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 The tool/technology used to write the UI is out-of-date or no longer supported.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

17 Replies

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Scarab Replied
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
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
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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Scarab Replied
2-Factor Authentication is one I'm holding my breath for. We get quite a few users ask weekly when this feature is coming. ("Soonerish I hope" is my standard reply) Whenever a customer gets their account compromised despite using a super-duper-secure password they start insisting that we "catch up with the times" and get 2-Factor Authentication sooner than "soonerish" since all the big multi-billion dollar providers are using it. (Last I checked neither we nor SmarterTools are multi-billion dollar providers, but it still would be nice to have.)
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Brian Ellwood Replied
"...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
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
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
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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kevind Replied
Yes, I agree. Our competition is Gmail where all it takes is an email address and pw to configure any device.
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Marc Frega Replied
I really want autoconfigure to be simple. Also TLS/SSL to be simple.
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Well let me share that i passionately HATE most of the newer "responsive" pieces of garbage. LOATHE is not a strong enough word to describe it. Most of the newer websites with the "new and improved" - "user experience" that i see... my "experiences" is that it takes me 3 times longer to get stuff done, i have to "scroll....scroll....scroll....scroll....scroll....scroll....scroll....scroll...." to get to stuff instead of just jump to page 50 of 185. And they are built like all of the programmers have full on ADHD. Stuff constantly moving around on the screen as you adjust the screen. cant concentrate long enough to get work done because you are constantly trying to figure out and find where something moved to.

www.HawaiianHope.org - Providing technology services to non profit organizations, homeless shelters, clean and sober houses and prisoner reentry programs. To date we have given away over 1,000 free computers.

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I too also use webmail on the browser. I want consistency in a product, not several "cute" ways to get to stuff and none of them work as well as they should, if instead programmers were focused on function instead of features.

www.HawaiianHope.org - Providing technology services to non profit organizations, homeless shelters, clean and sober houses and prisoner reentry programs. To date we have given away over 1,000 free computers.

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Connie DeCinko Replied
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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Stratos Geroulis Replied
It was just released ;)
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kevind Replied
Coincidentally, on the 1-year anniversary of Connie's post. :)
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Stratos Geroulis Replied
Yup I found it interesting that's why I resurrected this. Haha
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kevind Replied
Just revisiting this topic as Paul Blank reminded me of it with a well-written post at:
 
IMHO, a mobile web interface is great for a restaurant, but not for checking email. Users want to use an email app for all the reasons listed at the top of this thread. Someday, webmail on phones might be the way to go, but let's let Apple, Google, or Microsoft figure that out.
 
For mobile, I suggest enhancements to ActiveSync. For example, here's a simple idea with 10 votes:
 
Going forward, let's add more desktop functionality to webmail. Make it so good that it eliminates desktop clients like Outlook!
 
Thanks,
Kevin

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