Two design improvement for a more social Skype
Skype is an interesting platform for various reasons, from its hybrid approach to both voice and text, for its peer-based nature, for its cryptography. For me it has been always a good example of a social platform that isn’t usually perceived as such.
What happens if you need to go online, but at the same time you aren’t in the mood of talking with everybody there? What if you need to open Skype during holiday, but you don’t want to be overwhelmed by work discussions? What do you do if you need to talk immediately with someone, but you don’t have time for everyone else? What if you just have to to a brief talk, without getting distracted too much? The answer today is “invisible mode” and I know a lot of people that aren’t able to go out of invisible mode, ever for all those reasons.
A better solution exists, and fortunately Facebook already deployed it so I don’t have to provide you a complete description on how it should work: selective online option for each user-defined group.
I’ve also seen, at least in my experience, that quite often you schedule a meeting with someone on Skype, but the other person is going to come online later then you. A great solution here is adding an option to turn on a one-time notification that tells you, once, that the person you’re waiting for is online. Yes, I know that a lot of people use online notifications, but I know at least an equal number of people that turn it off due to the noise it generates. Most of the time also I don’t need to be notified of everybody every time, but I’d like to be notified only of someone, and maybe only once. It’s a contextual decision and the interface should allow me to turn it on and off easily with a single click.
Why those two changes are going to make Skype more social? Because they allow a more granular management of our relations, in a way that is more similar to our experience. Those two details would allow us to avoid a all-or-nothing approach to sociality that’s sadly a bit too common even in the most evolved software.