Zaki Mirza’s Blog


… About software and beyond!

Late Night Bloggin’: Windows Live Mail vs GMail Part 1

I have been planning to write about this topic for a while now but couldnt get time to research and write. Anyways, i still dont have time and havnt researched a lot but from a lay man’s point of view (and from the point of view of a designer/developer that i am) let me compare the two (dominant) email services for the next few days.

I do not want to go into the history and background of the services. There is plenty of information about that available elsewhere. It is just “a google” away. I shall be focusing on the following major points keeping my post short and precise:

a) Graphical User Interface
b) Useability
c) Features
d) Spam Filtering
e) Anything else i can think of … and conclusion

This, by no means, is meant to discourage or create a bias about the two companies involved. (Microsoft and Google) and this is not a “Microsoft vs Google” post. Both are great companies which provide good set of services.

The following snapshot shows a regular Windows Live Mail graphical user interface.

Windows Live mail design

The following snapshot shows a regular GMail graphical User interface.

GMail User interface

and now the comparison image of both together:


At first look, the live mail interface is more shiny and eye-candy than the plain Gmail one. But in my opinion its one of those designs that use the web-browser real-estate rather lavishly not thinking a bit about the user and content and how to connect the two. Concentrate on the top banner of “Windows Live”. I dont see a reason why that should be there in the first place, and so big when theres another heading with an image already saying “Windows Live Hotmail”. The big banner on top is taking well around 20% of the space. Useless! Its probably reserved for advertisments, but then look at the bottom left corner that has a little advertisment there. Now the game is to stuff as much advertisment on the main page as possible. (regardless of wether the user wants to see them or not) This includes two essential type of advertisments. One is Microsoft advertisment and other is the “other” advertisment. Looking at the Gmail interface, we hardly see any space for advertisment. And how is that you wonder? (and knowing that gmail is coming from a company that generates a tsunami of money every second from advertisments). We’ll see how that works in a bit.

Second thing to notice in the two designs is the apparent presentation of information. Windows live mail provides a draggable divider between the mail listing and the actual mail content area. (center pane). Gmail does not provide such a facility. Why? Again, according to me (before you say sayz whu?) Live Mail is desperate to provide functionality and content at the same time and shamelessly failing at both! True you can see your mails and “the mail” content at the same window yet the lack of browser real-estate really “makes” the user grab that divider and move it all over the place just to see the actual mail or the list of mails. I personally have to move it up and down all the time. In comparison, if you look at how Gmail works, they show the mail-listing at the front page. Gmail people know that they have AJAX power at their disposal, so clicking on a mail to view its content and coming back to the mail listing is not a “big” trip. After all you will be viewing one page at a time (either reading a mail or organizing mails) and using AJAX thou shalt not have to refresht!. This very point Live Mail failed to understand creating a desperate use of technology.

Third point in the user interface is the left pane on both the services. In windows Live mail, it shows the list of folders i have followed by 4 services they offer followed by an advertisement followed by yet another service followed by privacy statement. (I shall mention the bugs in the folder view of live mail some time as well). Again we see a desperate move to stuff things for the sake of it. Gmail left pane includes folders, quick contacts for quick chat followed by “invite to gmail” box. This is far more cleaner than Live mail. So where does Live mail lack?

Windows Live (or msn) for that matter provides a set of services. All these services are co-related to some extent and require the same passport to sign in/up. Traditionally, the service for calander has been a part of the “hotmail” service. So was the “today” service that showed usual news and happenings. (which is useless in its own original way) Google also provides a set of services which are corelated to some extent or the other and require a single login scheme. The difference is the atomization of services. Do one thing at a time and do that good! The Google calander service is an entirely different service, so is google news, google docs and spreadsheets, google notes etc. All of them are(and i hope eventually will be ) integrated with the mail yet they have their own teams and spaces. (They are autonomous as well). Thats why, if you compare the two services through these two snapshots of their pages, GMail wins by showing up 5 + many many more services on this single page than Windows Live does. (Look at the very top of Gmail). A sheer flawed design on the part of windows live mail. Not only that, it shamelessly shows the desperation windows live mail team had at the 11th hours to show off other services in windows live mail and still failing badly. Information availability is the key! (dont expect them to use your services when you never told them about it). I dont think anyone using only mail will ever know what other services Windows Live is offering.

Looking for search, you can see a blind text box in the middle of the top pane in windows live mail. The two buttons next to it say “Mail” and “Web”. How ingenious? Another useability blunder. It is assumed by the live mail team that a text box (or a white box, for that matter) is a place to enter text. Any button, what so ever written on it, is meant to say “click me to search!”. Do we see the word “search” on the whole page? Pathetic! Did google not make it sure to everyone that information availability and search are going to be for future of web what operating systems is for software now a days? (or are we already in the future?). Look at Gmail on the other hand. No fancy CSS just plain usual text box and buttons that look like usual buttons. They even say “Search Mail” and “Search the web”. Not just that, it provides more search options! Brilliant! (Did you notice the contact search facility on the left on the gmail page? we’d talk about more features later).

Thats enough for today I guess. In the next post I shall discuss features of the two mail system. Feel free to post your own opinions about this topic.

Filed under: Comparisons, general, Late Night Blog, Live mail vs Gmail, , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. Samer Tufail says:

    1st nice work on the topic … handled pretty nicely… ive been having the same problems with live mail … well once i click the mail it gets stuck like someone is trying ignition on an FX ( for those who dont know abt FX think of it as ummmm dunno nothing can replace FX google it 😀 ) my mouse disappears then reappears and it starts working well no no no the nightmare is still not over it still gets stuck for a while and finally i can check my mail… at first i thought it was my n00b net 256k but i tried it from uk 6.8 Mbps ur not all that now are ya ? … but still i had the same effects with live mail … i dunno wats causing it i think its the ajax thingy but still … i dunno i hope the live team figures it out soon or ill go back to the old mail interface … on the other hand gmail rox 🙂 i have no probs with it 😀

  2. Samer Tufail says:

    well well today something new happens…. windows live messenger has really become alive… it says i hav 2 email msgs … i go there mails are from ” sexy singles in your area” …. wow aint that tempting now i delete those…. and close the window… still it says 2 new emails… i go again … voila “sexy singles still in ur area” …. ok i delete again…. and com back to windows live mail … again 2 new msgs … same thing… sigh…. i guess now id have to find sexy singles in my area …. a request to live mail plz end my suffering ?

  3. zakimirza says:

    maybe there really are some new sexy singles in ur area then.. 😉 … go samir go…

  4. Zeeshan says:

    The mere fact that Live Mail who I’m sure copied ( or changed the name of simple hotmail, which was no more interacting to anyone due to the introduction of gmail ), tried by their all means to copy the gmail functionality to some extent to maintain their user-base.

    As far my experience with Live Mail is concerned, I’d like to mention that 2 times I had to quit from this very very heavy interface to the normal interface, just because hardly any thing seems to load and I was not able to check my emails ( especially with dial-up) it was impossible. To add misery to it, for leaving the Live Mail, the Live Mail team asked me a million questions before quitting :). That tells the whole story.

    Whereas GMAIL for day one for me has been awsome , predictable in its behaviour which Live Mail was no where close to. That makes Gmail lead in free email service.

    I’ll look forward for the new post related to the technologies used by the One Big Giant (Gmail ) and One Small Giant (Microsoft, to microsoft fans, please excuse, but at least accept, its very true) 🙂

  5. Samer Tufail says:

    new posts puhleez ?

  6. teun spaans says:

    You are completely right about the cluttered userinterface of live mail. Something i completely overlooked when i wrote “10 reasons for using gmail and not hotmail” earlier this week

    Something you didnt mention is the threading grouping gmail does. For me, if there are 2 things at which gmail stands out at, they are threading and speed.

  7. WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for atlanta
    home mortgage

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