Simplifying The BigBlueButton UI

With the BigBlueButton open source web conferencing platform growing, we are always looking to push open source web conferencing tools further.  We also want to constantly improve the overall user experience.

Hence, as with every release, we’re always asking ourselves “How can we make BigBlueButton simpler?”

In the current release, an obvious area for simplification is the separated Users and Listeners window.

Why two windows?  In the early days of BigBlueButton, users needed to call into the voice conference through the phone system (BigBlueButton didn’t have built in VoIP like it does today).  The separate Users and Listeners windows make it easy for the moderator to see who was on-line and who had called in.

Nowadays, with the built-in VoIP, based on our observations, over ninety five percent of the BigBlueButton sessions use the built-in VoIP.  Hence, having two separate windows the moderator sees two lists of users with the same names.

Furthermore, the two window design presents usability problems when a user raises their hand (in the User’s window) and the moderator needs to mute them in the Listeners window.  When there are many users in a session (such as twenty five), it may take a moment for the moderator to locate the user.

To simplify BigBlueButton interface, we’ve decided to combine the Users and Listeners window into a single window: Participants. See the screen shot below for the moderator’s view of this window.

This screenshot shows everyone’s status on the far left (presenter, moderator, or raising their hand). On the far right, it shows what media sources each user is sharing (audio or webcam).

At the top of the screenshot, above the Participant’s window, you can see the familiar icons for sharing the desktop, webcam, and microphone.  We’ve redesign them so they match their counterparts in the Participant’s window.

The two buttons at the bottom of the Participant’s window provide the moderator general controls, such as enabling the moderator to switch the presenter role to another user.

For the viewer, the Participants window allows them to see the names, statuses and inputs of their colleagues (just as for the Moderator).   However, they have only buttons at the bottom: one to raise a hand, and another to mute/unmute their microphone.

The unification of the Users and Listener window will result in a more simplified experience for the viewers and moderator.  We believe that anytime we can simplify the user experience in a BigBlueButton release, we are headed in the right direction.


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