Windows Live Hotmail: In other words, Hotmail. All the power to the guy who invented Hotmail and blew open the doors to internet communication, its just too bad Microsoft has since ruined Hotmail by first a) not improving it for the first five years after acquiring it and b) by handing the renovation project over to a bunch of monkeys who insist on making it look more like Windows, only slower. Just like anything else webby, Microsoft was late in pumping out a proper email platform and when it finally did, it forgot to copy Gmail properly. Instead it took the approach of copying Gmail and at the same time keeping components of the already crappy Hotmail intact. Bad move. I don’t want to right click to select multiple messages, we do that with checkboxes on the web. The Spam filtering is still brutal and the emails that you actually want to receive end up in the Junk folder (something that has NEVER happened to me with Gmail) or you’re forced to click pointless buttons like “Show Content” and “Mark as Safe” even for emails sent by your Mom. The interface shifts more often than Alberto Gonzales and 20% of the screen is taken up by an ad. The concept of tags still hasn’t caught on and you’re forced into segregating content into folders. If you have any integrity you should stop using Hotmail.
Windows Live Messenger: In other words, MSN. I still have a copy of 4.1 on my machine, see that’s where the product stopped being chatting software and turned into a slow and bloated commercial about other Microsoft services. Throw in links to date.com, some trashy horoscope sites, an MSN Today popup that should never have seen the light of day and you end up with Windows Live Messenger – the crappiest chatting software in the world. It must’ve been a slow year for Webware to select this piece of trash in their top 500. The problem with this thing is that it doesn’t know who its catering to so it tries to please everyone: huge emoticons, whiteboards, limits on how much an be typed, multiple contact groups, bulky user interface, games, celebrity gossip, all send mixes messages to someone who’s just trying to tell his wife to pick up some bread when coming back from work. Death to Messenger.
Flickr: OK, you have to understand that unless you have a pro account Flickr is about as useless as an appendix. Here are some of the restrictions: only three albums allowed, 100MB upload per month and here’s the kicker: You can only display 200 images at any given point! The last restriction pretty much encapsulates the first two rendering the entire product worthless for anyone who takes say 10 pictures a month. So much for the “Flickr loves you” slogan, a more appropriate one would be “Buy the pro account!”. Sure there’s some nice stuff, RSS feeds and of the sort but if you’re going to spend your money, don’t give it to Yahoo, they’re rich enough. Try SmugMug which is vastly superior and run by people who genuinely care about your user experience (use vz6dRtcdUp91g as the coupon code to help a brother out). If you’re too cheap to spend money on photography storage, PhotoBucket is still better than Flickr. They don’t have a great uploader but thanks to the people at Flock, that’s been taken care of.
MyPunchBowl: Again with the modal boxes. Go there, sign up, and try to add an event, then tell me what you think of the site. The love affair with Lightbox continues as it seems every alternate form is using it regardless of whether the usage is justified. Maybe its something about the screen dimming after you click on a button that gets developers and marketing folks all wet in the pants, either way it’s getting to the point where usability is being sacrificed for the sake of using a gimmick. Also, since when did it become so cumbersome to click “Edit” and then start typing that people have resorted to making multiple text boxes and textareas disabled only to bring them to life after an unintuitive click, thereby wasting away any sort of tacit knowledge the user might’ve had. Where and when did this design principle pop out? A site that is dead simple in the functionality it offers is made to look like a 70 year old whore in 5 inch heels.
Wink: This sight is a little scary. It’s a people search that searches social networks such as MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn and Friendster to suck any information about the unfortunate soul whose name was typed. Apparently the privacy agreements you sign on some of these sites allow third party apps to search their databases, pull up personal info including photographs and display it to ANYONE, something that might not be apparent at first glance. Remember the times when it was cool to use an image for a button? Well that practice is still acceptable as long as the result is somewhat pleasing to the eye. Don’t tell that to the designers at Wink, they love to use buttons with gradients that bring you all the way back to 1998 making you wonder where the colored scrollbars which would make the experience complete are. The app doesn’t search Facebook so it’s pretty much pointless.