Hangouts, where’s my mute?

I mostly use Hangouts to communicate with friends and family. While at work on my laptop, I use the Chrome extension for Hangouts. The rest of the time I use the iPhone app. The user experience between these two versions is not the same though, because the navigation menu is so different.

I think the iPhone app has the superior layout and use of space.

screenshot of the Hangouts iPhone app with title at the top and a menu bar with options favorite, voice, invite, video, mute, details
Google Hangouts iPhone app

With one tap of the menu icon, you get access to most of the hangout features, the rest of which are available by tapping the “Details” icon.

Conversely, in the browser extension the same features are either missing or work differently.

screenshot of the extension menu bar with icons for video call, people, and options
Google Hangouts extension chat window

I am most annoyed that the ‘Mute’ function is missing because I use it frequently. It’s located under the ‘Options’ icon, labeled “Notifications”, and is turned on/off with a check box.

screenshot of the Hangouts extension 'Options' screen with edit name, notifications check box, history check box, archive, and leave
Google Hangouts extension ‘Options’ screen


After unchecking the “Notifications” box, you have to click ‘Save’ to return to the chat window. The total interaction requires three clicks, context switching, and a confirmation action. After turning off notifications, though, the menu bar displays an indication icon.

menu bar showing a mute icon for the chat
Hangouts extension notifications off

Clicking the ‘Mute’ icon now performs the same action as clicking the ‘Options’ icon and you have to check the “Notifications” checkbox to turn them back on.

Design Recommendations

  1. Add the ‘Mute’ icon and allow for single click to turn notifications on or off
  2. Use consistent labels—change “Notifications” to “Mute” and “Options” to “Details”
screenshot of extension menu bar design with mute icon added and options icon updated to match the app
Updated menu bar with mute icon

Favorites doesn’t seem to be supported in the extension and it never remembers my favorites in the app, so I don’t see this as missing on the desktop. Not including Voice is questionable, it could open up Google Voice, but using that on desktop is also not something I do. Video hangouts cover both.

Waze, what is that bar on the left for?

I’ve been using Waze for a few months now, and every now and then, a bar shows up on the left side. I’d glance down and see that it showed “something” was estimated to happen (or last?) for a few minutes, but I could not figure out what. We have a hands-free law here, so I could not legally take my phone off its holder and look at it more closely.

photo inside a car of an iPhone in a phone holder, displaying the Waze app map
Waze app in my car

The screen is probably 18″ from my eyes and I wear polarized sunglasses which makes the app even harder to interpret when glancing down for fractions of a second.

It took using Waze as a passenger to see that the bar’s label also had the word “Jam” (traffic jam?) in a light blue font. However, other times I’ve been driving and the bar has no label, so I’m still not sure what it’s for!

screenshot of the Waze map with a status bar on the left side that has no label to indicate its purpose
Waze left bar with no label

Design Recommendation

This is an easy one. Change the font color to white and bold it so that the word “Jam” is just as visible as the time estimate. And always include a label to indicate why the bar is there.

Waze map showing an orange status bar with "Jam 7 minutes"
Screen capture of the Waze map screen

Making Connections with Siren

I first heard about Siren, “A dating site that gives women more control,” earlier this year on NPR. It opened up this week to more communities, and I decided to try it out.

In lieu of a standard profile, Siren has people answer ‘Questions of the Day’. Women can chose to hide their profiles while men cannot and they have to approve any connection requests before receiving messages.

I find myself at a crossroads because of a serious UX flaw: What happens when I click the “Accept?” button for a connection request?

screen shot of the Siren app connections screen with two request
Siren app ‘Connections’ screen
  • Why does the button have a question mark?
  • If I click the button, will it automatically accept the request? Because I don’t see a ‘reject’ or ‘ignore’ option.
  • If I click the button, does it then give me an option to reject?

The main purpose of the app is to connect people, yet I find myself ready to walk away at precisely that point because I don’t want to get connected to someone by mistake, nor do I want to have a perpetual list of requests I’m not interested in.

On a user’s profile, I have the options to ‘Block User’ or ‘Report User’, neither of which is what I want to do.

For curiosity’s sake, I’ll click the damn “Accept?” button…

And there’s my answer. Clicking the button accepted the connection request, with no option to reject, and I see no option to disconnect. Bad, bad, bad.

Design Recommendations

    • Remove the question mark from the “Accept” button, remove ambiguity about what clicking the button does.
    • Provide an “Ignore” button too.
Connections screen with an ignore option added
Connections screen with an ‘Ignore’ button added
  • I found that on a user’s profile you can click some text that reads ‘Connected’ to remove the connection. I really dislike when UIs try to make text and buttons do double duty. It’s never clear, especially when the text isn’t shaped like a link or button. Just provide a ‘Remove’ button.

    Before and after screens for 'remove connection' options
    Add a ‘Remove Connection’ button