I had a quick look at your skin finally. It's really nice, you did one hell of a job here. congrats!:)
Just a few comments, I don't know if other proposed that or if you already explained your reasons for that design (in which case sorry for not having the time to read the whole thread).. but here's what I noticed :
- great, for once someone changed the taskbar/traydock icons in his skin
but I don't know if it's because I have a too high resolution (1600x1200) but it's a bit difficult to see that it's 3 buddies, there's too small. the traydock is perfect though!
- I like the whole feeling, but isn't it too white ? I mean, I think it's possible to modify the background colors in the skin, I think it would be better if the background of the chat window and the contact list were a little less white, maybe something blueish...
ok, here, I took a shot and changed a few colors, only for the CL and top of the CL, look at these and tell me what you think, maybe you can find better colors :
<topcontactlistbg>#DAE7ED</topcontactlistbg><!-- color for the top of the contact list, the status part -->
<contactlistbg>#ECF3F6</contactlistbg> <!-- color of the contact list, where the contacts appear -->
If you change the color like that, your images will need to change too, they don't have a transparent background...
- The tooltip is not that nice, I liked the one we had with the default, a blue tooltip with a border, that's nice.. now, there is no border at all (I'm on windows), so it's ugly because you don't see the tooltip, you only see text over text... the skin should be made 'international' if you want it to become the new default skin.
- the expand/collapse buttons of the groups are sooo hard to see, you can't possibly know which one is what, it's really hard to see, the contrast between the arrow and the background is hard to see.
- oh, one thing that stands out, the bar between the cl and top_cl, where you wrote 'emerald' is too large, yes I know, you like it like that, but I just think it's too large.. maybe have it half the height would be nice.. also, I like the 'emerald' written on it, but if you want it to become the default skin, maybe make someone more international like 'aMSN' or something like that... also the contrast again makes it hard to read the 'emerald' text.
- The two circles in the tab buttons.. I don't understand why 2 ? especially since the second one does nothing.. if you want to add it only on the hover and flicker, it would be nice, but add it in normal, it seems to be useless being there...
If you still want to keep it, could you at least switch the buttons of places? I mean, the 'close' button should always be on the top, no ?
Oh, I just had a (great?) idea.. why don't you put the close button an invisible button ? and then, add it to the appropriate place in the selected and hover image of the tab.. so that a tab has no 'close button', but when you put your mouse over a tab, the close button appears, and when you put the mouse over the close button of that tab, it gets 'hovered' correctly ? you know what I mean ?
tab_close : invisible image
tab_close_hover : the close button in 'hovered' mode
tab : the tab image without the button in it (like it is now)
tab_current : the current tab with the close button in it
tab_flicker : the tab button in flicker mode
tab_hover : the tab button in hover mode AND with the close button embeded in it
- The nudge/invite/file transfer/ink draw/buttext.png/tex buttons are difficult to understand... they really look nice, but I think the contrast makes them difficult to see. nudge is good but not easy to understand just by looking at it (although the M$ nudge button had the same effect the first time I saw it:p) but that should be ok, the invite is also ok, but the FT one is a bit hard to see what it represents.. the inkdraw too, and the tex one is good, you just need to make the text appear bolder in the blackboard.
- I suppose you did it on purpose to not change the colors of the top bar depending on the state of the user.. as well as not show the user's nick in green/red/whatever in the CL depending on state. That's your choice and I think it's better this way (I like it the other way but it fits better in the whole skin like this). Although for the top of the chat window, you could *slightly* modify the color...
- The border padding in the chat window are too big I think...
- I just looked at your notification windows, they're nice, I like that, but it's difficult to see which one is what.. that little button on top is difficult to see especially if you didn't have time to look at the window before it disappeared, same with the alarm.png one... you should maybe make the change more visible so people can easily know when someone "just connected" or "just went offline'
- I listened to the sounds, they're from the official client, right ? that's not important, but I think they should be made custom along with the smileys if the skin is to ever become the new default one.
- the alarm.wav sound is tooo short for an alarm.. that alarm sound should be enough to wake you up.. I used the previous default one (not the current one) as my alarm that woke me up every morning, and I can tell you it WAS an alarm... now yours wouldn't wake up a bird... it has to be more 'agressive', and a bit longer.. maybe like a horn or something, not sure.
- I like the display picture, but I wonder if we can keep the default amsn display picture with your skin, maybe just remaster it, like, keep the same DP but make it more 'emeraldy' .. but for it to be international, the '.linux' should disappear...
- You should maybe ship in multiple display pictures, the current default ones we have are not that good...
I also think you found a bug, look in the 'change display picture' window.. I see the default DPs, but when I choose the default 'amsn.png' DP, it changes it to the emerald amsn.png DP.. but emerald amsn.png DP doesn't show up in the list...
That's about it, I think... maybe other stuff will appear to me... maybe some stuff I said here are weird because I'm used to something else but we can get used to this too.. (like the default skin's emoticons, I hated them at the begining, now I'm used to them).
I know there's a lot of criticism, but it doesn't mean I didn't like the skin, it's really great and you're really good and have good artistic skills, I can't beleive you became so skilled so fast!
Anyways, keep it up, comment back on my comments, you can reject some if you like, as you already know, I'm bad at design...
You should meet with Tom Jenkins (if available) and Lee in order to decide for a good 'new default' skin.. I think we'll have to drop the contest I talked about earlier and we'll just have to start desiging a skin in order to become the new default skin.
p.s.: send me your mail over PM so I can add you to my list if you don't mind.
p.p.s: btw, could you add the voice clip button for your skin too ? and if you're kind enough create one for the current default skin too