Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What I hate about the new Yahoo Mail user experience

So yahoo mail is going into major upgrade mode with overhauling of entire webmail application UI, new features and integrating with some of other yahoo channels from a single interface. Most of these changes I believe happened couple of weeks/months back but I noticed it recently. While the overall look has become very sleek but I was surprised to see introduction and change made to some key user interaction that contradicts mental model of how a user perceives that feature and adds new learning curve while dealing with the refurbished Yahoo Mail.

Image 1
(Click on image thumbnails for bigger view)
For those who have not seen the new yahoo mail interface, the screen above shows you how the mail now looks in its new avatar. Prominent changes include introduction of lot of tab controls on top, ajax dropdown, overlay windows for actions, integration of applications on left hand side panel.
Earlier, on click of any mail, the mail used to open up in the same window. Now in the new version, the mail opens up as a separate page in a tab (see image below). For illustration example I have clicked the Jet airways mail below.
Image  2

The mail opens in a new tab as shown above. Perhaps in the 1st instance a user doesn’t realize that the mail has opened in a tabbed format. It’s after clicking on Inbox and selecting any other mail for viewing, the realization comes that the mails are opening in tabbed format and user can jump on to the other previously opened mail without going to inbox and selecting the mail. Works really well when it is assumed that a user normally likes performing this task or that’s a normal mail surfer’s interaction pattern. What can be the implications of this tabbed view, will illustrate with another example later but from here would like to highlight a grave ‘flaw’ if I may put it in the normal interaction pattern of a mail surfer which yahoo has deviated from.
Those who are fluent with keyboard control always prefer pressing backspace button to move back to inbox. That is the mental model of any mail surfer for going back to inbox to check the mails. This is where yahoo mail blunders. Notice what happens when you click on backspace button.

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On press of backspace, instead of opening inbox window, another tab opens up with a mail. After repeated instances like these or perhaps clicking manually on inbox link from the left you get to realize that the backspace button is now linked to opening of next mail below the previously opened mail. So what you get to see is the next mail in your inbox. Bad. How can yahoo assume that a user would like to view this mail only? Shouldn’t that be a user’s prerogative? IF that was not enough, the next example will illustrate on a major blunder that Yahoo has made with the backspace button.  

image 4

I clicked on the backspace button and after realization that it is not linked to going back to inbox, I manually click on inbox and now want to open that Jetairways mail again. But where is that mail? And then I realize what the buggers at yahoo have done.

Image 5

The backspace button is now linked to deleting a mail. Very bad interaction as the usual mental model that a user presumes is that pressing backspace leads back to previous page. This is the pattern followed in ALL webmails – gmail, hotmail, rediff, indiatimes and even previously in yahoo mail too. Many users will I bet not realize this also that they have unknowingly deleted their mail! 

image 6

So now that mails open in different tabs and after realization that this is the model that will happen, I decided to check what happens when I click multiple mails. Since the idea from yahoo is for letting users surf seamlessly between different open stage mails without letting them move back to inbox, with each click the open tab on top navigation panel kept increasing. Will a user click any tab to close his mail and do ‘tab management’? I hope yahoo has done some user testing around this as many people might find this irritating (clicking open tabs again & again).

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And as I suspected, this is what happened when I clicked multiple mails and didn’t bother to close the open tabs. As I was testing this feature, I was prepared to get a response like this but users who perhaps might miss the open tab mail reading concept and keep navigating through inbox link on left to read mails, might perhaps take a while to realize what this means and the entire concept of tabbed mail approach.

Like with any new rollout where major changes are made, there would be initial reluctance but over period people do get used to it. I am sure with yahoo mail also people will start adapting to the new features but if only yahoo would have not deviated from the key functionality interactions that are followed by all mail users across other sites and retained the same then it would have been perfect.  


UK2CAL said...

I agree - we've lost functionality. I emailed some of the Yahoo execs and development managers but nobody took the time to respond. Yahoo is my primary account because of the easy searches. I might as well go to gmail now.

Adam L said...

me too! I loved Yahoo for the mail search feature and also the filters and folder, but the new yahoo mail had me wanting to switch in a matter of days. THEN, I found a fix to switch back to mail classic. I am so much happier now!;_ylt=At_iV7C3tgY50fbaxC04RJsjzKIX;_ylv=3?qid=20110814212814AAh1PMz

To go back to YAHOO! MAIL CLASSIC...

Turn off Javascript - you'll then be asked if you want to return to Mail Classic, click "yes".

If you don't know how to turn off Javascript...


IMPORTANT:Remember to RE-ENABLE JAVA and JAVASCRIPTING back ON when you are back in Mail Classic because without it some mail functions won't work.

For IE: Open TOOLS > INTERNET OPTIONS >> SECURITY. In security click "CUSTOM LEVEL" -> disable active scripting in the scripting section.

IMPORTANT:Remember to turn JAVASCRIPTING back ON when you are back in Mail Classic because without it some mail functions won't work.

For FIREFOX: Open TOOLS -> OPTIONS -> CONTENT, click on "DISABLE JAVASCRIPT". Now hit F5 to refresh the page while you are in Yahoo! email in order to switch back... In the options, click (PERMANENT) to switch back to YAHOO! Classic. DO NOT click the "ONE TIME ONLY" option.

IMPORTANT: Turn JAVASCRIPT back ON once you have your "CLASSIC" account back.

elenanorteysur said...

Hi, I've been struggling with the same issues Yahoo Mail Classic users complain about. I totally agree with this blog writer.
I've found there's another way to go back to Classic - Yahoo doesn't make it easy to find the link, but it's still there:
1) use the following link - 2)go to about mid-page where it says: "what if I don't want to upgrade...?" - in the next paragraph, you'll find a "However, if you don't want to upgrade, "click here"..."

Hope this is clear and you can happily return to Classic. good luck!

What if I don’t want to upgrade to the newest version of Yahoo! Mail?

We strongly encourage you to upgrade so that you can experience all of the exciting new benefits that Yahoo! Mail has to offer. However, if you do not want to upgrade, please "click here" to use Yahoo! Mail Classic.

steve yapuncich said...

what is going on w/scam? am i at risk & what are you doing to protect me? i trusted you. contact me as this is not funny.