Webmail receives facelift

Liz Tubman

Did you hurriedly log in to Lawrence Webmail service one morning in the last week or so and suddenly freeze, finding yourself staring at an unfamiliar-looking screen?
Recently, ITS implemented a number of changes to the Webmail system used at Lawrence. These changes included several new interface designs, the new ability to perform “lightweight directory access protocol lookups,” and the ability to use different layouts.
Webmaster Neal Gallagher explained the reasoning behind these recent changes. “We had four reasons for making changes to the Webmail interface: improving performance, adding additional features, making additional choices available and providing an updated look.”
In general, the previous Webmail layout worked well for many users, but could run significantly slower for users with larger inboxes. One of the new layouts performs somewhat better with a larger inbox, while another layout design tends to run a bit slower while providing some additional new features, explained Gallagher. “We wanted to give Webmail users more choices, and we wanted to add some functionality that had been lacking.”
Gallagher explained that ITS offered three new layouts to a test group of staff, faculty and student users. Their input ultimately led ITS to offer two completely new designs and to add some slight improvements to the previous Webmail design.
One of the major improvements in the new Webmail designs is the ability to perform lightweight directory access protocol lookups. Users now have to enter only part of a name and are then able to select the recipient’s address from the list of e-mail addresses from Lawrence’s LDAP server matching the name that was entered.
Another feature included in one of the new layouts lets users know how much of their email quota is being used, especially helpful if you find yourself using up a large portion of your inbox.
The new Webmail design also includes the ability to change the Webmail layout temporarily, depending on the user’s Internet speed. The “Simplex” layout is best used on campus with the broadband Internet connection, while the “Legacy” and “Spid” layouts work well off campus with dial-up connections.
Many students are happy with the new changes that were made. Sophomore Melanie Heindl mentioned that it was nice to be able to have more attachments, while senior Hannah Sobek especially liked being able to keep track of her email quota.
Some students, like Tiffany Mendoza, seemed indifferent to the changes and thought that the original Webmail design worked fine.
Other students thought that there seemed to be more important issues, such as security, which should be dealt with before changing the look of Webmail.