Given the popularity of Yahoo’s Web-based email -- it’s number one in the U.S. -- it makes sense that it would be the first makeover target for the new CEO, Marissa Mayer.

The Internet company, struggling to regain its footing, is rolling out an updated version of its Web email over the next few days and launching an upgraded Android app and new apps for iPhone/iPod Touch and Windows 8.

Users have told Yahoo that they want “fewer distractions when it comes to email,” Mayer said in a posting this week on the Y! Yodel Anecdotal company blog. The new Yahoo Mail is focused on being “fast, easy and available anywhere you go,” she said, as well as more intuitive, easier to navigate and bearing a consistent look and feel across devices.

Faster Workflow

The company said that the redesigned large-screen Web version is optimized for creating messages and inbox management. For smaller, mobile screens, the central idea is checking in and quickly processing email.

Yahoo Mail for Web, Win 8.png

In all versions, the simplified design has cut down on buttons, and users go directly to their inbox after logging in, instead of being sent to a Yahoo news gateway page. Similarly, a user returns immediately to the inbox after sending an email, rather than to a screen saying that the message has been sent.

The company also said that behind-the-scene processes have been ramped up to improve performance and, to facilitate search, there’s now an auto-complete. Attachments will now be highlighted by appearing at the top of the message instead of the bottom.

Learning Opportunities

Additional functions include the ability to add photos directly from a digital camera into email and to resize photos with a built-in tool.

Windows 8 Features for Yahoo Mail

The new version is also designed to take advantage of some of the built-in features in tablets and PCs using Windows 8. Live Tiles will show new email messages, for instance.

While Yahoo email is first among Web-based emails in the U.S., it’s third worldwide, after Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Hotmail. More importantly, it appears to be slipping, with 16 percent fewer unique U.S. users in November than a year ago. Over the same period, Gmail’s U.S. users jumped 25 percent.

Mayer’s plans for Yahoo are fueling a small cottage industry of speculation about whether, as with the redesigned email, she intends to upgrade other key areas of the company -- search, finance and news among them. The key question, however, is whether or not such sprucing will be enough to reinvigorate the company’s fortunes.