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The Best Open Source Email & Collaboration Software
Earlier I wrote about WebApp. I have spent some words on how easy it is to create and deploy plug-ins and the architecture of WebApp itself. You might have experienced already that one the key strengths of WebApp is the responsiveness of the user interface; asynchronous server communication is being used and data is cached once it is accessed.
But yeah, what really counts is how users experience working with WebApp. Do they confirm our thoughts on what a user friendly web client should look like? Do they prefer the 'old school' webaccess in which each email is opened in a separate browser window:
or do more people vote for the initial version of WebApp, which opens emails in application pop-ups and has gained considerably on speed:
The only way to find out what is in their minds is to interact with them, so we did... What seemed to be a simple question turned out to have a surprising answer: neither of them!
Although the speed of opening emails in application pop-ups was endorsed, we learnt that it also frustrated a specific user group. Power users including secretaries did not seem to like that opened emails were stacked on top of each other and that they have to organize the pop-ups again and again to have a clear overview:
Fortunately, SummerCamp, our yearly user conference was coming up. The best occasion to book meeting rooms, film power users while going trough their morning email shift of 30 emails and interact with people on how to improve WebApp's behaviour of opening multiple emails.
In our meetings we started to evaluate two design mockups:
This mockup shows that emails are still opened in an application pop-up. However the pop-up is extended with a button to convert the application pop-up into a browser pop-up. In this way the window can be easily minimized or moved.
The second mockup contained a tab bar above the reading pane which includes the opened items. To switch quickly between the opened items, you only need to select the tabs.
The preferences of power users such as secretaries became clear very soon. The mockup with the tab bar proved to be very popular but not without mentioning a downside... Reading an email full screen was not possible. Especially in case of larger emails when a focus on text is necessary, it is annoying to see the inbox and all new incoming emails on your screen as well.
So, we have decided finally to solve this problem by replacing the tab bar by a bar on top of the messagelist and reading pane. Once a tab is selected it will be displayed full screen:
This tab bar (1) enables users to switch quickly between several opened emails (2), but also new emails that are in progress (3) and other items like contactsor calendar items (4).
Our latest WebApp beta release already contains this new tab bar. It will become officially available in the WebApp 1.2 release in October 2012 which will also feature rules management, distribution list support, quota support and many performance improvements.
We invite you to drop ideas on new features for secretaries and other power users. Wouldn't it be great to see them processing their daily huge email load with a beautiful smile on their faces?