have incoming conversation, which is not the case for the current status. Even the Skype preference does not provide an option to configure sounds based on the current status
So, if a user is on that status and still want to use the Skype and enable the sound for a different video call, they will be forced to disable all of the existing sound events. And after they are done, they will need to return it back. Well, this is an annoying issue.

2.1 Suggestions

We must have sounds configuration based on the user status. So, we can set sounds setting for a specific status. For instance, a user in a “Don’t disturb Me” will disable all sound events, and apply default settings for other statuses.
With this preferences enhancement, we must disable all sound events by default for the busy status. Thus, the users will be able to have Skype conversations and make sure to avoid hearing any other sounds notifications that can distract them.

3. There is no redial support

Skype provides a good feature with auto redial for the active calls. This means that if you have audio/video conversation with someone and the connection dropped for whatever reason, it will place an auto redial with certain times of tries, which is a very good usability. However, when placing a call for the first time for someone and they did not reply, this will be the end of your try, and you will need to manually place a new call. So, in the pre-mentioned scenario, assume that the redial failed due to exceeding the set threshold of redial tries, you will not be able to have an auto-redial, and you will need to place it manually yourself.

3.1 Suggestions

We should have a preference to determine a number of redials when placing a call. There must be a maximum number of redials in order to avoid putting an overhead over the network and avoid Spam. So, when placing a call for someone, and they did not reply, then we will be prompted if we would like to set an auto redial for them with a mention to the number of redial tried left. 
On the other side, assume that this user does not want to reply, so if they rejected, the Skype will ask them if they would like to reject the next incoming redial tries in order to avoid getting it too annoying if someone if not ready to take this call.

4. Conclusion

Skype video and audio conversations have very high quality and it is used by many users as their first choice to have video conferences. Even, it is used for business ( However, Skype does not have reusable sounds configurations based on the current users’ status which makes it very annoying if someone is busy on another Skype call, or doing other tasks and accidently accept incoming calls.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I use Skype only for social and casual interactions and hence do not face much issues. But when it comes to busines meetings, I recommend using tools like webex, gomeetnow, gotomeeting, R-HUB web conferencing servers etc.