The UX of Videoconferencing

The UX of Videoconferencing
The importance of usability in design

A fully functional video conferencing user experience is now par for the course within enterprise level circles. Your prospects, clients and partners now expect reliable uptime and full service features. Any shortcomings are reflected upon your brand rather than the conferencing provider.

The WebRTC standard is bringing a stability to video conferencing that enterprise level companies can trust, with a full scale feature set that combines the convenience of Google Hangout with the robust functionality of a Citrix brand line product.

The Basics of WebRTC Joint Functionality

Three APIs provide the basic foundation of WebRTC apps, giving developers the means to more easily develop powerful user experiences.

  • RTCDataChannel – Enables data/file transfer among peers.
  • getUserMedia – Gives the browser the capacity to capture audiovisual information through the hardware camera and microphone
  • RTCPeerConnection – Builds the actual connection between two or more browsers to enable an audio or video call

Because these APIs are the basis of every WebRTC application, there is no additional software or download required to start using videoconferencing features. In some cases, you may require a specific kind of infrastructure on the backend for NAT traversal or setting up a call: Wildix provides all needed hardware and handles this aspect of implementation.

Expansion Into True Web Development

WebRTC gives a wider swath of developers the ability to build on videoconferencing technology. In past business generations, learning the syntax and language to improve audiovisual tech required a background in VoIP. Lowering the barriers to entry for development creates a more open source environment that will improve the technology more quickly, allowing for a more accelerated path to optimized functionality.

The New Opportunities

Developers can now create incredibly contextual experiences for clients as well. Because every WebRTC live video conference is embedded in a window that can be prioritized, minimized and engaged in the same way as any other browser application, users can apply a precise context to each interaction. There are many applications for this type of interaction, including the following:

  • A smooth videoconferencing workflow – Through WebRTC, developers can put videoconferencing options within the context of a workflow. A call could begin as soon as a user accesses a web page, right after an information grab or immediately after a subscription payment.
  • Tiered access to videoconferencing – From a WebRTC base, videoconferencing can be limited based on a preset block of permissions. Conditions can also be applied differently within separate user groups, and the conditions to utilize videoconferencing can be made very clear to users. This UX fragmentation provides many opportunities for paywalls and subscription services that are made more valuable through the exclusive live access.
  • Precision controls – Incorporate overlays into a conversation temporarily to emulate the multitiered levels of communication that occur face to face. Change the size of basic controls to fall into the background on a larger display and expand for easy access on a mobile touchscreen. Other features such as automatic downgrades, microinteractions, precall screening and creating an information hierarchy can all be applied as needed for a better user experience.

Because we offer an API, the sky’s the limit in what you can do to integrate robust WebRTC functionality into your website, or web app. If your UX and frontend team want to add communications capabilities, chances are, they can integrate our API to create a world-class, effective user experience.

Design Notes to Consider

With more potential comes more responsibility – users will be much more precise in their wish lists. Here are a few design notes that most companies will likely ask about:

  • How does the UX handle notifications/invitations?

This will be an especially important aspect of browser based videoconferencing during the period in which the business community is still being socialized to the idea. Developers need to create a slightly more obvious notification until the technology becomes fully integrated. Wildix provides notifications that keep teams productive, while making sure they never miss a call or chat.

  • How will the back and forth between windows work?

Can you design a UX that gives users the ability to put relevant information beside a live videoconference in a single window, or is there an easy way to move back and forth between an information window and the conferencing window?

  • Covering for mistakes

For all of its advantages, WebRTC is not a perfect platform, and Internet connections are far from perfect. Does the UX account for whitelists so that you do not have to completely reset a call, sending your discussion partner through another round of permissions if the call ends unexpectedly? What if your discussion partner hits the wrong button and hangs up or disallows microphone access? To fully enable business processes, developers must take human error (and connection errors) into account. Here at Wildix, we aim to do just that by keeping interactions simple, so the learning curve is minimal for the end user, while keeping the backend robust—so robust that the user never needs to notice it, because it simply works.

We are headed towards an era of communication in which every form of outreach will meld into others, and WebRTC development is leading the way. The aspects of each new WebRTC-based platform iteration prioritized by different developers will certainly be influenced by the business applications that inspire them. The WebRTC standard is great simply because it allows the freedom to fully realize these inspirations to create directed, viable user experiences.

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