Microsoft Outlook for Windows is used by millions of people every day, to communicate and connect with others, to stay organized, and to get things done. It is a critical and essential piece of their day, with their email, schedules and meetings, people and contacts, tasks, groups, all in one place.
We know that change can be difficult, and its impact is felt when it touches your day as Outlook does for so many customers. In September 2018, Microsoft introduced user experience updates in Outlook with a new Coming Soon feature allowing you to try the new experience at your convenience. The Coming Soon preview pane enables you to preview, read about and try out changes that are coming soon to Outlook email and calendar by turning on this experience with an on/off toggle. With the changes that can be previewed through the Coming Soon feature, we are bringing you the option of a simplified experience, and reapplying Microsoft design principles to make it cleaner and clearer.
The Outlook user experience updates have been available through the Coming Soon for the last several months. With the Simplified Ribbon, you can customize it if you want different commands from the most frequently used and you can easily pin and remove items to personalize the experience to your work style. We updated the folder pane with new icons, text and alignment adjustments to make it easier to scan and find the folder you want. Subtle changes were made to the Message List providing more spacing between messages for easier readability and updates to recognize flagged items faster. Additional updates to the reading pane and when composing email include fewer visual distractions as well as an improved sequence when creating a New Appointment, where putting time before location provides smarter suggestions based on availability. We love that over a million customers tried the new experience with Coming Soon by turning it on right in the app.
In addition to letting you choose when to try out the changes, Coming Soon also lets you provide us with feedback, and it’s been invaluable in helping us adjust the experience. At the top level, we simply asked, do these changes make Outlook better? Almost half a million users responded, with over three-quarters saying “yes,” often with further written comments expressing strong preference for the simpler, cleaner, more modern design, and the new simplified ribbon that streamlines the experience. For the majority of those giving us feedback, we were on the right track. However, even more valuable than the praise was the constructive feedback we got from those who felt we could do better.
What We Learned
The response has been great, and feedback has been positive on the update as well as Coming Soon itself as a means of introducing change. One recurring bit of feedback was about the changes to the spacing in the message list and around fields such as To, Cc, and Subject. These design changes were intended to make the list easier to scan with better separation between each message. However, doing so reduced the volume of emails visible on the screen at once, which a small percentage of customers strongly prefer.
Changes based on feedback
Based on this feedback, we're introducing the option for you to choose to Use Tighter Spacing on the View tab, learn more. Similar to switching between the Simplified and classic ribbon, you can switch between standard and Use Tighter Spacing, depending on what feels best. Over the coming weeks, the density setting option will be described in the Coming Soon section as an option you can try it out and provide feedback.
We also want to remind you that all the user experience updates that have been described in Coming Soon over the last several months will soon be rolling out to all Monthly Channel customers. In May 2019, after rigorous rounds of validation and refinement, we will make the updates the default experience and no longer optional.
At that time, the Coming Soon button and toggle switch will also go away. However, given the positive feedback we received about using Coming Soon as a tool to introduce change, we plan to bring it back when we are ready to introduce another new set of changes to preview.
We are committed to continuing to improve the user experience and appreciate your feedback. We encourage you to try out the new user experience updates in Coming Soon in Outlook in the coming weeks. Moreover, we love your feedback – and want to continue to hear from you so the next time you see Coming Soon, you’ll have the confidence that we will continue to listen and learn. Please provide feedback in the coming weeks through the Coming Soon pane. And don’t forget that you can also continue to submit feedback to Outlook.uservoice.com
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