AOL has released a huge redesign to its AOL Mail experience which is the first major redesign to the product in about five years.
The new design which focuses on a cleaner inbox with some new mail features, as well as Facebook chat, AIM and SMS integration, is highly necessary for AOL Mail to be able to keep its 24M users from fleeing.
There are new “mini-apps” for managing contacts, AIM, to-do lists, events, etc. There are also new backgrounds and themes for customizing the look and feel of the inbox.
Ad placement and size has also shifted to provide a cleaner inbox with more space for mail. Per user monetization is significantly improved, the company says.
AOL Mail new look
AOL says the redesign comes at the tail end of a multi-year effort to improve the AOL Mail infrastructure, including a number of improvements to the backend technology for improved speed and stability.
“The big takeaway here is that users’ needs and perception of email has changed significantly since the early days of AOL Mail but the email services and applications haven’t changed on the same scale. Today, email is much more functional than fun – it’s more about organizing, planning and managing one’s life vs. a fun communications tool as it was in the past, says David Temkin – Senior VP of Mail and Mobile at AOL.
Besides the visual updates, AOL Mail also put more emphasis on calendaring and to-do’s in order to help folks with the planning and organization of their daily routines. All that said, because people literally will leave a tab open in their browser all day to mail, it’s also important to have users feel like the email is really a part of who they are.
The company kept themes, which reflect some of the beautiful artwork from the AOL logo as well as seasonal events. This allows people to continue to personalize their experience.
To go along with the redesign, AOL says it has expanded its available namespace, freeing up high quality, in-demand email addresses for new users, so that new users signing up “no longer have to use an address that includes a random string of numbers at the end of their names.”
AOL sees its brand as a major point of competition with the likes of web mail providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
When asked about social media’s impact on email, Temkin says, “There’s no doubt that social networking has disrupted communications but it has not killed email – it’s changed how people use email. It’s shifted from being a personal communications tool to more of a life management tool. Email is actually projected to grow by 2% between now and 2016 (via eMarketer).”
AOL Mail currently has about 24 million users. As of today, the new UI is officially available to the entire user base.
Do you use AOL Mail? What do you think of the redesign? DId you use it at one time? What made you stop? What do you think of the company’s approach to email now?