23 September 2011

Design Change and the Impact on Products

It's funny how a simple design change can impact your product. 

I've been a loyal Yahoo Mail customer for years and years, and to me, email is email. If I don't have obvious reasons, then I don't see a point of switching.  Recently, after accidentally clicked the upgrade option, I was upgraded to the new Yahoo mail. Before, I always had the option to switch back to the classic version, however, this time, that option is no where to be found.  

I can see why Yahoo wants everyone to upgrade to the new email interface. Ajaxed, resembles outlook, gives Gmail a little competition, so on and so forth. However, there are two features that I used the most are missing in the new email interface. I really want to stay with the new GUI, however, with those missing features, I simply can't manage it. 

On top of it, because I couldn't find a build-in way to switch it back to the classic version, for a short second there, I almost wanted to abandon my long used email address. 

The missing features are "Read all unread" emails and "From Contacts" emails. 

Over the years, I signed up a few services that I want to look from time to time. If they are interesting in the subject line, then I take a look. Otherwise, I delete them. Sometimes, I'm out for a whole week and I will be back with 40-50 emails waiting. I typically pick the messages from family members and friends first (and such I used the feature "From Contacts") and when I'm done, I click "Read all unread" messages, give a quick scan, nothing interesting? Delete them all. Simple and easy to manage. No need to setup custom filters, no need to mess with tags/flags like in gmail. I was a happy camper. 

With the new Email Interface, the only thing I could do was "Sort by Unread messages" which makes unread messages appear on top. However, to delete them all, I have to click each check box one by one individually, all 40-50 of them every time as oppose to "Check all".  That was just too much. 

Luckily, since I figured the new UI is javascript heavy, what if I turn off Javascript in the browser? Tried that, and voilla, Yahoo gives me back the option to switch back to the yahoo classic. Enable Javascript again, I'm back to my dearly loved (but somewhat lacking) classic interface. Within the next 2 minutes, I deleted 100 unread emails from different services and other non important messages from friends like jobs, jokes and the mass bcc kinds. 

It makes me really ponder on the design decisions a company makes on their product. From this experience, as you can see, as loyal as I am to Yahoo mail, when a new feature comes up and takes away a really small but important feature that I absolutely need, that's all it takes to scare away the existing customers. 

It's interesting that this experience of mine coincide with the release of Facebook Profile change. A lot of people love it, a lot of people hate it. It's true, you can never make everyone happy, however, a big design change such as the new profile "Timeline" feature, I really wonder if that will take more users away from Facebook than attract more new users. With G+ on its heels, to me, retain their existing loyal users are more important than attract new fresh bloods. This is a gamble that is unnecessarily risky..

Random observations from a random experience, life goes on, eager to see what other exciting things companies have for us in future. 

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