Contents: 1) Executive Summary 2) Introduction 3) Product description 4) A Detailed Heuristic List5) Cooperative Evaluation of Prototype (Task List)6) Setting up the Task Environment & Equipment 7) Performing the Evaluation 8) Results from evaluation 9) Design recommendations 10) Conclusions
Executive SummaryThis is a heuristics evaluation report, the aim of this report is to identify a system, and explore itsinteractive qualities. All evaluations are based on heuristics, which are a set of guidelines set out byexperts to evaluate an Interactive System’s Usability. This report was undertaken to summarize andevaluate User Interface ability of the program Skype and better help the design of usable InteractiveSystems.“The goal of heuristic evaluation is to find the usability problems in the design so that they can beattended to as part of an iterative design process. Heuristic evaluation involves having a small set ofevaluators examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles” (http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/)The heuristics used in this report, we’re that of Usability expert, Jakob Nielsen, and his 10 heuristics. 1. Visibility of system status. 2. Match between system and the real world. 3. User control and freedom. 4. Consistency and standards. 5. Error prevention. 6. Recognition rather than recall. 7. Flexibility and efficiency of use. 8. Aesthetic and minimalist design. 9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors. 10. Help and documentation.These 10 recommended heuristics by Jakob Nielsen will be used to explore the Interactive usability ofthe Skype interface and allow us to better understand its use for online Calling, Video Calling, andInstant Messaging amongst other user’s.
IntroductionThis report discuss’s the heuristic evaluation process for Skype, a free internet based video callingservice. It begins by describing the product and discussing the target population for the program. Itthen gives a look at the heuristics used to review the program and what major issuses, if any, werefound in this review of the program. We plan to outline these problems and suggest possible measureswhich could be taken to fix or avoid them in the future therefore creating a greater overall experiencefor skype users everywhere.. Product DescriptionSkype, which is now part of Microsoft, is software which allows a community of people from all overthe world interact for free via Phone, Live stream Video Calling, or even through Instant Messenging.It allows its users to free call anyone, anywhere, at any time of the day once downloaded.You can even obtain Skype for your business through paying by Pay as You Go, or committing to asmall fee Bill Pay package, allowing its customers to do more. Paying users have more access tocolleagues, customers, whoever, with their low cost Skype fee’s to Landlines and Mobile phones,which may not have the Skype tool. The extra fee benefits can mean better corporate calls, by beingable to interact by Live Stream Video conference calls to up to four Skype accounts at a go.Skype can be used anywhere, at any time now thanks to the use of Smartphones. Anyone who hasaccess to a PC, MAC, Laptop, or even smartphone can now download Skype for free and avail of itsfree interaction services. Although its recognised for its Live stream Video Calling, users without aweb cam can still engage in online communications through Instant Messaging, or by connecting aSkype phone up to their computer.
A Detailed Heuristic List1. Visibility of system status To sign into Skype it is clear to the user where to enter the username and password. While the program is “signing in”, a loading circle appears indicating it is in the process of doing so. On start up of the Skype program, there is an audio cue to let the user know it is ready for use. A pop up interface appears when a user is receiving an incoming call or video call. The options to answer, answer with video or decline are given in a clear manner. When an instant message is received a small orange dot appears beside the other user’s name in the contacts. Also an audio cue can be heard at the same time. The conversation also appears in the recent tab which is highlighted orange. The Skype icon flashes on the task bar.2. Match between system and the real world The Skype program avoids using technical jargon, instead using familiar language where any user can comprehend. It presents information in such a way that the user understands easily. Information is presented in appropriate order. There is a slight repetitiveness with regard to the Skype options. Many of the sub categories from the drop down menus lead to the same screen. For example, if a user selects privacy from the Skype menu, or audio settings from the call menu, or options from the tool menu, they are led to the same window.3. User control and freedom If the user wishes to go back to the log in page while the loading circle is on screen, there is no option to do so. The user must wait for the program to finish loading. The grouping together of the end call button, adding participants to the conversation, the microphone and video buttons is of poor design. The user could easily make the mistake of ending the call rather than choosing the other options. In the options window, the user is given the choice of either saving the changes made or returning by clicking cancel. There is a clearly visible “close” button in the conversations window to exit.4. Consistency and standards Skype uses typical language accepted by numerous video calling and instant messaging services. Regular and novice users can easily understand what action leads to what result as no jargon is used in the program. Skype adheres to these standards and obeys them. Making it an easy program to learn for anyone, novice or expert.
5. Error prevention Skype is a well built program which rarely crashes The program can crash however due to poor Internet connection, typically during a video call. Skype automatically tries to reconnect the call without any actions being taken by the user. If connection cannot be re-established then Skype shows a pop up message explaining the issue in plain English to the user. After every call Skype asks the user to rate the quality of the call to help further development of the platform.6. Recognition rather than recall Typically Skype’s layout is quite simple and easy to use. During video calls however a menu bar appears along the bottom of the received video. This menu bar contains images referencing certain actions that can be made during the call. However, it is not clearly defined what these buttons do and can only really be discovered by trial and error. After a few use’s it becomes second nature but the user should never have to do this. The actions the buttons take should be clear for the users.7. Flexibility and efficiency of use Brightly coloured, simple layout. Few buttons leaving for simplified efficiency. Live stream calling at the click of a button. Visually aesthetic, simple on screen navigation and easily able to tell who’s online, currently busy, or offline.8. Aesthetic and minimalist design 6 basic toolbars, Skype, Contacts, Conversation, Call, View, Tools and Help, allowing the user simple access. Stored contacts are easily displayed, relieving the hassle trying to find friends contact details. Miniature green Skype logo show’s online friends activity, a yellow one to state the user is online, but currently busy, and a red logo for user’s who are not to be interrupted. The dial function displays a visual of a mobile key pay, with the 0-9 digits, *, Hash, Save, Call and SMS contact features for users who want to contact unsaved user’s.9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
A pop up window is displayed to show error. Plain simple text, no coding references apart from connection port statuses. Direct links to Skype’s online support website.10. Help and documentation Help feature in toolbar re-directs the user to https://support.skype.com/en/ where the users can brows a selection of Frequently Asked Questions, and various How-to Guides. FAQ’s and How-to Guide are designed with the beginner Skype user in mind and are presented with a mixture of basic short and sweet sentences mixed with screenshots to aid their users both mentally and aesthetically. The use of these visuals aid the users in a more direct manner, by showing what each action taken should look like on their own screen.
Cooperative Evaluation of Prototype (Task List)The Task List will be broken down into three stages; 1) Setting up the Equipment and Environment. 2) Performing the Task’s. 3) Results and Evaluation of the completed task. 1) The set up of our task will be a very basic, but effective one. All that is needed of our user is a laptop, microphone, a Screen Capture tool (ViewletCam), a USB for backing up our project, and the Skype software with an already set up account. 2) The only approach the user need’s to keep in mind is the “Think Aloud” method we have decided to use. With this method, all the user is asked to do is give a running commentary on any actions they are required to do, and how they go about pursuing it, therefore allowing us to have an audio recording of their evaluation. 3) Once the user has finished up their experience using the Skype program, we will then be able to take their audio and visual recordings away for review, and see how easily (or confusing) the user found being able to navigate their way through the program. Setting up the Task Environment & EquipmentIn order to properly record and monitor our user during this evaluation report, we decided upon usingthe “Think Aloud” process, which would aid our ability to read into what the users are thinkingthroughout the process. With the use of the “Think aloud” process, and a microphone to record, we willbe able to achieve a crystal clear recording of our user’s thoughts on navigating through Skype.As a pre-task trial, we firstly set up a laptop with a plug in microphone to record ourselves participatingin the task to make sure all goes well before our subject enter’s the room to clear up any possible flawshe might encounter subjects speech throughout the process as well as recording our actions on themonitor by using the “ViewletCam” screen capture software.Eventually we could bring in our user ands aloud him work his way though the program. The screencapture and audio recording files will then be backed up onto a USB for further evaluation. This set upwould leave us with a step-by-step guide though the mind of the user as his speech and on screenmouse movements will all have been recorded and stored to allow any time reviewing of our user. Performing the EvaluationIn order to properly monitor our chosen user we decided to video record him as he attempted to use theSkype interface. We began by explaining the consent form to our user; we reassured him that he hadfull access to all the data and how it would be used. We also informed him that he could leave any timehe liked. After agreeing to the consent form with our user we set up a laptop, turned on the ScreenCapture software, and began recording through the microphone. We also asked him to think aloud ashe worked his way through the program.As we wished to get a full cooperative evaluation of Skype we decided to begin by getting our user toopen the program and try to call a friend. We watched as he clicked on the Skype symbol on thedesktop and the program opened. Our user was confronted with a log in screen where he entered theusername and password we had already set up in order to gain access to the Skype account. Once thisinformation was entered the program started up. Upon opening the program the user was presentedwith tips from the program. For proper evaluation we asked him not to use these tips and so he closedthe window and continued with the evaluation.We watched and listened as our user told us how he was scrolling down through the friends list lookingfor the one we had asked him to call. Upon arriving on the chosen friend our user double clicked thename opening the friends Skype page. From this window our user could see all the options available tohim, which he made clear by listing out what he could see on screen.
Our user then clicked on the green phone or ‘call’ button on the chosen friends page. Skype then tookover and began trying to connect the call. Our user told use he knew the call was in action as Skypegave him a dial tone as he awaited an answer from the other end. The call was then connected and thechosen friend appeared on screen.However, our users video feed was not being sent to the friend and so we asked him to try to figure thisproblem out, aloud. He scanned over the options available on the call screen until he came upon avideo camera symbol. Upon clicking it his video feed appeared on screen. He mentioned he could tellthe feed was being sent by the reaction of his friend on screen when the video appeared.We then asked him if he could send an instant message to the friend whilst in the call. This posedslightly more difficulty than expected as our user decided to scroll through his friends list again andattempted to send a message this way. However he quickly discovered his mistake and returned to thevideo call screen, scanning the options there for a message icon. He announced he found what he calleda ‘speech bubble’ icon. Upon clicking this a small chat window opened below the video feed and hebegan writing a message, which was sent immediately once the ‘send’ button was clicked. Our user hadfound the instant messaging option.Now the time had come to end the call. We asked our user to say goodbye and hang up. Our userquickly spotted the red phone symbol and clicked it ending the call. Video feed disappeared and he wasassured that the call was over via an on screen message. Once the call had ended Skype gave our user aoption to review the call for quality purposes. He went to ignore it but for the purposes of thisevaluation we asked him to do it. He was given about 5 questions about call clarity and video quality,which he could rate from 1-5 depending on the standard he felt. Upon completing this he sent thefeedback to Skype and the window closed returning him to the same friends page he had been on priorto starting the video call. Our user then logged out of his profile and closed the application, completinghis part in our evaluation. We thanked him for his time and patience and he left us to continue ourreport. Results from EvaluationOnce the tasks set out had been completed by our user we were left with a lot of information regardingthis use of the Skype program. We felt using “ViewletCam” to record the users mouse movementsalong with recording the “out-loud thoughts” gave a greater understanding of how the user wasworking his way through the program. Therefore, we could easily notice any mistakes made, or wrongpaths taken and fully understand why or how the user ended up in any particular situation. From thisevaluation we have found that the basic uses’ of Skype are quite simple to understand, however, certainaspects of the program need re-designing in order to avoid potential problems such as sending an SMSrather than instant messages and making some options more easily visible from the video call screen asto avoid confusion for the novice user. Design recommendationsThere are many possible re-design recommendations that can be made to improve the Skype program.User Interface design is an iterative process that never stops, so therefore the program can undergonumerous re-designs.Skype could introduce a form of parental control within the program. There are options to block peoplefrom contacting the user, but there are no controls in place as to whom a child could contact. Thiswould increase the safety and security of the user greatly.There are possible issues with the program when it is integrated with the toolbar of the operatingsystem. An option to turn off the flashing notifications during an active conversation could beprovided. As it is, it is only possible to turn them off when initial contact is made.Another issue found with the toolbar and Skype, is that conversations are shown as different windows.This could be integrated so that only one icon for Skype appears rather than the multiplying effect thatcan be seen in the following image,
The location of the icon that changes text conversation into SMS in the conversation window should bechanged to a different location. This is because it is far too easy, when using emoticons, to scroll overthe SMS icon on the way back to the text box, and end up sending an SMS.Skype could create an option whereby it is possible to see who is viewing your profile. This would helpwith the user’s privacy and they may then be able to block contacts. Or perhaps create an option whereonly people in a certain country or area of the world can add you to their contacts.The group chat function is very popular amongst the Skype community. However, if one member ofthe group is not online they are not updated with the rest of the conversation. This means the user maymiss an important part to the discussion. If the messages would still be sent to the offline user, and theycould receive them the next time they log in, nothing will be missed out on. ConclusionsProduct AnalysisUpon evaluating Skype. We found the software quite simple to use and user friendly. The aesthetics ofthe user interface are very basic and direct, as we discovered throughout our evaluation, our users hadno major difficulties navigating themselves around the layout. However certain buttons and optionswere not made easily visible for the user. This small problem could be easily fixed with the addition oftext underneath the symbols so as to avoid confusion.Overall SummaryOverall, the main flaws we found whilst evaluating Skype were, the layout of buttons during userinteraction, and the representation of icons which confused our user as to which icon meant InstantMessage or send an SMS, as well as smaller issues such as video feed lagging during calls, and voiceclarity being lost due to poor connection.However outside of the video call window the general layout prior to calling someone is very simplisticand understandable for both the novice and advanced users.
“Think-Aloud” Evaluation Consent FormI hereby acknowledge my free and willing participation in a “think-aloud” project designed to uncoverflaws on the User Interface of Skype .I understand that _______________________________________ will take notes and may record myspeech as I “think aloud” while navigating through the program I have agreed to review, and thatshe/he will use this recording only to evaluate and improve the material I review.I also understand (1) that no one except __________________________________________ will listento my recording, and (2) that any use of the information contained in the recording will not reveal myname or other information that could identify me.Name of Participant: _______________________________________________Participant’s Signature: ______________________________________________Date: ________________ (https://sites.google.com/a/ceunh.unh.edu/writing-editing-for-the-living-web/Do-you-need-and-editor-/Think-aloud-testing/Think-alouds/think-aloud-consent-form)