This gallery of mute buttons shows why voice chat apps should be push-to-talk

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My colorblind coworker in days of yore could be easily fooled by the old Polycon phone with its green-to-talk, red-to-mute LED indicator.

Also, what’s with the antique RCA capsule microphone as the icon? Isn’t that as meaningless as the floppy disk ‘save’ icon?


There isn’t a self-respecting podcaster or YouTuber alive who hasn’t overspent ridiculous money on that style of microphone, when the one in their crappy boxed earbuds would do just fine.

Literally Google for “podcast mic” and you’ll get a picture of a $100 Blue Yeti or a $200 Røde.


Anarchy in the UI
by the Hex Pixels


Reminds me of “Make the worst volume control you can imagine”.


It seems like the best solution would be to take a page from the play/pause button in media apps and change the icon itself based on the current state of the toggle. A mic icon with no slash means you’re live; a mic with a slash means you’re muted.


Can you suggest an alternative? A modern mic looks like a little dot, or an ice cream.


But that’s also confusing: I expect pressing a mic with a slash to start muting.

And, yeah, I have the same confusion with some media players. Do the double bars mean paused or do I need to tap them to pause?

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Push-to-talk is always your friend. Gamers know this. Everyone else should too.

Fair point. The play/pause toggle icon pretty universally tells you what clicking on it will do, whereas what I suggested indicates the mic’s current state. (After looking closer, this is what Slack does too, but with the potentially confusing addition of a different background color.) Given that most of these UIs combine the mute toggle with other actual buttons like “hang up” (which has its own increasingly-anachronistic icon, incidentally), following the full UX pattern of the play/pause toggle and having the icon indicate the action to be performed would be a better approach.

I would say for added clarity, the toggle should be combined with some other separate visual indicator that can display the mic’s current state. Discord is halfway there with their UI since it shows a row of buttons at the very bottom, and a row of icons in the chat channel UI that indicate state. In Discord’s case, the button icons should be flipped so that “mute mic” and “mute server” show what they will do, rather than what they are doing.

I suggest an open pair of lips.

That has a totally different meaning to me.

I suspect that this would be as situationally inappropriate as it would be technically effective; but abandoning attempts at symbolism focused on the state of the microphone in favor of symbolism focused on whether the user has been silenced or not seems like it might work.

I’m just not seeing ballgag icons making it to release in most software development environments.

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Blue even has an ad for their Yeti desktop mic using a cooking show as a use case, a cooking show, where the cook is talking while cooking across the room from the mic. Groan.

Good Grief. Use a body worn mic, not a desktop mic.

Might work for when you click I Accept on a 60m page EULA.

At least podcasters aren’t likely to point their vintage-style microphones in the wrong direction.


An app-controlled USB sign would be good.



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Sond quality is what separates an enjoyable and engaging podcast from a podcast or video that I’m strangely tempted to turn off within the first minute or two. I often act on that impulse.

I learned very quickly to ignore bloggingheadstv (despite being linked to all the time in the websites I enjoyed) because they don’t give a fuck about soundquality, and they use crappy boxed earbuds. Are they good? Are they irrelevant? I don’t care because the sound quality was crap, and probably still is crap.

Equipment matters. Thoughtfulness matters. Brand names matter less.

What’s even worse is the newer ones where no light = not muted, red light = muted. This trips people up all the time in conference rooms (myself included). It’s too easy to assume “no light is no worky”. It’s just poor design all around.

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