Sample Thunderbird UI redesign

Blake Winton bwinton at
Fri Nov 18 16:04:11 UTC 2016

To be fair, the people who dislike something are way more likely to comment about it.  We know that Firefox has a reasonably high user-satisfaction score, but if you look at <>, the amount of negative feedback ranges from 80%-90%.  And, as you imply, we don't hear from any of the people who aren't using Thunderbird because they feel it looks old and outdated…  🙂

Blake Winton   UX Engineer
bwinton at <mailto:bwinton at>

On Nov 18, 2016, at 00:27, Graeme <musiquegraeme at> wrote:
> Hi 
> Everytime Microsoft upgrades Windows or Word I get several comments from users who groan and say, "Why don't they leave it alone? Why do they always change how things are laid out so that it takes forever to find things again?" I hear very few, "Yeh, isn't this better and cleaner and more modern." Generally speaking it feels like computer geeks like trying new things out and the majority of computer users wish they'd leave it all alone... Do we want to please the larger group or the smaller... 
> There are of course the new users... I guess for them it's a case of how easy it is to learn the new UI. I don't know how many of those there are.
> Graeme
> On 18/11/2016 15:48, Martin Iturbide wrote:
>> Hi
>> My personal opinion is that Thunderbird GUI is outdated. When I got back to use it after some years it took me several minutes to find out that the calendar needed the be opened from the top right icon (near the window minimize icon). Sure that you can customize where the icon goes, but by default it shows up at the top-right.
>> The chat function was very hard to configure and at the end I preferred not to use it anymore before it was making Thundebird unstable. It may sound weird but even Lotus Notes has a better chat integration on the application than Thunderbird. The Thunderbird address book looks like a disconnected application that was bundle together with the package. 
>> I think that Thunderbird's GUI requires an important update. If there is fear of what can think 25M users can think about changing the GUI maybe it can be interesting to try to poll some of them. Or maybe fork the project and make a more experimental change of GUI to see the user's reaction. 
>> I liked the fearless authors of that blog to try to think outside the box and try a different concept.
>> Regards
>> On Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 7:48 PM, R Kent James <kent at <mailto:kent at>> wrote:
>> On 11/17/2016 2:24 PM, Jörg Knobloch wrote:
>> > This has already been discussed on the "TB Council" mailing list,
>> > perhaps Kent can share his views.
>> I'm not actually the guy in charge of UI, that is more Richard and
>> Magnus these days. But with that caveat, here's my response, it is not
>> intended to be private:
>> Hi Szymon,
>> You've managed to hit us at a very inconvenient time relative to other
>> deadlines for releases, but I'll try to give some comments, without
>> spending large amounts of time looking in detail at what you have done.
>> ... (response for feedback on specific wording of a prototype to their
>> original blog post)
>> On the user interface proposal itself:
>> I would welcome a change in the look of the product while keeping the
>> existing functionality. The kinds of changes and polish that you are
>> proposing would be very helpful with new users who are more used to a
>> different look. But accept this just as my personal comment, realizing
>> that I am not the guy who typically does or approves user interface changes.
>> But I have some cautions.
>> I think that there is an assumption that "It looked like a modernized
>> product straight out of the 90’s" is obviously bad, without giving
>> specific reasons that the current design impedes the workflow of people.
>> Yes look matters, but people use an email client to get real work done.
>> The interaction of look with functionality also needs considering.
>> One example: Including picture icons in the thread pane is a challenge,
>> as they are typically larger than the text, and that results in fewer
>> lines of viewable messages. This is particularly a problem in our
>> default Classic view, where the space available to the thread pane is
>> more limited (you have shown what we would call the "Vertical" view,
>> that takes three columns rather than our default of two columns. So the
>> available space for viewing of the thread pane is reduced in your design.)
>> We at Thunderbird unfortunately do not have a good idea of why and how
>> people use our product, nor whether our existing design is causing them
>> problems. But as your blog post shows, you are proposing to modify
>> Thunderbird so that it effectively looks like very other email client
>> out there. Like you said, there are "TONS of email clients" yet somehow
>> we cling to 25,000,000 users. I do not think that it would be wise to
>> change the existing functional design radically without a better
>> understanding of why, if there are "TONS of email clients", our users
>> cling to us rather than switch.
>> So what I would like to see is a good understanding of the functionality
>> of the existing user interface (particularly the thread pane), and what
>> additional functionality is lost or gained by proposed changes other
>> than "looks more modern" and making it look like every other client. I'm
>> not saying that what we have is perfect, or that what you have done is
>> not possibly an improvement, but you have not actually answered the
>> questions that I think are the most important.
>> ...(comments on how valuable it would be if their organization engaged
>> more directly with Thunderbird).
>> R Kent James
>> Treasurer, Thunderbird Council
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>> -- 
>> Martín Itúrbide
>> <>
>> martin at <mailto:martin at>
>> martiniturbide at <mailto:martiniturbide at>
>> Quito - Ecuador
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