Whatever happened to UX?

I recently switched from the Google App Suite ecosystem to the Microsoft Office 365 one. The transition is OK; each one has its strengths and weaknesses. But one annoying trend of both is the User Experience (UX) of the various messaging platforms, and their shared paradigm.

Remember when Google introduced Material Design across it’s products? Whether you loved it or hated it, you were getting it. And after the skeuomorphism Apple had imposed for so long, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It actually was a design that understood it’s medium, and it made more sense. So everyone embraced the flatness. But I think it’s going too far.

For instance, here’s the UX of Microsoft Teams:

This is an exceptional product (really!), with one annoying trend: see the list of conversations on the left and the chat window on the right? This is the problem. This is a great design if you assume that your entire focus will be in this app. But what if you still have some officemates still using Skype?

Yep, see something familiar here? This is Skype’s Windows 10 Preview. The same UX assertion: left conversation list window, right chat window. Again, this is just fine if you only use Skype, but if I want to use both Skype and Teams, I now have some beasts of windows to manage. And with the information presented in both, in order to get value, I’d essentially have to dedicate an entire monitor to these two behemoths.

Unlike previous versions of Skype, you can’t separate the list of conversations from the chat itself. That means in order to see both, you have to keep the whole app open. Yes, I know, I can just install an older version of Skype and go back to that, but then we have the Teams issue: it requires the same.

So, you Google purists say, this is one of the many problems of Microsoft. Climb down off your high horse there, my friend, and have a look at Hangouts:

Yep, same UX: conversations left, chat right, and no way to minimize the chat window without minimizing the conversation window. Ah, I hear you forming two retorts:

1: Hangouts is dead; use Allo instead. Nice try. Hangouts is still the only multiplatform app that handles Google Voice, and Voice is required for Google’s Project Fi, which I use for phone service.

2: Did you know Hangouts has a Transparent UI? I did, actually, but it seems missing from my implementation:

Where’s the Transparent UI?

So, between these three apps, I now have to devote copious amount of screen real estate to run them. I’m almost on the verge of getting a third monitor for three apps. Any alternatives out there?

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