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Why new UI in SmarterMail 16?
Question asked by kevind - February 28, 2016 at 6:33 PM
Unanswered
It's well publicized that SmarterMail 16 coming later this year will feature a completely new user interface. That seems like a major undertaking as the current interface is pretty good after 14 revisions.
 
Just wondering why it's being re-written. Is it because?
  1. The current UI code is a mess and it's too difficult to maintain and enhance.
  2. The tool/technology used to write the UI is out-of-date or no longer supported.
  3. Need to make the UI responsive (mobile-friendly).
If the answer is #1 or #2, that's totally legit. However, if it's #3 I think it should be discussed. Six months ago I thought the UI needed to be mobile-friendly, but I've changed my mind. The reasons:
  • Nobody runs email in a browser on their smartphone/tablet.
  • Push notifications don't work in webmail.
  • For users with multiple mailboxes, it's convenient to have them all in the same app.
  • Users want integration with the built-in contacts and calendar on their device.
  • Making a UI responsive makes it less usable on a desktop (less info on screen, more scrolling required, etc.)
So my suggestion is that SmarterTools focus more effort on ActiveSync. That's the standard protocol for mobile devices and looks like it will make IMAP obsolete.
 
First, need to fix the bugs in ActiveSync. Examples:
Second, make it easier to use (auto enable and autodiscover)
And third, find a way to make it less expensive. Other email server software charges only $1/mailbox/year with volume.
 
Hopefully this creates some discussion so that SmarterTools can quickly deliver software with the most-requested features -- a win/win for the company and their customers.
 
Thanks,
Kevin

8 Replies

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1
Scarab Replied
February 29, 2016 at 4:54 PM
Kevin,
 
You clearly haven't met my boss that uses webmail with his phone & tablet (and doesn't use "switch to the mobile interface") and composes all of his emails in the subject field because he can't see the body field! ;)
 
There really is no excuse not to have a Responsive UI/UX on any web application these days. I'm sure that mobile-friendly isn't the only reason for SmarterTools going that direction, but it isn't unwarranted either.
 
If the majority of your users use ActiveSync that is awesome. We have only three users that do (making it .001% of our userbase). Two years ago the majority of our users used to be half Outlook users and half Web-mail users. Now, the majority of our users are either OSX or iOS using IMAP (the more sophisticated using CalDav & CardDav along with it) with maybe 10% using Web-mail and almost no one using Outlook. Times change and user demographics change along with them. Those who run SmarterMail in an Enterprise might have tighter control over what email clients their users run, but ISPs & MSPs don't have that luxury and have to roll with what their users choose for themselves.
 
I don't think that there is anyone here who would disagree that long standing issues need to be addressed in SmarterMail which I would suspect is why there are 2 major versions forthcoming this calendar year instead of 1. One major version will have new features and fixes to old issues, and the other will have the new UI along with hopefully yet more fixes to old issues.
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Brian Ellwood Replied
March 1, 2016 at 7:44 AM
The reason is simple - to make the product better.
 
With the death of IE basically complete there's so much more to the web that developers can make use of.
 
As for the mobile interface - versus having to keep both a mobile UI and desktop UI maintained a single responsive interface streamlines the process and ensures all devices get the experience.
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kevind Replied
March 1, 2016 at 5:32 PM
Scarab & Brian, good discussion. I was on the same page a few months ago.
 
If you do a survey of smartphone users, I'm guessing over 98% access email with the built-in smartphone client/app. It's because users want convenience and things like push notification, contact syncing, calendar integration, etc. Hardly anyone (except for Scarab's boss :-) uses webmail on a smartphone, regardless of platform (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.).
 
So instead of spending 6 months writing a mobile-friendly interface for 2% of users, spend the time writing code for the 98% that makes it easier and less expensive to configure and use your mobile device. For example, write an app or make a URL that sets up IMAP+CalDAV+CardDAV on a smartphone so it's as simple as ActiveSync where all you have to do enter your email address and password (no server names, no ports, sync mail, contacts, calendars, notes, & reminders).
 
This would make our life as a mail admin so much simpler and give our users a better experience. This might only take a month or so and ST could spend the remaining 5 months adding bonus features:
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Brian Ellwood Replied
March 2, 2016 at 5:51 AM
"...So instead of spending 6 months writing a mobile-friendly interface for 2% of users..."
 
They're not writing a separate mobile friendly interface, they're building one responsive interface that works on all devices (desktop, tablet, phone, etc)
 
The current UI needs a revamp at any rate to make it better - theres more to UI/UX than just the colors and layout.
 
Framework updates have marked performance improvements and tighter integration leading to  a better user experience.
 
It also allows ST to plan - e.g. "what about the UI is limiting us and how can we rebuild to make it work for us, not against us"
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kevind Replied
March 2, 2016 at 8:03 AM
For the record, I'm not opposed to a new and improved UI. For example, here are a few posts I've made to improve the user experience:
If the new UI could address all these items, that would be great. Just hoping ST is doing it for the right reasons (not for mobile only) and that it doesn't take forever (we're already in March and the 1st major update is still in beta).
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kevind Replied
April 8, 2016 at 11:54 AM
Now that SM15 is released, I wanted to revisit this topic. Hoping ST will state the goal(s) of the new UI.
 
If the #1 reason is to make it responsive (mobile-friendly), then IMO that's a mistake (see reasons above). It will negatively impact the desktop experience where the UI is used most of the time. How? See the reply in this thread about ST's new responsive web site:
I am a firm believer that a web page should contain as much as possible on the visible page, and NOT require scrolling down.      --Bruce B.
But if the #1 reason for a new UI is to create an Outlook-killer, then I'm all in and let's roll!
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Shaun Peet Replied
April 8, 2016 at 12:39 PM
I'm with kevind - the current autodiscover implementation gets so painfully close to working it's a shame more time isn't invested in getting it to "just work".  99% of our customer base happens to be volunteers - they shouldn't have to type a server name in order to connect to their email; hell, their username & password is difficult enough.
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Connie DeCinko Replied
May 16, 2016 at 9:08 AM
It's well publicized that SmarterMail 16 coming later this year 
Sorry, but I cannot find anything other than this discussion.  Where can I read more?  This could cause us to delay implementation if we know it's right around the corner.
 

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