Usability review of MS mail’s new “Outlook.com” UI — lots of deduction required

Presuming that all changes in UI are meant to be improvements, I thought I’d put on my critical-eye glasses for the new hotmail/msn mail UI (called “Outlook.com”?  I wasn’t sure).

First, my overall evaluation:

  1. The new UI isn’t an improvement. Change (in UI), here, is not so much a factor in the affect (as some people are loathe to change) as much as disappointment that usability did not improve and, thereby, raise the overall bar.
  2. MS used to be known for (starting with MS Money) inductive design.  This UI requires an extraordinary amount of deduction — extraordinary in the sense that it is both a step backwards and over-relies on user conventions-literacy.
  3. Friendliness is a factor in a user’s sense of “ease of use.”  Simplicity does not mean friendly or easier to use IF it does not include keeping track of user choices and helping to better manage steps in a task flow.  Task-analysis just seems to be lacking.

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