Saturday, March 18, 2017

Heuristic Evaluation of Yahoo email

                                               

                                                      By Shobhna Bhatia


1.    INTRODUCTION:

Yahoo is a popular web search engine which provides several services like Yahoo email, international news, cricket news, celebrity news, movies update and Yahoo mail mobile application. Yahoo email in particular provides free storage capacity of 1 TB while Yahoo business email provides unlimited storage. Yahoo mail plus was introduced which offers additional features like sending up to ten attachments in the single email, no account expiration and many more. Due to these extra features provided by Yahoo, it is the one of the most popular methods of communication among people. This post evaluates the usability problems in the Yahoo email and will suggest the recommendation to fix these problems. This post describes the heuristic evaluation of the Yahoo email as defined by Jakob Nielsen's heuristic principles.

I am a graduate student in computer science who is using Yahoo email service to send emails for personal and academic use since one year. I evaluated Yahoo in the Windows 10 platform using Google chrome web-browser (Version 56).

2.    USABILITY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED FIXES:

2.1   No status information while performing a search


Problem: When a user performs a search in the email he should be notified about the status of the search performed. There is no status shown while the searching is going on and suddenly the results appear. As a result, the user is always uncertain about the search he has made in Yahoo email. This violates heuristic #1 that user should always be notified about the things happening in the system. This is shown below. Gmail on the other hand does show the ‘Loading’ status on the top of the page while searching is done in the email. 

Figure 2.1 – No status message in Yahoo


Recommendations:   Yahoo should provide the status notification while performing a search in the email in order to comply with the heuristic #1. User will be notified in this way that Yahoo is searching for query made in the search box.

2.2  Unknown storage space

Problem: If the user has to find the storage space of the emails, he/she has to go to the settings and on the bottom left corner the storage space is indicated. This is not easily recognizable by the user. As a result user may never delete the less important emails from the inbox and once the system will reach its maximum storage capacity Yahoo will give the notification to delete some of the emails. User will find difficulty in scanning and deleting the less important emails from a huge list given in the inbox. Hence, this violates heuristic #1, which states that the user should be aware of things happening in the system. Here, the user is unaware of the storage space. He/She is only indicated when it has reached its maximum capacity. It also violates heuristic #6 as user has to remember the location from where he can check the storage capacity instead of recognizing it. This is shown below.

Figure 2.2 – Storage space in Yahoo


Recommendations:   The memory space tab can be indicated on the bottom left corner like Gmail so that the users do not have to search for it under the settings option. If it is easily visible to users, they can delete all the unimportant emails regularly without any difficulty.

2.3  No page splitting of emails

Problem: Yahoo shows all the emails on a single page aggregated day-wise and month-wise. There is no page splitting for the emails. It is difficult for the user to scroll down the page every time while searching for old emails. On the other hand, Gmail and Outlook show the emails by splitting them in different pages. Users can shift to the next or the previous page for checking the emails. This violates heuristic #6 as user has to memorize that he has to scroll down to the end of the page to view the old emails instead of just clicking the next button to switch to the next page. This also violates heuristic #7 since it minimizes the user’s flexibility. A sample interface for Yahoo is shown below.

Figure 2.3 – Page splitting in Yahoo

Recommendations:   There should be page splitting of the Yahoo emails so that it can be more efficient and flexible to search for the users. Outlook, gmail, AOL emails and others give the emails on different pages and user can switch to the old emails by clicking on the next or previous button.

2.4   Format of contact name and mobile number not verified

Problem: While creating a new contact in Yahoo it asks for the name, mobile number and email id of the contact person. Yahoo doesn’t verify the format of the name and mobile number of the user. As a result of this it stores the wrong input given by the user which is saved as junk information. This is depicted below. This violates heuristic #9 as it does not recognize or diagnose errors.

Figure 2.4 – Format of name and mobile number not verified


Recommendations:   Yahoo should verify the format of the name and mobile number field while creating a new contact so that it can avoid storing the incorrect information.


2.5   No option to send email or chat in contacts

Problem: If a user is in contacts tab he will not be able to send an email or will not be able to chat with the contact as there is no such option available in Yahoo contacts. User has to switch to mail tab to send an email or messenger tab to chat with the contact. This violates heuristic #7 as it is not efficient and flexible for the user to keep switching the tabs for adding, sending an email or chatting with the contact. This is shown below.


Figure 2.5 – No option to send an email or chat in Yahoo


Recommendations:   Yahoo can add a feature to send an email or chat with the contact directly in contacts tab instead of just switching the tab every time. Gmail gives the feature to send an email directly from the contacts page which is more flexible for the user.

2.6  Missing undo option in contacts

Problem: There is no option to undo the actions performed in Yahoo contacts tab. If the user has imported all the contacts from his/her other account or from facebook to Yahoo, there is no option to revert back to the previous state but instead user may have to manually delete those imported contacts by selecting them one by one. This violates heuristic #3, which desires that system should provide the undo option to the action performed by the user. This is shown below.



         Figure 2.6 – Missing undo option in Yahoo


Recommendations:   Yahoo should add an undo option in contacts tab so that the user is able to revert back to the previous state if he does not want to keep the changes made.

2.7  Bad placement of sign out button

Problem: Yahoo provides the sign out option in the profile link of the email. User has to click on the profile picture or the profile name to exit from the account. This is depicted below. It violates heuristic #6 which states that the users should recognize rather than memorizing everything. User has to remember the process by which he can logout from his email account. It puts pressure on the mind of the user. Outlook provides the direct option to sign out at the top right corner. In this way user does not have to recall the position of the sign out button.


Figure 2.7– Sign out option in Yahoo




Recommendations:   Yahoo should give the sign out button on the top right corner like Outlook email so that novice user do not face any issue in finding the sign out option.

3.    CONCLUSION:

Yahoo is one of the popular web-mailbox known for its email services. Yahoo email service is prevailing among the students, official people and for home users. As discussed, despite of its usability issues there are many good features which is only been provided by yahoo email service. This project discussed about the usability issues and recommendations to fix these issues. If Yahoo developers’ try and fix these issues it can provide better user experience to the existing users and can attract more users in future.

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