Critics agree: The new, redesigned Yahoo Mail is gorgeous. In true Marissa Mayer fashion, the company gave its email service a minimalist makeover last week, stripping away unfashionable features like tabs and the “print” button in favor of a sleek layout that looks … well, an awful lot like Gmail. And, following the success of Yahoo’s slick mobile weather app, the Yahoo Mail inbox can now be set against dramatic photographic backdrops pulled from Flickr. What’s not to like?
There’s just one, little problem: Users do not like the redesign. In fact, a lot of them can't stand it.
As ZDNet’s Violet Blue points out, a Yahoo user forum page inviting users to share their thoughts on the new look has been flooded with tens of thousands of complaints, from exasperated reports of recurring technical bugs to impassioned pleas to bring back key functions that were swept aside in the overhaul. A comment titled “Please Bring Back Tabs” has 26,925 votes and counting. One calling for the reinstatement of the “sort-by-sender” option has 7,997. More than 8,000 people have voted for a comment titled, “What the heck has happened to Yahoo Mail?”, from a user who complains, “I can’t even find a print button anywhere to print an email.”
The backlash has boiled over into a Change.org petition calling on Marissa Mayer to bring back the old version of Yahoo Mail. As of Monday afternoon, the petition has more than 1,000 signatures.
Funny thing: It turns out that if Yahoo Mail users had wanted their email to look like Gmail, they would have just used Gmail.
Every redesign has its noisy detractors, of course. It’s possible that there’s a silent majority of users out there sighing with contentment as they sift through their messages against the backdrop of a gauzy image of the Guadiana Bridge at sunrise. But the guess here is that, in their zeal to reinvigorate the Yahoo brand, Mayer and company underestimated the number of loyal Yahoo Mail users who care more about the “print” button than they do about a trendy aesthetic and a dancing exclamation point. The armada of technical glitches, meanwhile, is hard to excuse in a company Yahoo’s size.
On the whole, Mayer has done wonders in her first year-plus to enliven a company that had been staring at a long slide toward obsolescence. But she faces a dilemma as she tries to lure new users to a business full of old users who never left—probably because they prefer the familiar to the new and trendy. If these loyal Yahoos sense that the company has begun to sacrifice function for form, they may bolt faster than it can bring in hip new users to replace them.