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Voice Chat Program


Usability Test
A Comparison of

Skype

And

Curse

Table of Contents
Introduction:.......................................................................................................................3
Methodology:......................................................................................................................3
Tasks:..............................................................................................................................3
Testing Environment:......................................................................................................4
Testing Evaluation:..........................................................................................................4
Results/Analysis:................................................................................................................4
Task 1:.............................................................................................................................4
Task 2:.............................................................................................................................6
Task 3:.............................................................................................................................6
Task 4:.............................................................................................................................7
Task 5:.............................................................................................................................9
Task 6:...........................................................................................................................10
Task 7:...........................................................................................................................11
Task 8:...........................................................................................................................12
Task 9:...........................................................................................................................13
Task 10:.........................................................................................................................14
Conclusion:.......................................................................................................................15

Introduction:
This White paper shows the findings from a usability test of two free voice
chat programs: Skype and Curse Voice. Both of these programs are very well
known as ways to communicate over the internet and are very similar in
their structure. This similarity is the purpose of the usability test to compare
their error tolerance, efficiency, and how easy the tasks are to learn of both
programs. The usability test was set under the presumption that the user
had the ability to use computers for everyday tasks, but had no previous
knowledge of how the programs worked and would learn have to learn all the
basics. The ability to learn and do these basic functions were used as the
components of the usability test that would compare the two programs.

Methodology:
Tasks:
In my usability test I went through the following ten basic tasks that would
be required to be able to use the programs effectively. For this test I only
tested the internet voice chat capabilities of both programs because Curse
does not allow telephone calls or video calls.
1. The program has the capabilities to allow the user to personalize their
experience with it.
2. The program has the ability to start calls in a quick manner.
3. Adding people to an existing call is a readily available option.
4. The program allows the user to call multiple people at once.
5. The program allows text based chat both within and outside of calls.
6. Choosing the microphone input is intuitive.
7. Changing the levels of the users microphone is intuitive.
8. Choosing the audio output is intuitive.
9. Adjusting the volume of the entire call and individual people in the call.
10.
The ability to use and adjust the program while working on other
things.
I chose these tasks because they include the necessary skills that are
required of the user to make both of the programs function to their full
potential. Task one is different from the other tasks in that it doesnt directly
involve the communication functions of the programs, but the
personalization capabilities of a program allows the user to have more or less

information about them on their account other than their own name allowing
the users to be unique from each other. The other nine tasks all revolve
around the basic communication abilities of the programs that are required
to use them properly.

Testing Environment:
The area that I did my testing in was my room, and I used my PC desktop
and my Corsair headset that has a microphone on it for both voice input and
audio output. This is a normal setup for the use of these programs because
all that is needed for these programs are a computer, speakers, and a
microphone. The only difference that could be made would be a computer
that contains in internal microphone such as a laptop, which wouldnt change
the tasks used in the usability test at all.

Testing Evaluation:
For the evaluation of my tests I had three main criteria for the programs
usability for each of the tasks. The first criteria was the programs efficiency
at completing the task. This focused on how quickly the user was able to
complete the task once how to do it was understood. The second criteria was
how easy it was to learn how to do the task including how intuitive it was.
Unless the user was not able to figure out how to complete the task the user
wasnt allowed to look up how to complete the task. The third criteria I used
was how error tolerant the program was such that if you made a mistake the
program would either fix itself or show you what you need to do to complete
the task correctly. For each of the criteria, I used a 6 point Likert Scale
ranging from strongly, moderately, or slightly agreeing or disagreeing with
my criteria for each task that was tested. I used 6 points to make it so there
would be no neutral answers in my testing and just positive and negative.

Results/Analysis:
For my results I will go in numerical order of my tasks and have the results
and analysis for both Skype and Curse together. I will talk about the results of
the tests and show any relevant pictures relating to the task and a graph
showing the Likert Scale scores for each criteria. This would then be analyzed
and show which program did the task better.

Task 1:
The program has the capabilities to allow the user to personalize
their experience with it.
For this task I looked at the capabilities of the program to: change the profile
picture, change personal information, and adding friends. Changing the
profile in both programs in both programs was very easy to learn. Skype had
some trouble with this task in comparison to Curse because there were no
default pictures to be chosen from and only certain parts of a picture could
be shown unless they were a perfect square and this is why it scored a five in
efficiency and error tolerance, whereas curse had a myriad of choices and
allowed scaling of custom pictures to fit into the profile bubble. Both
programs had ample room for personalization of the users account including
where the user is from and personal messages about themselves. For adding
friends and acquaintances to personal friends lists for talking to Curse had
the upper hand because of its ability to use accounts information from other
programs, such as video games and Facebook, to give you friend suggestions
making it easy to find others. Skype only allowed direct searching of names
which would have to be acquired from the other user using other forms of
communication to add them to the users friends list.

Task 1 Skype

Task 1 Curse

Efficient

Easy to Learn

Error Tolerant

Efficient

Easy to Learn

Error Tolerant

For task one, both programs did a good job on the Likert Scale, but Curse
pulled out slightly better due to its efficiency and error tolerance at
completing the task.

Task 2:
The program has the ability to start calls in a quick manner.
For this task I chose to use a time based efficiency test for how quickly a call

could be made including the time that it took to connect to a server to host
the call. Both programs were able to start calls in just a few clicks, but when
it came to connecting to a server to host the call before adding the other
person skype took about five seconds while Curse took less than a second to
start the call.

Task 2 Curse

Task 2 Skype
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Efficient

Easy to Learn

Error Tolerant

Efficient

Easy to Learn Error Tolerant

Both programs had very close scores in testing this task, but Skype scored a
five in its efficiency due to the time that it took for the program to start up
the call once it was initiated giving Curse a slight upper hand for this task.

Task 3:
Adding people to an existing call is a readily available option.
For this task I started a call and then proceeded to try and add people to the
call. When trying this on Skype my first time I tried just calling another
person and expected it to add that person to an existing call, but instead it
hung up on the previous call and started a new call with the new person. I
later found that at the bottom of the current call is a plus sign that contains
an option to add people to the current call. This option not being in plain
sight made it slightly confusing at first, but once it was used it opened a
menu that allowed you to choose people from your list of acquaintances and
add them to your call. When trying this in Curse after I had the original call I
simply right clicked on the person I wanted to add to the call and instead of
starting a new call it would simply add them to the existing call.

Task 3 Curse

Task 3 Skype
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Efficient

Easy to Learn Error Tolerant

Efficient

Easy to Learn

Error Tolerant

Due to the slight mishaps that happened during my Skype tests I gave it a slightly lower
score in its error tolerance and effieciency. Unlike curse it took many mouse clicks to
add people to the call and unless you did it correctly would hang up on current calls.

Task 4:
The program allows the user to call multiple people at once.
For this task I tried to find out how to make a group in the program to be able
to call multiple people at the same time. On the Skype side I had trouble
figuring out how to create a group in the first place, but when I did it was
fairly simple to add people to the group conversation that could be called.
The only problem with this capability for Skype was that the groups were not
permanent and would last only for about a week if it wasnt being used. On
the other hand Curse had a large link on the main page of the program to
form a group, which brought you to a page that allowed the naming and
picturing of the group and adding friends to the group to be formed.

Task 4 Skype

Task 4 Curse

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Both of these programs had very good group systems embedded into them.
The only difference between them was Skypes harder to learn interface for
making a group.

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Task 5:
The program allows text based chat both within and outside of calls.
This test was to see how well the programs functioned at sending text based chat to
other users both within and outside of the call. Both programs lived up to this task to
the fullest allowing you to send messages to people outside of a call including chat
history with the person. Both programs had the same functionality inside calls being
able to press the text bubble button to open the calls chat which allowed for text as
well as pictures and links to websites that want to be shared.

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Task 5 Skype

Task 5 Curse
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Efficient

Easy to Learn Error Tolerant

For this test both programs scored full points in the Likert Scale in providing
text based chat between users. They even surpassed this allowing the
embedding of pictures and videos within the chat.

Task 6:
Choosing the microphone input is intuitive.
When testing this task for both programs getting to the microphone input
setting is harder than it should be. In skype the audio settings were not in
the normal place for settings, but rather in the options for call on the top
menu bar. Once it was found though choosing the audio input was a simple
scroll list to choose from the available options attached to your computer. For
Curse finding the audio settings meant going into a call first at which point
one of the option bubbles at the bottom of the call would have audio settings
allowing for changing input. Once inside the options menu the layout was
similar to Skypes with a dropdown menu letting you choose which
microphone to use of the ones available on your device.

Task 6 Skype

Task 6 Curse

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For both of the programs they lacked very intuitive ways to change the
microphone input and required more effort than they should for an option
that is very important for communication with other users.

Task 7:
Changing the levels of the users microphone is intuitive.
For this task I looked further into the audio options for the microphone to
change the levels at which the mic would pick up sound to help get rid of
background sounds that would otherwise be picked up. I wasnt able to find
this option in Skype and when I looked it up finally I found that there was no
way to manually control this setting. On the other hand Curse had an option
to both have it set manually or automatically. This setting isnt the most
important one, but not having the opportunity to manually set it meant that
if there was an annoying background sound that wasnt automatically taken
out by the program meant that it would have to be dealt with throughout the
entire call.

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Task 7 Skype

Task 7 Curse

Efficient

Easy to Learn Error Tolerant

For this test Skypes inability to manually change the activation levels in the
mic lowered its score considerably in comparison to Curse which had an easy
to use scale to adjust the setting manually.

Task 8:
Choosing the audio output is intuitive.
This test was fairly similar to the test for task 6 because the settings for
audio output were in the same place as the microphone input in both
programs.

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Task 8

Task 8

Efficient

Easy to Learn Error Tolerant

Efficient

Easy to Learn Error Tolerant

The results of this task ended up being the same as the results from task 6 where it was
hard to find the options at first, but once they were found it was a very easy time
changing them.

Task 9:
Adjusting the volume of the entire call and individual people in the
call.

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For this task I started up a call with a couple of friends of mine in both
programs. I then tried to figure out how to change the volume of both the
entire call and the individuals within the call. When trying this in Skype I was
able to find a way to change the entire calls volume through the options
menu for the call, which took many clicks. I was unable to find a way to
change the volume on an individual persons level. This made it hard to hear
one friend in comparison to another due to him being quieter than the other.
When trying this on Curse I had a much easier time with both parts of this
task due to the fact that each person had their own volume slider as well as
there being a volume slider for the whole call. This made it easy to adjust
individual people to be the same volume as others in the call allowing me to
hear them.

Task 9

Task 9

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For this task Skype scored very low in its efficiency due to there not being an
option in call to change the volume and also not having the choice to change
the volume of individual people.

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Task 10:
The ability to use and adjust the program while working on other
things.
The test for this task was starting a call and then going into other windows
such as a video game or a web browser and seeing what options were
available. When using a web browser while in a call both programs had a
little pop-up showing the status of the call that could be double clicked to
bring up the call. Curse also had in-game overlays that allowed for adjusting
the call and also adding new people without having to return to the program.
This allowed me to not have to leave my current work when I needed to add
another person to the call. Skype lacked this option entirely.

Task 10 Skype

Task 10 Curse

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I gave Skype a score of five in its efficiency due to its lack of an overlay
within other programs meaning I would have to leave the program to adjust
the call. Curse earned a six in its efficiency since it allowed for this option
through an overlay.
Conclusion:
In my comparison between Skype and Curse I found that both programs do a
good job in their abilities as voice chat programs. I found however, that in
the scope of their voice chat capabilities that Curse scored a good amount
higher overall on the Likert Scales for the ten tasks. Curses interface had a
much more efficient way of doing the necessary tasks for communicating
than Skypes interface making it better for use while working on other
projects. An improvement that could be made to both of the programs would
be a better way to adjust the inputs and outputs for audio rather than having
to delve further than necessary into the program.

Total Curse

Total Skype

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I tallied up the total scores for each of the programs to show a better visual
representation of the comparison between the programs. Curse scored a
higher total in all three categories for testing. With these totals in mind I
concluded that for the purpose of being a voice chat program, Curse ended
up being the overall better program due to its easy to use interface and
efficiency at doing integral tasks for calling and adjusting calls.