Enabling people to be with each other in the same moment, even if they are in different time and location
How can we transform Skype’s instant messaging(IM) feature so that it can allow people to communicate more dynamically and feel more conversational?
Explore a wide variety of asynchronous dialogues we have today and create a service design experience to make these dialogues more expressive.
Introducing "Skype Now"
sender - Choose who you want to be with, record and send away
Choose that person who you would like to have next to you at that exact moment. If you’re thinking about that person, why not quickly involve them in your life? Both front and back cameras of your phone will start capturing the moment as it is, so that you can be yourself and you can show the environment you’re in as well.
We designed “Skype Now” to make it so easy for you to be together with the person in your thoughts. You don’t need to wait for starting to be together in the same moment with the person you want. Once you’re done with your moment, it is sent away instantly. There is no redo button, your first authentic shot is all what it is about.
receiver - Receive a moment and be together
When you receive a moment and dive into it, you will start seeing the message other person has recorded for you. You can communicate, react and be with the other person from the start to the end of the message. Your responses are saved as another layer on top of the sender’s moment.
Receiving a moment is an invitation to join the other person wherever they are. We wanted this moment to be personal, dynamic and natural. The message gets complete with both of you taking part in it and saved in this particular way where both of you are there.
Relive an old moment and be encouraged to contact again
At anytime you can relive those old moments which became part of your gallery. Because these moments happened in the past, your response won’t be captured this time.
Gallery encourages people to contact each other again by putting the camera view(create a new moment) at start. We want the conversation between two people to continue even if the moments are over.
RESEARCH - investigating the silent pauses in communication
"How do people handle non-communication?"
Our main research question was formed as a response to the brief about asynchronous communication. Through two weeks of ethnographic research, we investigated the question of "How do people handle non-communication?”. Our research plan was consisting of doing 8 user interviews with follow up sessions, creating the framework and physicalizing our findings through prototypes in order to present and get feedback from other project teams. Our user profiles had unique aspects in their communication due to family, work and relationship purposes and were located both in and outside Sweden. The techniques we used were contextual inquiry, user interviews and journey mapping interview through visualizing with the users.
Focus areas: Expectations, Interpretations, Pauses in communication, Dynamics between sender-receiver.
FINDINGS - physicalizing the research
Based on the framework, we created physical research prototypes. These models carried the values of async communication that we pointed out in our framework. By presenting these prototypes during our research presentation, our classmates and tutors were able to try the prototypes and gave us feedback afterwards. We used this opportunity to further understand the valuable aspects of async communication. 4 stations were created addressing to our research:
Timer: In the first station, we explored how people perceive the time after they send or receive a message.
Marble Run: This station was about expectations formed during the time gap between messages or conversations.
Light Signal: This station was about how the messages are interpreted by the people. We explored how people understood and made assumptions over a simple signal like a LED.
The Box: In the last station, we looked into how people create meaning with synchronizing with the others.
The gap(silent pause) is what makes communication async, the temporal blank period between messages or between conversations. These gaps occur when people leave someone a message because distance prevents people to talk face-to-face. Also, being on different time zones unable people to be available at the same time or simply pinging each other. From our ethnographic research, the main insight we discovered was that people embrace the silent pauses that occur when keeping in touch with loved ones in distance.
These pauses give both parties the opportunity to focus on their own life in their own pace. What people struggle with is the exact moment when one communicates with the other - because the presence of the other is not there. People we interviewed surprised us by showing all the creative ways they came up with to overcome this gap. One had to keep a strict schedule on Skype to continue being in contact with his closed ones, the other one was using a medium(letter) where he could express himself fully to his girlfriend.
" We took inspiration from all these creative ways people came up with in order to create a temporal presence of the other person in their life, to create a feeling of being face-to-face for a moment. "
CONCEPT Design - prototyping the experience
After brainstorming on paper we challenged our ideas by creating physical prototypes. These helped us to further explore our ideas and to validate them with people. The prototypes mainly focused on how we could apply elements of a synchronous communication experience in an asynchronous one, since we saw the most potential in this area based on the research findings and ideation. Using our prototypes we found a potential by informing the receiver more about the sender. This information can come in many forms, such as the facial expression of the sender, his location when sending or his writing process.
Capturing The Writing Process: What would happen if we revealed the writing process of the sender? One participant later explained that she could follow the sender’s line of thinking and predicted the next sentences. Exactly in that moment, when both sender and receiver were thinking similarly, they felt strongly connected.
The Postbox: What if you could know how the person looked like during composing? Letters appearing in the “Postbox” contained both the content and the sender’s facial expression during the composing process. The users were curious to find out in which part of the letter the other person was giving these reactions.
Rich Text Bubbles: What if you were able to see even more of what was happening on the other side? What they were doing or where they were. This could be either streamed in the background or as an attachment to the text bubble. Tap and hold reveals these recordings.
interface DESIGN - LOOK & FEEL OF THE EXPERIENCE
We decided to use the invitation metaphor as the main experience in our concept and we further worked on how to create this invitation style through the wireframes. We started with designing the key screens: At this stage, the scenario and interface specifications we created hugely guided us on creating the building blocks of the app.
The key screens consisted of steps such as selecting a person and during a moment (e.g. creating the video with person) for both sender and receiver and receiving a moment. An important decision was taken on how to categorize these moments. We decided to group the moments and assign them under each person, rather than having all moments together. This made sense according to our concept and research, we accepted that people are triggered by a certain person and want to only involve them in their life for a certain period of time. We translated this into the function of starting a recording that was only able after choosing a person. Another metaphor we used while designing the wireframes and interaction flow was to dive into a moment: The bubbles with people (sender and receiver) are moving into/entering the moment window when watching a new moment or reviewing older moments. The same flow is used when sending a moment away.
We carefully considered how we visually position our concept in relation to Skype and it’s competitors. Skype’s Qik app was regarded too trendy, whereas Spark app was considered too sleek in compare to Skype app. We decided that our product, Skype Now, should feel like it was still designed by Skype, just with a more natural look and feel on the conversations. Therefore, we designed our own visual cues that makes the async conversations more natural and used Skype’s visual assets for general elements.