Friday, June 25, 2004

Hotmail wades in guns blazing

It seems Bill Gates is another famous reader of this blog, as following on from the previous post, Hotmail has joined the extra storage slug-fest.

After my (and several million others', to be fair) gripes about having to constantly clean out emails, Hotmail is now offering a competitive 250mb of storage for users of the basic free service with a Gmail-busting (in all but price...) 2GB for users of the $20 a year service.

However, despite the news, there's no sign of action yet on my humble hotmail account which remains a sorry 2 meg...

Sort it out for me, will you, Bill.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Gloves are off in fight for email customers

Yahoo is taking on Google's Gmail head on with the launch of a double-your-storage 2 GB offer (but only for paying subscribers of their US ISP). From a position where free email providers were trying to monetise their services by limiting storage and charging for extra, Gmail's offer of free 1 GB storage has forced a major rethink.

Even beyond the big players, Aventure is offering a similarly storage-busting 2 GB, as a winner-takes-all mentality is starting to come into play.

It should be interesting to see how MSN responds or whether they are hoping that the millions of pioneering hotmail users will stick with their email addresses after all these years. I have both a hotmail and a gmail account and while it is still a pain having to constantly delete emails to keep it under the 2 meg storage level, it would be even more of a pain to change my email address. That said, if they started to charge for the hotmail service, the decision would be easy and GB storage here I come.

Note: In an earlier post, I talked about "Gmail account up for sale on e-bay" where the bidding was around the $20-30 mark, I note it's now around the $2-3 mark as supply and competitor offerings are starting to flood the market.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Usability - as easy as A-B-D

In the interests of research, I took part in an online usability study today for a major UK news site. Usability is increasingly tagged-on as a 'oh, yes, we do that' service, but the number of true experts is still relatively few. It's an accessible subject as so much of what it teaches is common sense. Indeed, after a quick read of Jacob Nielsen's Alertbox, many feel they 'get it', but there is much, much more to learn before you can become an objective expert in what is far too often a subjective field.

All the more interesting, then, to actually 'do usability' and participate in the study. It involved sitting in front of a camera, talking into the microphone and recording your screen as I completed a number of tasks. The tasks involved basic ones, such as navigating to the 'World News, section, navigating back to the homepage, to more in-depth tasks, such as finding an article on surfing by columnist 'x' without using search.

Given how well known the site was, the series of tasks showed how easy it is to let common sense pass you by in website design as a website evolves. The best example was 'find help' where you had to find a mysteriously-named 'information' section first up, before reaching the 'help' section buried beneath. Common sense, you'd say, but as sites grow organically, it's very difficult for the people that build them to take a step back and put themselves in the user's shoes, as the real headache of managing all that content becomes apparent.