Has Windows Live Heard of “Users”?
|Live Messenger 14.0: Click to enlarge…|
|MSN Web Messenger: Click to enlarge…|
Sometimes I wonder; do the folks at Windows Live know they’re creating two kinds of applications? The way they’ve written Live Messenger, it occurs to me they treat it like they do the majority of their applications: like they’re web projects. But Live Messenger is obviously not a web page (although you can certainly use a webified version of it – mostly to get around those pesky firewall rules or perhaps on a handheld device). It’s desktop software, which means there are a few expectations that one ought to keep in mind.
Now I’m not opposed to improving on software, obviously. And making the next version of your killer app even more perfect will very often involve changes to the user interface (UI). But ever-searching for a feature to synchronize my favourites list with browsers on whatever machine I’m working on (because I’m unsatisfied with the favourites synchronizer that comes with Google’s toolbar), I saw a promotion on one of the thousand or so Live websites that promised I could do just that with Live toolbar. All excited I opened up Messenger, as instructed, and clicked on what – at first- appeared to be the “Favorites” tab. Only the “Favorites” tab has been retired from the UI (there is no longer a “Favourites tab”) and what I was clicking on was the new Favorites tree node in Live Messenger 14.0. The node is now used to house Messenger favourites which are links to other Messenger users on your contact list instead of links to web pages.
Indeed, this propensity of Microsoft to radically alter the UI of software packages I think holds the software giant back from being more successful. How often have you heard someone complain about the new Microsoft Office ribbons? I know I, for one, am forever trying to find features that I’d learned to access readily in Word 2003, but feel that the ribbon may simply be a modernization of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs copied from the wall of some great Gizan pyramid when using Word 2008.
One oversight whose rationale has also eluded me with Live Favourites is the dreaded limit of 500 links which, over the years, I’ve readily exceeded. What I wouldn’t give for a Favourites service that would integrate with either Google Bookmarks or Live Toolbar, have no limits on the number of links and perform automated checking of the links in my repository so that they’re marked stale, prompted for or automatically queued for periodic deletion. It can’t be that hard to do, can it?
I could go on ranting here about other deficiencies I’ve observed in Messenger 14.0 (especially those I’ve observed with managing background and colour styles), but I’ve made my largely philosophical point. The condensed version? To Microsoft Live: Just remember you’re serving users and not simply imposing functional change for change’s sake. One ought to be extremely critical of radical changes to the UI and ask whether there’s really a net benefit to the UX – the user experience.