File Under: Web Services

Redesign Brings (Some) Gmail Smarts to Yahoo Mail

Yahoo Mail’s revamped web and mobile clients. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, is bringing a bit of her old employer’s famous design simplicity to Yahoo’s most-used service, Yahoo Mail.

The revamped Yahoo Mail web interface bears more than a passing resemblance to Gmail and is now joined by dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Windows 8, as well as a redesigned Android app.

If you’re not seeing the new web version just yet, Mayer says the new version will be rolling out “over the next few days.” You can grab the iOS, Android and Windows 8 apps from their respective stores. (Note that the iOS app is iPhone/iPod touch only.)

The revamped Yahoo Mail is unlikely to bring home any prizes for originality, taking most of its design cues from Gmail, but it does offer a considerably cleaner interface across web and mobile apps. Mayer says the focus of the redesign was on speed and claims that “getting through your e-mails is faster than ever before.”

The changes are primarily cosmetic; the underlying functionality of Yahoo Mail remains largely the same. That said, Yahoo Mail has dispensed with some of its more annoying design decisions — for example, when you login you’ll now land in your inbox rather than being dumped on an intro page. The new look also cuts down on the overall clutter of the web-based interface and reduces the number of clicks it takes to perform common tasks.

Unfortunately the free version of Yahoo Mail still lacks several features you’ll find in competitors like Gmail or Outlook.com, most notably POP/IMAP access (for desktop mail clients) and automatic e-mail forwarding. If you need POP/IMAP access (for example, to use your mobile device’s built-in mail client) or ever want to automatically forward your mail to another account you’ll need to sign up for Yahoo Mail Plus, which runs $20 per year. (If you know what you’re doing you can use a proxy service to access Yahoo’s free version via IMAP.)

Existing Yahoo Mail users may benefit from the redesigned interface and new mobile apps, but cosmetic changes alone are unlikely to win many converts from Gmail or Outlook.com. Coming from Google, Mayer undoubtedly knows that Yahoo Mail still can’t compete with Gmail on power user features, but she concludes her post with the promise that the revamped look of Yahoo Mail is “just the beginning.”