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"Viber" as Groupware- UX Research and UI Redesign

Viber icon

As part of a group project in one of my graduate courses, we analyzed the groupware communication tool "Viber". Although the application offers good communication tools, there is room for improving the user interface while still maintaining the features that people like.

In order to observe Viber in use, we designed two miniature studies, each with it's own type of task. The first task was a "transport task" which means there is a pre-determined goal. The task was to build a specified model with LEGO™ bricks within a given time frame. Participants (other students in the course) worked in teams of two where one read instructions and the other built the model following the given instructions. Participants were placed in separate rooms where Viber was installed and were encouraged to use any or all available software features to accomplish the task.

Our main observations include that the software was complicated to install, confusing to use, and somewhat unreliable. The installation process was not as simple as other similar programs for online communication. The main obstacle is that the installation of the desktop software requires installation of the mobile application and an interaction between devices which must be set up by the user. Ths led to frustration during set up because of the unanticipated lack of additional steps. Once installed, there were user interface design issues that can cause user confusion including employment of double negatives for on/off switches of video and audio. This problem was definitely one of the more frustrating issues for users. Another problem was that the window component layout created the possibility that the chat box could be completely covered by the video component (depending on the size of both the overall window and video component) leading unfamiliar users to be unaware of the instant message feature.

The second task was a "wayfaring task" which is more exploratory in nature and contains no single approach or solution. The wayfaring task was to "use the same building bricks as before to build an animal of your choice." Otherwise, the setup was the same as the first task.

One of the more interesting observations made was how the participant previously giving instructions took on a supportive role giving positive feedback to the person building the animal. The most popular way encouragement was given was via "stickers" in the chat box. Stickers are giant and very detailed emoticons which can express a larger variety of ideas and emotions. Stickers used for encouragement included hearts, smiles, and cartoon characters with speech bubbles such as "Good luck!" and "You're so beautiful!" Stickers and emoticons were also used to share ideas about which animals to create. Stickers were overall a very popular feature with participants.

Viber emoticons and stickers

Stickers and emoticons proved to be a popular feature and can be used to offer support or share ideas.


Redesign

In following the project prompt, we presented four main redesign suggestions and explanations.

  1. Remove the dependence on the smartphone application. This will simplify installation and setup and reduce user frustration.
  2. Rearchitect the internal program structure to improve the overall call quality and reliability. During the miniature studies, we noticed a number of dropped calls and losses of a video or audio signal. Reducing or eliminating the dependence on the smartphone application may help here depending on the application's architecture.
  3. Redesign the main window's user interface as follows: transition to a split-window design (shown below) in which the chat box cannot be covered by the video window. We also suggest keeping the stickers panel visible at all times due to the overwhelming popularity of the feature. Finally, the call controls are still prominent.
  4. Our final suggestion is to redesign the call controls so that they avoid double negatives or meanings opposite from the symbols displayed. By moving to familiar switches with labels that clearly show the on/off status of video and audio signals, it will be much easier for users to understand the application.

Viber sketches Viber sketches

Our design is an improvement over the original because it improves both the back-end and front-end of the software. The back-end (the software architecture) is improved because the video is more reliable and compatible with the newest versions of all operating systems. It has also been improved by eliminating any dependence on the phone so there is a smaller chance of error. The front-end (the user interface) has been dramatically improved by simplifying the controls and making the chat box easier to see. In order to remove layers of confusion from double negatives, the controls for the audio and video were simplified. With the new split-window design, the stickers are still accessible, but the chat box cannot be covered up, leading to a higher chance of communication through all channels: audio, video, and chat (including stickers).


Final Rendering

Viber UI final design