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Aside: Imagine you’re driving down the road and you need to make a right turn. Well, for some reason the steering wheel is stowed away and disappeared! You need to hover your hand around the center console in a specific area to be able to expose it. Out comes the steering wheel and now you can make a right turn.

Google UX/UI team: Please fucking make the mute/unmute button visible at all times.




Isn't this sort of a Fizz Buzz for a UX/UI design professional? I don't mean to demean anyone, but I see this sort of a thing literally everywhere. Hiding important and absolutely crucial information (that can make or break your product) in the name of minimalism. Coming out of a company that has one of the highest hiring bars for software engineering, and yet, their products have such an awful UX/UI. This isn't an exception, it is a pattern.


I worked as a freelance graphic artist/web designer once and while I wasn't bad at the job, I really hated one aspect of it: Everybody and their kid thought they knew better than I did. When I said: "Yeah but this should really be visible, because accessibility", they would say: " But it looks better if..."

People in high paid position certainly want "has taste" and "knows what looks good" to be part of their self image. Many fails in design and architecture happen for that reason alone.

I then ended up programming and working in film sound, because very few people in both fields tell you what to do when they have no idea what's going on.


Ah ha, someone with the same experience as me. My degree is in Graphic Design, but I immediately ditched the idea of using it after university and took up programming instead because everyone has a fucking opinion when it comes to design.


> took up programming instead because everyone has a fucking opinion when it comes to design

I'm guessing code peer-reviews aren't a think at your org.


Imagine a pointy-haired boss, or some rando in Marketing doing your code review (shudders) "That value is a trademarked name of our product - I mean variable - please capitalize it and add a (TM)" I'm glad I don't get noob oversight the way designers do.


I gave up working for clients as a whole. I don't have a problem with feedback, but I hate people dismissing the expertise they hired me to provide.


What do you do as a programmer in film sound? How did you get into that? Sounds very niche/interesting


I actually studied film and through my music experience I was always "the sound guy" programming was actually more like a hobby until it turned out I am actually not bad at it.


I did a fair amount of indie films and know sound guys, so the part I am confused about is: what are you programming in film sound? is it per-film, or like software for film sound in general?


> in the name of minimalism

Ironically forgetting that visual minimalism produced by hiding things isn’t really minimalism.

It would be like me throwing all my things in the garage and advertising my house as Spartan. No, it’s not, it’s a mess. The mess is just hidden until I need to do something.


"Hiding important and absolutely crucial information"

If we want to give awards for this my vote would go to Apple. I find their products to be horrific when it comes to completely undiscoverable features. iOS is bad on its own but the Apple TV is a total train wreck. I couldn't get rid of that thing with its awful interface and remote fast enough.


I still vote for the Material Design fad. They've named nondiscoverability a virtue.

Can we go to Windows 3.11 design please?


Like the touch bar...


Exactly. Everybody does this. In anything using video, UI elements apparently need to be hidden as much as possible. In virtual meetings, Youtube, and it's often an option in games.

And sometimes it's great, because you get to focus on the content, and sometimes it's not, because you lose control. It's something that should be optional or configurable. It's great to have shortcuts for the most common commands (like space for pause in youtube), and I guess it would make a lot of sense if video conferencing tools also had such a shortcut for mute/unmute.

But again, give people more control over their UI. There are too many applications that mess this up one way or another.


But this has been a solved problem for ages.... just move your mouse a tiny bit, and all the controls are exposed, with large, visible buttons, help text, etc, click whatever you need to, and the controls slowly dissapear, revealing the video.

Having to find the exact spot to hover your mouse is a bad UX


I don't disagree, but all the video conferencing tools have a shortcut for mute/unmute. Google Meet included (Cmd+D on a Mac).


But what's the shortcut for the random conference tool the organizers of this meeting decided to use?

Just make it visible. It's supposed to be a tool, function over form.


Which also happens to be the shortcut for bookmarking webpages in most browsers... and Meet doesn't let you rebind this to something sane like spacebar.


Not to mention the window might not have focus when you need to use it, making it preatty unreliable.


My laptop has a mute button with a status led - an absolute godsend this year.


Yes, but they're also all different, so you need to play mind games to remember what the shortcut is for which solution.

Global hotkey would be nicer, I think.


It's the absolute disdain for the user, the aim for lowest possible common denominator.


> their products have such an awful UX/UI

This is true. I find Android UI so offensive that if I did not have iOS as an alternate I probably would carry a dumb phone and live like a monk. I can’t stand the miles of white space and brightly coloured tiny UI controls.

Evokes such a visceral reaction in me that even I am startled at times haha


[flagged]


Autistic?


Yeah, the post is 4 hours old and still not flagged.. Downvote cast; I personally find that way of speaking offensive.

EDIT: Thanks fellow mods. I have a son on the spectrum.


As a developer I'm a huge fan of Google Cloud. But I'd actually think really hard about chosing them if I started by own business, as the customer service is both expensive and woeful.


That and it's google, will [insert service here] exist in 10 years time?


That's very true. Although so far no GCP services that I've come across have been deprecated.



More important than the button is the status indicator - I need to know if the call is muted or not. Even better, promote it to an OS-level icon/badge/overlay. If my mic is actively in use, please make it blindingly obvious.


The color indicator for mic on/off is terribly for Meet.


Absolutely horrible. Both states are equally plausible in the UI.


I already have it on my Thinkpad with KDE Plasma.

Physical button to block the microphone, LED on the button itself and a tray icon with the microphone status displayed.


I have it on my IdeaPad with Pop_OS, too. The buttons work as intended and you can easily mute/unmute at any time whatever application has the focus.


It's a toggle switch. The action and its current status is combined.


And then I have to keep hovering over the icon and guessing from the tooltip whether I'm muted or not. Unfortunately, different software tends to be inconsistent with toggle buttons - sometimes the icon tells you what is, sometimes it tells you what will happen if you click it.


The only software that gets vide-co right is probably Discord

I used MS Teams and zoom and both are decent (ms teams works fine for school)

but it's insanely unbelievable that this kind of software lacks of features that gaming communities had probably 20 years ago

PUSH TO TALK is probably one of the most important features of any voice software. The lack of it is big WTF.

It gives you 100% control over when you're talking and you don't have to alt-tab between programs in order to "mute" yourself.

You can bind it to e.g MOUSE3 (scroll-push) and it works fine with other programs, games and stuff. Switching between muted/unmuted is different thing.

From somebody who uses/used ventrilo, mumble, teamspeak and nowadays discord for like last 12 years for hours per day, almost everyday.


For push to talk to work, you need to have access to keys even when you're not in focus.

That's not something doable today on the web for obvious security reasons, but it's possible for Discord that has a separate app, would be doable for Zoom too I guess.


Zoom has PTT but only if the window is in focus, which kind of kills the actual use case. https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360000510003-Push-...


Interesting sidenote: PTT works fairly well on mobile. I'm in a lot of meetings where folks are using their computers for video and "dial in" for audio on mobile so that they can continue working and then PTT on the phone which is now functionally a giant dedicated button for speaking.


MS Teams, Discord, Skype and all older stuff like Ventrilo, TeamSpeak and Mumble - all were (and are) avaliable on Desktop.


It’s even worse on touch devices. You have to touch the bottom screen to get the controls to appear. Accident touch twice in the wrong location and you can hang up.


I've often thought that on a touch screen device the OS should ignore touches on buttons/popups that have been on screen for less time than a human could reasonably have observed it and chosen to interact with it. If I touch the screen 0.05 seconds after a button appears, I was probably _not_ aiming for that button.

In fact, now I think about it, this has happened many times over the years with traditional mouse drive interfaces too.

I'm sure some power users would like to shorten the 'reaction time delay' or even remove it entirely so I guess that should be an option as well.


Honestly with mouse driven interfaces the rule should be that whatever is popping up on screen absolutely cannot put an interactable control under the current mouse cursor location, and no control should have control focus by default.

There's nothing quite like watching a dialog box go flying by because you hit enter at the exact moment it popped up. What was it? What did it do? We'll never know!


My "favorite" instance of that, many years ago, was when the dialog turned out to have said, "Reboot the computer immediately because IT has installed new software." I filed a ticket on that one.


As a "power user" I totally disdain the idea. I know what will appear in programs I use often and touch without waiting for the button to be drawn.


I have similar problems with Zoom.

The mute/unmute changes position and can be hidden in a top bar that slides out. In some fullscreen situations there is no button to get out of fullscreen. Sometimes double-click works, sometimes it doesn't. Recently I could not even alt-tab away, basically my computer got 'locked' by zoom.

https://tacosteemers.com/articles/2020-10-16-ux-anti-pattern...


I imagine most know this by now but the space bar works as a push to talk button in Zoom (as long as it has focus of course).

I really think there is a market for a physical video conference controller. If I could get a hefty slab of something with quality buttons to enable/disable video, push to talk/mute/unmute, bring to foreground, ‘on air’ light and end call, I’d easily pay $100 for it.


These exist, e.g. the Elgato Stream Deck. It's basically a keypad with x buttons (there are various versions) that each are small lcd displays that you can program to show and do anything you want (so you can make it do the 'on air' display thing you mention). Its main use case is for streamers to switch between scenes in their streaming software, but I use it for video conferencing (with OBS's virtual camera) to switch between full-screen camera view and desktop sharing, and do stuff like mute/unmute etc.


Whoa the mini is perfect! One in stock at the local geek shop, definitely going to pick it up. Thank you!!!


Is it possible to use it to control a Zoom session without virtualizing the audio/video input devices? Discord has a local API for that but I haven't found a way to control Zoom calls from another app.


Not sure what you mean by 'control a zoom session', but yes I use it with Zoom. I use OBS to composite video and some audio, I use the OBS virtual camera as the camera device in Zoom, for audio I usually use the straigh microphone stream because it's fiddly to set up (you have to do the mixing outside OBS because OBS doesn't have a virtual audio device).

If you mean that you just want to mute/unmute a zoom session, then also yes - you configure the stream deck to output key press events so you'd program it to output the keyboard shortcuts that you want. Not sure if Zoom has separate mute/unmute shortcuts and if you change settings with the regular keyboard/mouse you might get the display state of the stream deck out of sync with the actual state of the software, that would probably be finicky and/or a lot of work to solve.

I'm still tweaking my setup but using this piece of kit with a good quality webcam, a Blue Yeti mic on an arm, and OBS, being able to control Zoom/MS Teams/Skype in a uniform way, having ultimate control over what part the desktop I share, how I pre-process audio, being able to show my desktop with myself in the corner, ... is already so much better than the clunky default experiences of each of these video conferencing tools. It's like programming with vim - yes I spend an inordinate amount of time 20+ years ago getting proficient with it, but using it just feels like an extension of my brain, like using a Hilti drill hammer vs using a bargain bin Chinese piece of junk.


Thanks for the explanation! Sorry, I got distracted and forgot to write a reply. I don't need the full range of features offered by OBS yet, but I'm strongly considering setting it up just to have control over the video stream. I'm using the Zoom (hah) portable recorder for audio since it offers outstanding audio quality, convenient mic controls and basic signal processing. The problem with controlling apps via keystrokes is exactly what you describe: since the communication is one way, the state of the toggle buttons inevitably gets out of sync. I think maybe using the accessibility API to read the UI state back can help, but I'm not holding my breath.


> I imagine most know this by now but the space bar works as a push to talk button in Zoom (as long as it has focus of course).

I hadn't checked for shortcuts yet! On my install it turns out to be alt + a.


These exist, but they're quite a bit more expensive. They're really nice to have though, and one reason I sometimes miss the office.

https://meetingdevices.withgoogle.com/

I bet there is similar hardware the works with Zoom.

Googler, opinions my own.


Yes! I worked at Crittenden Lane about five years ago and really liked the hardware at the time. The whole thing was eye-opening for me, how seamlessly I could meet with folks whether they were in Zurich or on the second floor...I imagine it has only got better since then.


I bet there is a standard protocol H.323 and a lot of hardware available... but then the garden walls would be breached.


Zoom does this well on the iOS app. They call it "safe driving mode" [1] and half your screen essentially becomes the must/unmute button. You can either tap it or swipe left to unmute.

[1] https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362973-What-Is-...


Every time I go into Present mode in Zoom, it’s panic-inducing. Where the hell did everyone else go? How do I mute? It’s frustrating.


Also stop telling me my camera is disabled. Like, I know it is, I disabled it for a reason.


And stop telling me I'm using an input different than the output. I have a condenser microphone on an audio interface with RTX Voice; no, it's not going to transmit an echo.


COVID taught me that video conferencing is so much more demanding than phone conference bridges.

The best conferencing solutions I’ve used to shame those not using video


Not what you asked for, but you can mute/unmute quickly with the keyboard shortcut: ⌘/Ctrl + d


Ah, yes, of course. D as in mute.


M is taken by minimise, hence the next closest thing is D (for deaf).


But ⌘D is also 'add bookmark' on Mac, at least. So depending on which UI element inside Chrome is focussed, it may not do what you want either.

I've been using this extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-meet-push-t...


Nice, thanks. I have a lot of Meets hanging around in my bookmarks thanks to the focus being slightly wrong when I press command-D.


What would be the logic behind “deaf”? That “mute” is a homonym/polyseme of a word for a disability, so let’s just use the first letter of any disability?


Would it be less arbitrary to add another modifier to the shortcut, rather than use "D"?


The blessed workaround as we say in software engineering, which allows us to move the real issue waay down the backlog indefinitely. :)


And ctrl+e for video


As long as the Meet browser tab _has focus_.


Zoom at least uses Cmd+Shift-A for Audio and V for Video

But as the recent Google Icon kerfuffle, UI/UX is not their strength (probably because of opinionated technical people that think you need to A/B shades of blue)


Teams uses something equally silly, like Ctrl+Shift+M for mute/unmute, IIRC.

Which is pretty annoying, because the mute button is about the most important button in a videoconferencing tool, and I want to have it under a single keypress, so it can be used effortlessly, with my left hand (the same that operates Alt+Tab, while my right hand is on the mouse, scrolling ... well, meeting agenda, let's say).

I'd fix that for myself with AutoHotkey, but I can't, because Teams is just another Electron app, so I can't just look at which UI component has the focus to create a rule, "if focused on Teams video call and not its chat, rebind M to Ctrl+Shift+M".

One of the countless reasons I hate it when people do custom UI, instead of using OS-provided controls.


Google's problem is an incompetent product org. An A/B test would have quickly solved UI issues that lead to accidental or underuse of a feature.


https://www.meetenhancementsuite.com/

Not that you should have to install an extension to get basic UX


To be fair a lot of sites do need it, especially for more power user level UX. See BetterTTV, RES, etc. Sites generally don't target power users, understandably.


The British PM just had to tell a major media journalist to unmute during the press conference introducing the new quasi-lockdown, so I think we can safely say that Mute button and status is no longer a power-user feature ;)


Doesn't Meet, like most other app, have a message when you try to speak muted? Though they should maybe make it more obvious. I do agree that mute button isn't power user.


Speaking of mute/unmute I've not yet found a way to get Google Hangouts (same thing as Meet?) to play nice in situations where simultaneous interpretation is involved. Our company works in Japanese and English and we typically have a second meeting running in parallel for interpretation. This setup almost works, I say almost because I've yet to find a way of muting the audio in one meeting so I can properly listen to the other. I can't leave the first meeting either because often I'll also want to see the presentation slides. Currently I'm working around this by muting my MacBook and joining the second meeting on my phone.

Perhaps I'm missing something obvious (or a Chrome plugin that will allow me to mute based on the page URL rather than site). In the unlikely event that a Googler is reading this I'm not asking for yet another product or complicated new piece of functionality aimed at this specific use case. Just a mute button for audio. Thanks!


> Google Hangouts (same thing as Meet?)

No, vastly different products. Hangouts is the legacy thing and never worked quite right for me. Meet is much better.


The line between the two is not so obvious. Google was calling their new product "Hangouts Meet" until quite recently.


Right click on the tab -> "Mute site".

It works for me for Chromium on Ubuntu.


The problem with that is it mutes the whole domain. I still want to listen to one of the meetings.


Wow that's strange. FWIW Firefox does not do the same domain-level blocking, only tab-level blocking. And as far as I know, Hangouts still works in Firefox.


Ohh, that sucks. You could try running separate Firefox instances in different profiles, then. Domain muting shouldn't apply across those.


A major motivation why I got a StreamDeck was to be able to put a big fat mute button that "physically" kills the microhone level at the source.

It renders a big cross through the microphone when muted.

Simple, yet insanely effective UI (#).

Best thing ever.

#) Especially when compared to the mess that is Google Meet. My favourite "feature" of theirs is how when someone is presenting, it's impossible to view the presentation as just another stream - no they have to make it dominate everything, meaning it's so hard to see the other team members.

And it can be extremely hard to see who's talking when viewing a lot of cameras at the same time. And for whatever reason the quality turns to a blurry mess a far cry from 720p just way too often. (I have fibre internet).


When did you recently use Meet? I just used it yesterday with a gaming session with friends and the console for the mute / unmute was visible at all times. I even just tried it right now.


While you're at it, always display a vu-meter. It gives feedback on what is transmitted and thus can alert a user whether they are being heard or not. It's the most basic of sound recording tools, and was a standard part of recording equipment for over half a century for good reason.

And if you need minimalism, offer a toggle for that. But I think most people should have it forced on them, would save anyone a lot of trouble -- just think about all the aggregate time lost talking into a muted mike by all users.


If you're on Windows, "Digital Level Meter" is an absolute gem: https://www.darkwooddesigns.co.uk/pc2/meters.html

I did donate a contribution to say thank you.



We are in the era of three seashells. There is no turning back from this. Soon you won't be able to find the power button for anything tech industry related.


I looked like an idiot trying to find a power button for a meeting a few weeks back. Literally stood there feeling up the TV for a good few minutes.

I'm a 28 yr old software developer.


“Off switches are illegal.”


> Out comes the steering wheel and now you can make a right turn.

But you will hit a dog probably, because the steering wheel suddenly blocks your view too.


There are so many unnecessary clicks in the Google Meet U.I.

When I leave a meeting, can you please stop asking me for feedback every time and just take me back to the main meet screen?

It would be so easy just to put that small dialogue box on the main meet screen rather than prompt me to click the button to return.


I guess not a lot of people use the main screen at all. It only hass a minicalendar and you probably have another calendar application anyway.


Cmd-D will mute/unmute. I find it much easier than using the mouse.


I find more often than not I end up bookmarking the page with that shortcut.


Also: Consider another shortcut for mute/unmute (cmd + d or ctrl + d is the bookmark shortcut in like every browser... maybe this is intentional?)


Also don't put that damn bar over the subtitles.


Press Ctrl-D to mute/unmute.

Doesn't excuse the UI, but at least this lets you avoid using it!


Which is so odd as CTRL-D is also the bookmark shortcut in Google Chrome. So, say for example, my team has a goto channel where we have our ad-hoc meetings. It's a pain to bookmark it for later use without jumping through the gui.


Zoom has the same issue.

I bought an external microphone for my laptop with a hardware mute button.


unpopular opinion it seems : in personals 1:1 calls, I love seeing the UI disappear and just have a full screen video of my SO/family member.


cmd+D will mute/unmute (ctrl+D on windows?)

I still can't stand the bottom popping up and down and not being able to tell if I'm muted.


MS Teams has finally changed this on their video calls. Ah the hours I spent telling colleagues 'If you move your mouse around, you should see a black bar appear somewhere near the middle llof the screen'.


At this point the bad UI in google products feels intentional. You're supposed to feel helpless on computers and just do whatever they want you to do.




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