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Designing a communication software with audio/video chat starts to have a lot of chat controls and the UI starts to get cluttered. I am wondering if getting rid of application's volume control and depending on master volume control of the computer is a good UX or not.

  • As a user I would say no, I like to be able to manage the audio volume from the apps that generate audio themselves, to balance everything out with the other apps. This can be done using the volume mixer (on Windows), but that may be too advanced for some users. – Drown Nov 15 '16 at 0:38
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Unless your application will be the only application running (for example, you are designing this for a kiosk) then I suppose it can work, but for all other applications this is not a good idea for many reasons:

  1. As a user, I would like to mute only your stream, without muting the entire system; which is not intuitive at all for most users. It is possible with a few right clicks on Windows (haven't seen this option on macOS), but it is not intuitive at all.

  2. Why work against the tide? It has become the de facto standard that video players have a play / pause or stop button, a timeline / scrubber, and a volume control in that specific order at the bottom of the widget. Your users will be accustomed to see things that way.

You can hide the control bar when the cursor is not in focus on the video stream, and only display once the mouse moves over the stream - this is often how full screen media applications work, but it doesn't mean you can't try it as part of a larger user interface.

  • I should have added that there's already a mute button which exists separately on the audio controls. I am trying to imagine how many people lower volume (not mute) of a video/audio conference to listen to something else. Especially, in a business scenario. – Rohan Gaikwad Nov 19 '16 at 1:31
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I agree with @BurhanKhalid answer. I just wanted to point out an idea. Apps could be left without individual volume controller if none of them have one and all relied on the system volume controller (a single controller). Apps would still need a mute button though.

This gives the user less control but a simpler experience. If I am not wrong this is how it works in most phones.

  • On iOS and Android, there are different channels and volumes can be adjusted for each individually - this means you can set "media" lower than "phone". The volume controllers change depending on the context, so when you are playing a media file, the volume controls adjust that specific channel. As far as I am aware, only the iPhone has a universal mute button, which mutes all channels. – Burhan Khalid Nov 15 '16 at 9:58
  • Well, it divides the volume on the most specific phone tasks, at least in my Android, which are: phone, alarms, everything else. On a pc, I am not sure which would these "main categories" be. – Alvaro Nov 15 '16 at 10:02
  • It depends on the operating system. MacOS only has one master channel, which controls everything coming out of the speakers. On Windows, each application that is playing a stream gets its own channel, so you can (although it is not obvious and definitely not intuitive to many), control the volume of your browser individually. These extra channels are only shown when something is playing though; so if nothing is playing through your browser, you won't have a channel to control - and finally, to make matters worse, it is upto to the application to support this and not all do. – Burhan Khalid Nov 15 '16 at 10:09
  • On MacOS apps can have an individual control (inside the app), although it is not displayed in a main control-board as on Windows. I guess the point is either All or None. Thanks @BurhanKhalid, great thoughts on the subject! – Alvaro Nov 15 '16 at 10:15

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