How Skype almost wrecked my career with bad UX!

Video Transcript

I upgraded Skype and it almost wrecked my career!

Give me a minute and I’ll tell you how it happened, how you can avoid it, and why a good user experience is more than just creating a bright and shiny user interface.
So it all began when I finally relented to upgrading to the new Skype. Anyone that uses Skype on a regular basis lately knows exactly what I’m talking about.
It has a completely different user interface that is in keeping with the Windows 10 design theme. And it also works and functions completely different from a user experience standpoint.

So, committed to letting go of the past, I dug in and retrained my Skype muscle memory. And everything went fine.

I eventually figured out how to minimize some of the UI elements to make it smaller, allowing more room for the messages. And THAT is where I set the trap for myself. One that would bite me a few weeks later.

You see, the old Skype can be displayed in a very compact small app window on your screen and display all your contact’s names. The NEW Skype can not do that unfortunately and is a rather large app with a lot of white space in the UI. In an effort to compact it, I minimized the contacts within Skype. Which hides the names by the contact icons.

No problem I thought, I can see everyone’s face in their icon and I know who uses a graphic image or symbol on their profile. What could go wrong…
Fast forward a few weeks later, I am multi-threading a few conversations on Skype and flipping between tasks. After reaching out to one of my colleagues, I get an odd response. The kind of response that makes you go back and spend 15 min. investigating whether you’d made a really dumb mistake and are now just asking a really dumb question.

Everything checked out, but I got a second odd response. And now I’m thinking my colleague is the confused one and I’m just going to roll with it.
What I was NOT thinking, or considering, is that two of my contacts in Skype would have the exact same Skype icon. And they both work on the thing I am asking about. One is a team member…  And one is an  executive in the company. Perhaps you can see where this is going now.

It has now dawned on me that I made a comment about this executive TOO this executive. This person is very effective and I have great respect for them, and my comment was…  complimentary.

But I definitely had that sinking feeling in my stomach that this kind of mixup could have a much different, and unfortunate, outcome in some other situation if it happens again.

So I didn’t wreck my career. But, I still have to deal with the Skype user interface that makes it possible for me to make some very big mistakes if I’m not paying attention. And that is the exact opposite of good UX. A software application with good user experience should prioritize function over form. It should facilitate user activity in a way that guards against inadvertent mistakes while providing information in the appropriate context. If there is a big mistake that can be made, good UX should guard against it just as well, if not more, than how it provides information in the proper context when the user needs it.

Slick and fancy software UIs are great, but if it comes at the cost of functionality and effectiveness, then user experience suffers. And when it comes to enterprise level systems, if it comes at the cost of rapid configuration changes as business processes change, or constant upgradability, then the system is not meeting current user needs the day it goes live.

That’s all I’ve got to say about this and I hope you found it helpful, especially if you use Skype on a daily basis like I do.
Until next time, I’m Chuck Bartlett and if you liked the video, then hit the thumbs up button below on YouTube or the Like button everywhere else and I’ll catch you later.