Make a conference call as life-like as possible.
Currently the user experiences for many conference call applications are limited and do not create a conducive environment. Instead of merely talking to a voice on the other side of the phone, users should feel like they are physically present in a conference room. With OpenComm, users can dynamically interact with others in the conference by moving them around the screen to hear them louder or softer in a two dimensional space. By creating side chats, where the user selects others from the conference to privately converse with, the conference call becomes a more personal experience.
For this project, the team follows an agile development cycle where every 2-3 weeks we push out new features. As a member (and now team leader) of the design team, my role was to brainstorm functions that the application needed, test the application for bugs and usability, and research aspects of computer mediated communication that would be relevant for our design. Last semester we had four cycles:
In the first cycle we focused on the general layout and design of the application, sound spacialization, and side chats. Designs from this cycle include:
The user's relative location is at the bottom of the conference space and is represented by the three curved lines. Voices from other conference participants are heard relevant to this spot. All the side chats the user is in can be seen at the scrollable bar at the bottom of the screen. By tapping a side chat icon, the user can see a preview with all the people in that side chat. Users can go back to the main conversation by clicking the "main" icon.
The objective of this cycle was to create a consistent and pleasing look and feel for the application. We also discussed administrative issues within the conference. Each conference or side chat would have a moderator who creates the conference of side chat and can add or delete people in it. When moderators leave the conference or side chat, they can either close the room or choose nother moderator. Designs for this cycle include:
In this cycle we focused on designing the process of how to use the application from start to finish. These included the login screen, dashboard the users initially see, invitations to conferences, and menu screens. Designs for this cycle include:
Sound spacialization was the focus of the final cycle in the semester. After conducting tests on our own about listening to multiple conversations, we decided that it would be best to be able to listen to only one side chat and the main conference. We also designed a menu for controlling the volume of each side chat.
In addition, we each conducted user tests and found that people easily understood sound spacialization, but some had difficulty with side chats. Adding a side chat using the plus button was particularly confusing for some. It was also noted that the process of making a side chat and adding people into it was disruptive for both the user and invitees into the chat.
This semester we will focus on pushing this application out as an actual product. We will refine the way we start a conference, add contacts, and the user experience of having side chats. Using the feedback we got from last semester as well as additional user tests we will conduct, we will be able to make our application easier to use.