Today’s Awkward Design Award: Skype

It may be new, but it can still be awkward.

The Awkward Design Award is something I arbitrarily award to companies and people who have design features in their software products that make you feel like you’re wearing underwear that’s too tight.  You might be able to live with it, but it could be better.

Nobody is spared.  If I don’t like it, you might earn the award …  whatever “it” is.  At least I’ll tell you why.  I used to call this The Bad Design Award, but that’s too harsh.  I want to encourage companies to simply re-consider some of the decisions they made.

Today’s Award Goes To …

Skype

There are many golden rules in software design that all good products adhere to, and if there were an  official list, these would be in the top ten:

1. Never save a file for a user to access later unless you tell them what directory it’s in.

2. Always allow the user the option of changing the directory where files are saved in.

3. Never ever, ever use GPS in an applicationunless you absolutely need to and you tell the user why.

Here’s why I give Skype the Tight Underwear Award:

Never save a file for a user to access later unless you tell them what directory it’s in.

When you take a video snapshot in Skype, the application saves the picture somewhere, but the directory it’s saved in is a mystery – at least in Windows Vista.  You have to hunt Skype help and peoples’ blogs for the information, and get nothing.  At least I haven’t in the case of Vista.  The point is … you shouldn’t have to hunt the blogsphere in the first place.  No, I’m not going to tell you where the files are saved saved.  I don’t know precisely.  That’s the point.

Always allow the user the option of changing the directory where files are saved in.

It’s bad enough that Skype doesn’t tell you where it saves your pictures or gives you the option of copying them to a familiar directory.  Oh no.  They have to leave out the option of letting you set the directory where you can save the pictures.

Never ever, ever use GPS in an application about a user unless you absolutely need to and you tell them why.

This reason for the bad design award applies to Skype’s mobile application.  I installed it on my Android … once … and used it … once … before I uninstalled it.  And that was only because I had to join a Skype instant messaging session while on the road.  There’s no reason in the world why Skype would need to get your GPS location to use the product.  You’re either on the network or not.  You’re either able to make a Skype call over the network or not.  I don’t want Skype or anyone else to collect information about where I make that call or write instant messages from.  None of your business thank-you-very-much.  This flies completely in the face of the security features of Skype which encrypts your messages across the network and only sends them point to point (and not through a skype server).  Who knows, perhaps the mobile application does that too.  I haven’t checked.

Image credits: thecarconnection.com
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