Redesign IBM Notes

Following are the main objectives:

  • 1. Analyse and study about IBM Notes.
  • 2. Find out how users interact with IBM Notes.
  • 3. Understand the interactions flaws or design frustration which limit the user efficiency.
  • 4. Perform a Heuristic evaluation.
  • 5. Conduct a competitors study and understand how they solve similar problems.
  • 6. Find new value-added features which can be adopted to increase productivity.
  • 7. Redesign the email client using the study results.

Design Thinking Approach

According to Don Norman, the human-centered design process starts with a good understanding of people and the needs that the design is intended to meet.

And I believe for Redesign IBM Notes, the best design approach is Design Thinking.

To create meaningful innovations, you need to know your users and care about their lives.

  1. Empathy/Discover

It is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process. It helps to understand people, within the context of the design challenge.

  1. Define

Define mode of the design process is all about bringing clarity and focus to the design space.

  1. Ideate

It is the stage, main concentration is given on idea generation.

  1. Prototype

Prototype mode is the iterative generation of artifacts intended to answer questions that get stakeholders closer to the final solution.

  1. Test

Test mode is an iterative mode in which feedbacks are captured from the end users on the prototype created.



User Segmentation

Depending on the type of usage, we can divide the entire users into two.

1.Organisation Users

An organization like TCS, Honda, and other companies purchase the IBM Notes client and setup server in company premises. After that, they configure IBM Notes for their employees using the ID Files.

Here the end users are employees of that organization. They use the email for work-related activates.

Major activates are:

  1. Send/Receive Work-related emails.
  2. Scheduling meeting and reminders.
  3. Calendar & Organise day activity.
  4. Use sametime feature (chat) to communicate.
  5. File Transfer

2. Personal Users

Individuals setup the client file in their personal system comes under this segment. These users utilize only sending & receiving mail feature. ‘Schedule meetings’ and ‘organising day’ are rarely used by these users.

Major activates are:

  1. Send/Receive personal emails.
  2. File Transfer

User Interview/Contextual Enquiry

An interview is a better way to understand the hopes, desires, and aspirations of the users.

A total of 4 users were interview during this process. Insights obtained were carefully analyzed. Their emotions and experience with IBM Notes were recorded. These interviews were performed in their environment. Users of the different background were selected. Total combined IBM notes usage is more than 17 years.

Below are the main points which surfaced in this interview. IBM notes have created a mixture of emotions in these users:

  1. Clarity on feedbacks can be improved.
  2. Many functional issues and bugs are affecting the experience.
  3. Follow-Up mail can be represented better.
  4. Settings and other Menu option can be managed and displayed in a better way.
  5. Unused folders & menu can be eliminated or moved to secondary level.
  6. Visual Re-imagination is more effective with Iconography and color.
  7. Emails of similar content can be grouped together intelligently.
  8. Focusing simplicity can add value to the experience.
  9. The complexity of menus can decrease decision time.

Heuristic Analysis

Competitors Analysis

There are many email client in the market. But the major market is for Google Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and IBM Notes. Gmail and Outlook have 80% of email clients. Gmail has rolled platforms like Inbox, which will ease the usability and experience.

Hence in this section, both Gmail and Outlook are studied. The study is done by interviewing users of both email clients.


Design features that user like:

  1. Global search is very convenient.
  2. Less primary menu options causes less confusion.
  3. Filter Option is very efficient
  4. Light Weight and good feedback mechanism.
  5. Compose mail widget helps user to refer other mail while composing.

Design features that user don’t like:

  1. Reading different mails can’t be done quickly. A split view is recommended.
  2. Compose mail widget is fixed.


Design features that user like:

  1. Simple and clean design.
  2. Uses of white spaces and light color bring a feeling of lightness.
  3. Mail view is viewed as a split view. Hence the user can read through multiple emails quickly.
  4. Chat function and build in Skype

Design features that user don’t like:

  1. More options in the menu will affect decision making.
  2. Email client takes time to load.
  3. Compose mail is not highlighted.

Research Findings

In the Empathize stage, it is found that there are many gaps which affect the User experience of the IBM notes.A good Information Architecture can make the navigation flow better. Heuristic Analysis finding can be taken into consideration during the design phase.

Competitor Analysis gives a glimpse into the possibilities and methods that can be adopted to improve usability. But most of all, Interview and contextual inquiry has done with the users provide the most important inputs while Re-designing IBM notes.

Design of the new system must solve their frustrations and pain points. In addition to that, there must be value-added features that increase the productivity and efficiency of the User.


User Persona

A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a group of users. Here personas are created from data collected from interviews with users. Hence there will be 4 persona.

Understanding Scope

These are the Primary functionality of the email client:

  • 1. Send/Receive Mail
  • 2. Share File
  • 3. Scheduled Meeting
  • 4. Organise calendar & day

The secondary functionality are:

  • 1. Out of Office
  • 2. To–Do list
  • 3. Settings
  • 4. Chat

High-Level Information Architecture

Different Type of Mail List:

  • Inbox
  • Drafts
  • Send mail
  • Spams
  • Trash
  • Starred
  • Important


Outputs from Empathize and Define stage were used in Brainstorming. Main focus of Brainstorming session is to rectify the pain points surfaced during the user research as well as to come up with value added feature which elevate the user experience.

Following are some of these ideas:

  1. Grouping Mails Together

Information overcrowding was the main pain problem found out in user research. This affects the productivity and efficiency.

Solution: Grouping similar mail using intelligence. This can be done by understanding keyword, sender, and the context

  1. Composing Mail Widget

In most cases, a user refers another mail while composing a mail. Hence compose mail should be like a floating widget. Thus the experience of composing mail can be elevated

  1. Split View Mail List (Web)

Split View help user in quick reading through a lot of mail. Closing each mail or usage of back button can be eliminated using this view.

  1. Compose Mail Geography & Time

Mails are sent to people of different geography. Hence provision to see the current time of the recipients is needed. Thus a user can get a better understanding of the recipient.

  1. Creating meeting

A meeting will be effective only if the all intended attendees are present. Having the knowledge of the local time and geographical location of all attendees is important.

For example, it is not advised to conduct a meeting if the local time of attendee is night time. Hence Geography and local time at these geographies are helpful for scheduling a meeting.

  1. Feedback for recipients

Proper feedback on ‘read mail’ is effective. This will eliminate ambiguity.

Rough Paper Sketch



Visual Design

Mail List
Compose Mail
Schedule Meeting



Information collected in Empathize stage was analyzed and scope was fixed in Define stage.

These outputs were used in Brainstorming and sketching.

Both Low Fidelity and High Fidelity prototype helps programmers in developing this solution.