When it comes to user interface design, the vast majority of Mac developers create stunning interfaces for their applications that blend in to OS X and make it really user for the user to get around. Just take a look at Things for Mac or iStudiez Pro for a examples of how a Macintosh user interface should be designed.
Now, take a look at Skype 5 for Mac OS X. This, folks, is how NOT to create a user interface on the Mac. In jumping two whole version numbers from Skype 2.8 straight up to Skype 5 the development team has seemingly forgot the platform for which it is developing, leaving Mac users with a Windows-like interface that looks clumsy, wastes space and moves in the wrong direction from the previous version.
Everything in Skype is now handled in one, single window. This is a big change from Skype 2.8, where contacts were held in a separate window from everything else going on in the application, allowing for easy access to all of your Skype and address book contacts in one small window, similar to how an IM client would present contacts.
To make room for a new cover flow style contact list a large portion of the window is now dedicated to viewing your contacts, but if you don’t want to view contacts in cover flow view and would rather just see a list then a huge amount of space is simply wasted with un-necessarily large buttons and a bucketload of whitespace between contact information and the buttons themselves. I’m using Skype on a 13-inch MacBook with a screen resolution of 1280 x 800 and it takes up over half the display, which for a glorified contact list is absolutely ridiculous.
Fortunately, despite the deplorable user interface there are some positive notes for Skype 5. Feature-wise, the client is now more alongside the Windows version than it ever was previously. You can conduct a group-video chat in the new version, which is great for firms who wish to video conference without using a staggeringly expensive setup, and for groups of friends who just want to quell boredom for an hour or so.
There’s no doubt that some big improvements are needed for the next version of Skype for Mac. The development team needs to realise that you can’t simply mimic the design of your Windows application when porting it to the Mac; you need to think about how your users use the platform you are developing for, how the application behaves. It seems that the development team has done none of this, and Skype is currently running a competition for Mac developers to submit their design for the next version of Skype.
The bottom line? If you don’t need the premium features such as group video chat then try to find a copy of Skype 2.8 somewhere; you’ll have a nicer experience and save yourself a lot of hassle.