Outlook.com: ‘Here’ means where?

It has been many days since outlook.com was launched. My first reaction was that it was a simple interface with the compose feature bordering on unintelligible. I did voice it and many felt that I was overreacting, that minimal was the new usable. But I returned to it recently (I have to confess I don’t use it often) and found that the same things troubled me even now. Here is an image of the compose window…


I instinctively know that I need to type in the name of the recipient in that small box on the left. Because I am accustomed to typing inside a box. Even a blinking cursor would be a good affordance cue for me. But two other places baffled me. ‘Add a subject’ and ‘Type your Message here’. There was no box. ‘Here’ did not dictate my action as quickly as the box on left. If I flip the query and say Why is there a box on the left. Why can’t it simply say ‘To’ and expect people to type the recipient’s name?

Perhaps this ‘usability hair-splitting’ does not mean much, but this leaves a larger question in my mind unanswered – Will differences in affordance cues make learning a new interface a bit more difficult? Shouldn’t similarity be maintained ruthlessly to ease learning?

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