I'm working on a project that involves displaying a text-only conversation between anywhere from two to ten or more people. The reader will be either zero or one of the participants.
The main UI will be web-based, but native clients may appear in the future.
For a two-person conversation I would show one person on one side of the screen and the other person on the other side, as most chat and IM apps do. If the reader was one of the participants their messages would be highlighted.
But, as computer screens are generally limited to two dimensions, the above doesn't scale well for a conversation between more than two people.
So, what's the most user-friendly way to go about displaying conversations between more than two people? The ability to scale with varying numbers of people would be a huge bonus, as would be the ability to handle cases where the reader is one of the members of the conversation.
If there's a take on the conventional 'speech bubbles' pattern that works, great, but I'm also not wedded to that and happy to consider completely alternate options.
Note: No, I'm not making another chat app. The world has enough of those already :-)