(Essay) The Rise Of Zoom: Proof That User Experience Is Essential

Thanks to 2020, we all know and love Zoom (well not all, but quite a lot of people!)

We can know Zoom from our online class, work, seminars, and even events!

If anything, Zoom has even become a noun for many people.

"Hey, let's zoom!"

If someone told you this, and you instantly know what it means, don't worry, that is completely normal! (If you don't, it's also normal as Zoom is still not commonly used in some countries)

So what Zoom really is?

Zoom is a video conferencing company based in the US. They were established in 2011. But for some reason, it gained so much popularity since early 2019. Their main product is a cloud-based Video Conferencing platform which many people use for various reasons. From chatting with friends to hold an important government meeting.

I was one of the people who have no clue what Zoom is before early 2019. I have never heard of it. And at the time, I was wondering why are people using Zoom. I have so many questions: why don't they use Skype? Hasn't it been the way we have a conference call to use Skype?

In fact, I still have the same question, although I roughly know what the answer would be.

In my opinion, the vast rise of Zoom is solid proof of how user experience is important, which should be common knowledge, especially for businesses. However, I don't think it is as common as I thought it should be because there are still many businesses that think user experience doesn't matter and refuse to listen to users, therefore making their product slowly failing.

So in this essay, I am going to breakdown why Zoom is proof of how user experience is essential.

Why was Skype and Google Meet 'abandoned'?

There are still people who use Skype (rarely heard about Meet, but there are probably still a few). But ever since Zoom starts rising, more and more people who used to use it has now abandoned it. Rarely anyone uses Zoom and Skype/ Meet at the same time. So they moved to Zoom and never look back to Skype/ Meet. Why the switch?

I have my own opinion based on my experience, but let's hear it from others.

1. "I prefer the [user experience] and find call quality consistently better," one user who operates a small business said in Business Insider.

2. "You can record the meeting," another user told Business Insider.

3. "Yes, there are problems with Zoom, but they’re less annoying than the other programs. If it’s easy to use, people will use it. It’s that simple.", Steve Haskin said on Quora.

4. "Zoom has a more modern interface for calls, with several viewing options to accommodate virtual meetings of all sizes. You can also schedule meetings, either one-off or recurring, that each have their own “room” and join link. Zoom has several features built-in that you normally need plugins or third-party tools for in Skype, like call recording and presentation tools. ", Oleg Sergeykin said on Quora.

5. "People continue to use Zoom because it’s easy and free" according to the Verge

6. "With Zoom, there's no need to combine various video conferencing solutions in order to achieve great results for online business meetings. We simply use Zoom. " according to Prialto, a virtual assistant service company.

7. "First and foremost, Zoom is much easier to use than Skype.", according to ZDNet

I don't know about you, but it sounds like people who use Zoom just released a sigh of relief. It's as if there has been a problem all along and now Zoom is here to solve them.

Let's think about the functionality, isn't Skype and Hangout has all the functionality user would need to hold a video call? The screen sharing feature is not new, it has been found in Skype and I remembered using it in 2013. So with almost the same functionality, why users prefer Zoom over Skype or Hangout?

A Pain In The Skype

From other people's opinions which I wrote on top, I am starting to see a pattern here. On top of how great the video quality and the simple infrastructure is, there is one aspect that keeps being repeated by many Zoom users. Which is how good the user experience is.

Reading all the comments on how users love how easy it is to use Zoom proves how the classic video call software such as Skype or Hangouts doesn't provide a very good user experience in the first place.

I am starting to remember the pain of using Skype since I was required to use Skype in my previous job.

Some of the problems with Skype:

1. Adding new contact is such a painful process. I have to search Skype ID or email and sometimes that can't be found. Searching by their name resulting in many results that I don't know which one I should add. It is also weird how I can just search any name and any person can come up on the list and I can add them randomly. Makes me think this is a really easy way for scammer and spammers to operate. In Zoom, at least spammers and scammers have to have a valid email address.

2. Inviting new participants for your video conference was difficult. But they have improved it now. So just like Zoom, you can now copy links and share them easily.

3. Signing up on Skype is still difficult up until now. It could be due to it is owned by Microsoft, so we can't really login/sign up with Google or another account with just one button click. In the image below, we can see that we can even login with our Facebook account in Zoom with just 1 click of a button.

4. The "Home" interface is not straightforward. The button to start a meeting is a bit difficult to find. It seems like their chat feature is more important than starting a meeting, which confused me as I thought Skype is mainly promoted for its video call feature (I am not sure about this part)

5. Annotation in screen sharing is not there in the basic Skype feature. I heard you can install a third-party app, but most of the time, users prefer to be able to do it without installing anything.

6. Even starting a meeting is confusing as Skype doesn't start the meeting right away and just want you to do some configuration first. You can choose to start a chat instead of a meeting, although you click on the "Start Meeting" button. I think this might be confusing to the users as their intention is to start a meeting, not a chat.

There are probably more problems but these are all I can find as a product designer. Overall, I find Skype UI and UX is weird and not straightforward, this could be because they are a combination of IM and video-call at the same time. Some companies might use Skype for their IM and I could understand why this resulting in a pretty confusing product for many users because we are used to using the separated products for messaging and video calls for work. I personally feel it's not a really good way of work to use Skype for IM and video call at the same time. It's almost like using WhatsApp for company IM. There is nothing wrong with combining the features and focus on them both. But when it comes to users that just want to get the video call done, it can be really confusing.

On the other hand, Zoom makes it very clear and straightforward that it is a video conferencing platform, therefore it can simplify its product interface and experience. When user just want to get the video conference call done, using Zoom is simple. When users think of video conferences, they think of Zoom.

So, am I saying that Zoom with just slightly more features and have a better user interface/experience makes them grow so big? Yes.

The User Experience Era

Zoom's experience and interface win big time against its competitor. It is simple, clear, and easy to use. Sure, it is not perfect but compared to its big competitor, it's far ahead. Imagine a company called Zoom Communications that people rarely heard of before can now beat Microsoft and Google's product.

Even Zoom themselves know how good the user experience their product has and launched a campaign with this message.

This tells us that by just having a better user experience, you can grow way ahead of your competitors.

If we think about it, Zoom doesn't really have super big marketing. Its product basically sells itself. It provides a good user experience and people started to share it.

From Zoom, I think companies should learn to invest more in creating better products with a better user experience. A product that the staff itself love to use, a product that they can show you exactly how easy/enjoyable it is to use, instead of spending tons of money not focusing on the user experience and instead splurge on the marketing and hope it's going to work.

It doesn't matter if you are a startup or a giant company. People might use a product that has a bad experience because there is nothing else on the market and it might make some companies think that there's no point in focusing on user experience since they are successful anyway. But it's worth noting that once a new company started to do exactly what the big company has done except making with a better experience, it won't take long for people to stop buying from the big company.


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Leni Tjahjadi

Product Designer
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