MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.–Microsoft had been tinkering with Windows Live Mail for months, but testers still weren’t happy. The program was too slow to load, too different and, well, just not like the old Hotmail it was intended to replace.
It was a painful realization for the more than 100 managers and developers on the project. In banking on a snazzy Web 2.0 application to try to catch up to rivals Yahoo and Google, Microsoft had dramatically overshot its audience.
On Monday, Microsoft took the beta tag off the Hotmail redesign, and its classic mode took center stage. The full version with its Outlook-like look and feel is still there for those who want it, but it’s not the default interface.
Who would have thought Microsoft– of all corporate entities could actually get something right— but it seems like they have. Yahoo Mail Beta’s persistent attempts to get me to switch to some over the top Beta-esque interface that takes forever to load and creates an app on your screen isn’t what I wanted and isn’t what most people want. Most people just want a simple and easy interface to use.
YouTube succeeded in no small part because it runs a simple but feature packed interface that does not take forever to load. Web 2.0 snazziness is worth nothing if it comes at the expense of loading times and crashes that drive away users.
On top of that on legacy programs and sites people prefer the interface they’re familiar with. Jar them with a striking redesign and they may just get uncomfortable and leave.