A few weeks ago, with very little warning, long-time Yahoo! Mail users booted up to a completely redesigned interface – and they’re not happy about it.
To coincide with its 16th anniversary, Yahoo! Mail decided to change its tried-and-true – some might say old-fashioned – mailbox design to a more tablet and mobile-friendly interface. Comparing the two side by side, it wouldn’t be too harsh to say that instead of reinventing the wheel, Yahoo! has simply become a Gmail clone, complete with conversation threads and a few extra skins. The move comes as no big surprise; Yahoo!’s declining popularity as both a search engine and a free webmail provider is directly proportional to Google rise in the same areas. Why wouldn’t they adopt the look and usability of their greatest and most successful competitor’s inbox interface? On a purely business level, the changeover seems like a smart move for Yahoo! and well overdue.
Theoretical business acumen aside, Yahoo! appears to have completely overlooked the needs and wants of its dedicated webmail users – many of whom have been using the service for more than a decade – as evidenced by the substantial public outcry on Yahoo!’s feedback forum and even a Change.org petition calling for Yahoo! Mail to revert to its old design. What Yahoo! doesn’t seem to understand is that if its core customer base wanted a Gmail-style interface, they would have switched over to that provider years ago. Yahoo! maintained its dedicated followers precisely because of its unchanging design, predictability and lack of message grouping (the dreaded ‘conversations’; Gmail even gave users an option to disable the threaded view three years ago).
Quite apart from the divisive redesign, Yahoo!’s feedback pages also include thousands of new bug reports. Today’s users are savvy and have high expectations, and they will eat buggy software purveyors alive. It just goes to show, once again, that testing is the one stage a tech company cannot afford to sacrifice.