No, I’m not talking about the existing Yahoo! Mail, which is not bad in itself, but I’m talking about the Yahoo! Mail that’s not yet available to the masses. Yes yes, I’m of course talking about the new look & interface of Yahoo! Mail, which is currently in beta and accessible only to a very small percentage of Yahoo! users. I got the invitation yesterday when I logged in to mail, & asked me whether I want to try the beta, I of course wanted to & clicked the button, but I hit a snag there, as on the next screen I was informed that my browser(Opera v8.51) is not supported & that either I get a browser which is supported(IE6 or FireFox or Mozilla) or I continue on with old UI of Yahoo! Mail. Not one to let go of the opportunity, I immediately changed browsers & logged in again & there, the new interface loaded, & after the first look, my first reaction was ….. “wow”!! 😕
Even if you are one of the kind which rarely or never appreciate good things in life, you certainly will appreciate the work those guys at Yahoo! have put into this new interface, this is certainly what I would expect to see when someone says that the interface resembles Outlook, not that clunky unholy UI that Windows Live Mail pushes forward!! 👿 I think that they themselves have forgotten how Outlook UI looks like, or else they wouldn’t label their mail interface as that resembling Outlook!!
So, moving ahead from Microsoft bashing, after my initial shock over Yahoo! Mail’s interface subsided, I got into really admiring the smoothness and usability of the UI that Yahoo! has conjured up!! Having used Merak Webmail software from Icewarp & some other similar ones, pretty Webmail interfaces or an Outlook like interface is not new to me, but Yahoo! certainly scores better, their interface is much more flexible & smooth. Its pure eye candy!! 😀
And if you move forward from the eye candy, you’ll notice(in the image above) that apparently Yahoo! interface doesn’t lack the basic usability stuff that Windows Live Mail does, the first one being, when you click a folder to navigate messages in it, no message is opened by itself. You’ve to select a message to view it in the preview pane & a double click on the message will open it in its entirety, hiding the preview & message panes. Secondly, unlike in Windows Live Mail, you can read emails in separate windows in Yahoo! Mail, something that pleased me a lot, the fact that they’ve taken care to maintain usability of their interface. The “Bulk Mail” folder is gone, replaced by a “spam” folder, which serves the same purpose. The functions of old interface, like flagging a message or moving it to another folder or marking it as read/unread are all there & usable.
But the thing that impressed me was that you can compose your emails & yet can switch back to the messages without having to wait for them to reload. Because when you click on “compose” button, it opens a new tab in the interface(so the whole window is being emulated as an application window that has its own tabs etc.) with the rich text editor etc., so anytime you want to go back to message you were reading, just change the tab & you are there, without loosing your message or having to save it as a draft. You can switch back to composing the email anytime you want!!
Another feature that I noticed is that I can also have all the RSS feeds that I want in this same interface, no need for a separate feed aggregator!! This is quite handy & useful, I might start keeping up with all my feeds again, which I stopped doing since starting out Sharpreader again & again was too cumbersome & keeping it open meant letting eat into the memory, and using an online feed aggregator like Bloglines didn’t sound exciting to me since that meant yet another service which I’ve to checkin with!! Not anymore though, this new UI from Yahoo! might change everything!! 😉
The whole UI is indeed soaked in the sweet fragrance of AJAX, but its not something that’s been put together as a quick hack & thrown at users, this one seems to have been nurtured with love, the interface despite its eye candy, loaded up quite fast, but then I’ve a 128kbps line, so I don’t think dial-up users would agree with me on the speed!! 😉
So this interface of Yahoo!, its pretty, its usable & it works, though there might be a few snags here & there which I encountered while using it(like refresh requests dying out in middle) its nothing that can’t or won’t be fixed!! This UI gives the correct impression as to how a next generation web application should look, & I very much think that the Windows Live team can improve a lot by taking a leaf or two out of Yahoo!’s book. The only plus that I found in Windows Live Mail over Yahoo!’s interface is that the former seemed to be a bit fast in loading new messages than the latter, though that might not be true as some more usage of both will prove, nevertheless, I’d rate Yahoo! interface 8/10 on looks, usability & features, while I won’t give Windows Live Mail interface more than 3.5/10 on same measures!! 😉