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New Teams Channels Experience Rolls Out in Mid-June
Announced in a Teams blog post in October 2022 and confirmed in MC550081 (May 3, 2023, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 91683), Microsoft plans to roll out a “new channels experience” for Teams in early June (commercial and GCC tenants). The UI refresh is available for both the classic and V2.1 client in desktop, browser, and mobile clients. The V2.1 implementation has some extra tweaks that aren’t in the classic client. The old channels experience will disappear from the classic client once the roll-out is complete in late June. GCC-H and DoD tenants get the refresh about a month later.
According to Microsoft, the new experience has “an intuitive design that allows teams to focus and stay on tasks, bring everyone up to speed, and actively engage in real time.” The description begs the question of if it is so intuitive, why has Microsoft taken seven years to figure out that the old UI needed improvement? That’s a rhetorical question…
What’s in the New Teams Channels Experience
To be fair, I have used the new channels UI for several months. My view is that the new UI is better than the old because it’s cleaner and easier to use. Here’s my commentary on the features listed by Microsoft in MC550081.
The compose box (“Start a new post”) relocates from the bottom to the top of the page with the most recent conversations immediately beneath (Figure 1). The original Teams UI featured a nondescript compose box that Microsoft improved in 2020 with the introduction of the New conversation button. Now they’ve decided that putting the option to create a new conversation at the top of the page is better. No doubt testing proves their assertion that “it’ll now be much easter to start a new post.”
Like a chat, users can pop out conversations to a separate window (Figure 2). In many respects, working in a channel conversation is like working in a Teams chat because the new layout to read posts in a conversation looks very much like a chat. After reading through a conversation, a Go to channel button in the top right-hand corner reveals other channel conversations. User muscle memory needs some retraining to understand the nuances of moving from reading items in an individual conversation to browsing the channel.
Microsoft mentions pinning posts, something that’s been available for conversations since 2021. I don’t know why they highlight this capability for the new channels UI except that pinned posts appear in “a streamlined information pane” along with other information like the membership of the team.
“Simplified badging” make it easier for people to understand when new unread items are present. I don’t really know what Microsoft means by simplified badging, but this might be due to ongoing exposure to the new UI. A small New badge highlights new unread messages. Teams also bolds the names of authors of unread messages in the channel list. Maybe that’s what’s meant.
Features Not Mentioned
The October 2022 blog post covers some items not mentioned in MC550081. Conversations support Viva Topics (a feature already available in chats), but I see no trace of customizable channel headers or posting video clips in conversations. Video messages are also already in chat, so it’s only a matter of time before they appear in channel conversations (hopefully, Microsoft will address the compliance issue with video messages first). While you’re waiting for video clips, you can always create a video in Stream and post it to a conversation.
The Importance of a Subject
I would have liked it if Microsoft did something to require users to provide a subject for a new conversation. I think making a subject mandatory for new conversations should be optional, perhaps through a channel setting. Highlighting the start of a new discussion with a well-chosen subject just seems like common sense to me as it makes it easier to browse a channel to find conversations of interest. Many people ignore the wisdom of including a subject for new conversations, including some who should know better, and it’s infuriating.
New Teams Channels Experience Delivers Incremental Change
The new channels experience is an improvement. Like many UI advances, it’s more of an incremental tweak than earthshattering advance. But even so, it’s still good to see the improvements arrive. If only Microsoft allowed channels to be configured with mandatory subjects…
So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what happens, why it happens, and what new features and capabilities mean for your tenant.