My own Windows Live wish-list

I just finished reading Jamie Thompson’s excellent post, Laundry list of wants for Windows Live wave 4, and I have several of my own to offer. I would have just left these as a comment, but my list is a bit lengthy, and I wanted the option to include it on my own blog and the Windows Live Clubhouse (gotta earn those points, after all). I’ve done my best to avoid replicating anything that’s already been mentioned.

Let me first say that while “waves” are an excellent way to add some semblance of versions to WL services, I really think the platform lends itself to more incremental functional upgrades. In short, I hope we don’t have to wait another year to see new features come to fruition. I know there’s a lot to coordinate among the various teams that are responsible for different elements of the services, but as the recent changes to Hotmail have proven, they can make smaller changes happen right away…if there’s enough motivation.

Windows Live Home

I love the new Home page. In fact, I’ve set it as my browser home page. It’s clean, simple, and relevant, and it should be a daily check-in for all WL users. Here’s a few ideas to make it even better.

  • More layout customization options. For something a personal as my Home page, one size does not fit all. Lots of users have lamented this or that feature being relegated to the More list in the WL banner. The order of links should be user-defined, as long as they don’t exceed 5 (all others have to go on the More list, which should ordered in a user-defined manner, too).

  • Ability to remove MSN feed. Don’t try to push your content on me, man.

  • Description of favorite items in What’s New feed. For example, if someone adds an artist to their favorite music list, then I see the album, but I’d also to see their comments.

  • Speaking of lists. There should be more types of lists, including TV shows, magazines, web sites, or perhaps just custom lists so I can roll my own. I would think they could fold the current Spaces lists in here as well. One place for all my WL lists. Done.

Windows Live Profile

My Profile page is my public face on WL, and it’s surprisingly good, but not perfect yet.

  • Link directly to blog(s). See my Spaces wish list.

  • Profile page URL. If there’s one page in the entire WL universe that needs a shareable URL (sans cid), it’s this one. How about a URL like http://xxx.profile.live.com (where I get to choose the xxx)?

  • More layout customization options. With more control over what people see about me and links to all me WL stuff, the Profile page could become a viable replacement for WL Spaces.

Windows Live People

WL People has been steadily evolving into a true online repository for all your contacts, which is really exciting. I’d like to move all of my contacts here, and have them accessible from any device I use. Before that can happen, though, a few changes are needed.

  • Integration with Windows Mobile contacts. I use a Windows Mobile 6.1 Smartphone, and I’d like to see my WL People (or some subset of them), when I click contacts on my phone.

  • Lose the banner ad. I think they’re already planning this, but it needs to happen. I don’t mind a side banner, but the one at the top of the page takes way to much room.

  • Support for all WL themes. That includes the new dynamic themes.

  • Consistent content width with other WL services. It may make sense for Hotmail to use the full width of the browser, but considering the information it presents, the main list on the People page just looks too thinly stretched.

  • Categories to which a contact has been assigned. I’d like to be able to see that Bob is in Friends, Colleagues, and  Windows Live. Right now, I just sort of blindly poke people into categories and then I have to navigate to the category to see who’s in it.

  • Custom contact tiles. I should have the ability to add my own custom images for my contacts who don’t have an avatar (or override those who do). That would be a really handy option for WinMo integration, since I could snap a picture with the phone’s camera and use it as the contact’s tile.

  • More standard fields. It seems like every contact management tool has its own collection of fields, which is immensely frustrating. Either provide a better set of standard fields (signifcant other, children, multiple phones), or provide a mechanism for creating your own. At a minimum, WL people fields should be consistent with those in WL Mail. After all, aren’t these all Microsoft tools?

  • Consistent formatting. OK, this is a bit nitpicky, but the spacing/color of links on Network members’ contacts doesn’t match the other WL pages (why are the nav links blue here, but nowhere else?). Plus, there’s currently no WL Header on Network members’ contacts.

Windows Live Hotmail

I’ve been using Hotmail since “back in the day,” and it’s hands-down a great e-mail platform. Until WL Mail came along, I primarily accessed the web-based interface.

  • Drop the “hot” in Hotmail. It just makes the brand too confusing. Windows Live Mail is sufficient.

  • Lose the banner ad. Same comment here as WL People.

  • Support for all WL themes. Same as above.

Windows Live Photos

Moving Photos over to SkyDrive made perfect sense to me. The new service is off to a great start, but there are a couple of areas for improvement.

  • Tagged photo integration. Allow photos in which I’m tagged to appear in my photo galleries, even if it’s just a link to a separate page.

  • Reorder photos in albums. I think this one is pretty much dead-center on the WL team’s radar. Many fans have expressed their concern about no longer being able to organize their photos since the last release. I’m confident they’ll bring back this essential capability in the near future.

Windows Live Calendar

The Calendar service has been in beta for a while, and it’s pretty solid, so I don’t have many comments here. I dig the integration with group calendars (see my previous post for information about how to lose the banner ad by viewing your calendar through WL Groups).

  • Integration with Windows Mobile calendar. I use a Windows Mobile 6.1 Smartphone, and I’d like to see my WL Calendar when I access the calendar on my phone. Group calendars are probably not necessary, but it’d be a cool option.

Windows Live Groups

I’ve probably used WL Groups more than any other part of the platform, and I love its potential. Right now, it’s woefully inadequate compared to a lot of the other, more mature group forum services.

  • Better support for organizing the discussion threads. I read Gizmodo and LifeHacker blogs a lot, and I’d like to see that type of support for expanding/collapsing and sorting replies. In fact, blog and profile comments would also benefit from better organization tools. However, it’s easy to get carried away with too many crazy gizmos; the focus should remain on developing a simple, clean, and unobtrusive UI.

  • Read-only public access to specific group resources. If I’m not a member of the group, then I can’t see anything except the group’s tile, member count, and description on the landing page. The owner(s) of the group should have options to make selected group contents visible to non-members. Not only would it help us better understand the groups before we join them, but it would keep group membership focused on people who want to actively participate.

  • More SkyDrive space. Each group needs the full 25 GB of SkyDrive space. Most won’t use all that space, but it’d be nice to have the option. And some kind of link to each member’s public SkyDrive folders.

  • Navigation links on discussion pages. The discussion pages should include the same left nav bar links that appear on the main group page, which would enable natural navigation around the group.

  • API to allow integration with non-WL websites. For instance, websites that want to include a chat forum could easily use WL groups to power that functionality.

  • TMI on What’s New list. If a group member start’s a new discussion, the What’s New list includes the name of the user, name of the discussion, and the name of the group (e.g., Greg posted Stuff on Group). Outside the group that makes sense, but inside the group, the group name link is just redundant.

Windows Live Spaces

This is probably my biggest pet peeve in the entire WL universe. I’ve recently drawn the ire of several WL friends by questioning the role of Spaces in the new WL suite of services. I’ve been using Spaces for years, and while it was once the central hub of your public WL presence, that mantle now needs to be passed to the Profile page. Spaces have become a breeding ground for bad taste and spam, the junk drawer of WL, and they seriously need to be beaten into submission to remain viable.

  • Comment control. There should be options to allow comments only from people in my network, a CAPTCHA challenge system, or comment moderation before they are visible to everyone.

  • Catalog/search for public spaces. I was shocked at the negative feedback this garnered when it was nixed in wave 3. People relied on it for finding new spaces and friends.

  • WL themes within my space. There are million themes for Spaces, and the vast majority of them suck hard. I’d like to see support for the same WL themes that are available throughout the rest of the services (including the dynamic ones). I’d rather have fewer themes that are really sharp-looking.

  • Strip out the blog. Reorganize blog to another part of WL, so that users don’t need a space just to have a blog. By separating the blog from spaces, a Blogs link could be added to the Profile page, so I don’t have to wade through your space, just to see your blog entries. Support for multiple blogs under one Live ID would also be nice.

  • Strip out the lists. Ditto for lists. They should be combined with favorites lists on the Profile page.

  • Multiple categories for each blog post. Right now, I can only pick one, which rather limits the usefulness of this feature. A decent category cloud should be an alternative layout in the Categories module.
  • Consistent WL banner. A space should have the same navigation links. Right now, I feel like I’m in a bit of a rabbit hole when I’m looking at someone’s space. It would be nice to have easy access to my stuff (just like on the Profile page).

Windows Live Writer

I’ve generally preferred the convenience of web-based tools and editors, but I fell in love with WL Writer after X-Evolutionist recommended it. Since then, I’ve used it exclusively to author my blog posts, and I’m surprised at how it’s improved my content.

  • Formatting options in the toolbar. Right now, if I want to change the font or color, I have to click the format menu. That sucks. While they’re at it, a pop-up editing toolbar (a la Office 2007) would be swell.

  • Support for trackbacks. Desktop apps should have a richer feature set than their web-based alternatives, but there’s no easy way to add trackbacks in Writer. If I want to include a trackback, I shouldn’t have to publish a post and then use the web-based editor to tweak it.

Windows Live Toolbar

I’m no fan of browser toolbars, but I do use the WL Toolbar once in a while. I particularly enjoy the sync of browser favorites with SkyDrive. It’s also handy to add an item to your shared favorites.

  • More options. I do my searching through the address bar or IE8 search bar, so I should have the option to remove Live Search  from the toolbar. Additionally, an option to auto-hide the toolbar or have it appear as drop-down on command bar would be awesome.

Windows Live Mail

One of the best personal e-mail clients, period. Here’s what could make it a bit better.

  • Support for WL calendar tasks. Again, I thought desktop apps tended to offer more features than their web-based counterparts. If I want to manage my task list, I have to log onto WL Calendar. How is it that the developers missed this?

  • Contacts in same window. It seems weird to me that when I want to manage my contacts, it pops open a new window. Is that necessary for some reason that escapes me?

Anyway, that’s my “short list.” smile_regular

What other features would you like to see?

– Greg

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12 thoughts on “My own Windows Live wish-list

  1. Some good ideas Greg but again, you seem to be hell bent on getting rid of Spaces altogether. If this happens then Windows Live will lose a lot of users period! You seem to be underestimating the usage of that part of Windows Live. Some good ideas and I hope you will add some to the Soapbox!

  2. I agree with TG. I admit i’m glad that Spaces is no longer at the center of Windows Live – but the last thing I want is for it to disappear. Having a public place to speak to the world should still be a major major part of Windows Live – that’s what Spaces is! If you think about it, Spaces is what differentiates Windows Live from other social networks.-Jamie

  3. i have all my windows live contacts synced to my phone already! you do have windows live installed right? there’s an option to sync windows live contacts with outlook contacts. it staggers duplicate contacts against hotmail contacts, as well as for contacts who just use messenger. It also shows update spaces with the glowing star in your contact list.

  4. @ TG – I never said it needs to removed. On the contrary, I think Spaces is a really unique feature of WL services. But I think its integration with the rest of WL needs to be redesigned to make more sense. It shouldn’t be the "home" of your blog or lists; rather, it should be a personal dashboard that you can build anyway you like, by pulling in content from other services via modules.

  5. "It shouldn’t be the "home" of your blog or lists; rather, it should be a personal dashboard that you can build anyway you like, by pulling in content from other services via modules. "Sorry Greg, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Spaces, to me, is about blogging. Pure and simple. People like to use it, for better or worse, to express themselves and that’s ok; but to me is a blog and nothing else.-Jamie

  6. @ Jamie – Fair enough, but I think we’re actually coming at this from the same angle! Some people like to "pimp out" their spaces with customized music playlists and animated graphics. I really only use my space for the blog, too. If they do decide to separate the blog from Spaces, then spacers could always use a module to pull it back in.

  7. Hmmm. It looks like they have already separated the lists from Spaces and reassigned them under the Profile. Look at the navigation links atop your space, and you’ll see the URL for lists points to cid.profile.live.com/lists. However, the "Favorite Things" lists on the Profile page seems to be a completely distinct thing (cid.profile.live.com/favoritethings). Not sure why; it would seem to make more sense if all your lists were in the same place.

  8. – Banner Ads: you can make these disappear by upgrading to the Hotmail Plus service $19.95/year. They should change the name of this annual subscription to "Windows Live Plus".- Branding: I agree with you that Windows Live (hot)Mail needs to lose some of its hotness and be just "Mail". I believe it will happen but Microsoft will probably want to give consumers more time get familiar with the Windows Live brand. Makes sense to me at least.My Top 3 "Wave 4" Requests3. Complete development of Live MovieMaker Beta.2. Make it easy to send Video Messages to my relatives.1. Make better sense of the cloud storage/syncing solution…hopefully around Live Mesh. This is probably the most challenging task Microsoft is faced with.

  9. Another great list, Greg. I’m going to make sure and send this link around internally. Would you mind also adding a "feedback" tag to your Windows Live Tag list? That helps me point everyone internally to all the blog posts that contain feedback.Really appreciate your suggestions!

  10. "Hot"mail speaks for itself. I like – no, I love it!Blogs come easy to me now since all the "Live" changes. If there are any "Space/blog" changes to come, as long as it remains as simple as it is now, I’ll not worry.Forgive me if I’m wrong but my Desktop email appy was called Windows Live Mail (when I upgraded it) as opposed to Windows Mail which was embedded within Vista. The suggested name change would probably confuse me at first.I’m not whinging Greg!

  11. @ Marcus – Done (and thanks for your comments). Jamie Thomson recently opened my eyes to the Feedback tag for WL Clubhouse. I’ll be sure to include it in the future.

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