From Memorializing the Day to Driving Success

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights. What are you reading this weekend?

01_pricing

On Starting Up…

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/219690
Drive your product to success with just a few monetary tweaks.

02_days

On Design & Product Experience…

http://inspirationfeed.com/2011/05/60-user-interface-calendar-inspirations-and-downloads/
Enjoy the extra days; soak in these designs.

03_api

On Modular Innovation…

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2011/05/23/attracting-developers-to-your-api/
Honor those with the right API.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb35555It’s been many weeks since my conversion has been wholly complete, many months since it became my primary means of email communication, when I was converted by an Android, and years since I first started using…. Gmail.

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the exercising of my resistance. Now, with such resistance both worn down and overcome, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, let’s explore what improvements remain undone, those of the ‘Should Do’ variety that would directly facilitate the conversions of many, many more to the ways of Gmail.

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Should Do

00_gmail-all Perhaps the greatest challenge to Gmail is Information Overload and the ability to zero in on both what is desired and what is most important.

  • Gmail can often feel like a very, very long list of information with few visual cues assisting in the efficient user parsing of the data. Many things can be done to assist in this readability challenge.
    • Support grouping of emails / discussion threads, by tags, from, to, substrings, age, size, frequency of receipt as well as frequency of reply (or even average delay before reply to), etc.
    • The introduction of the concepts of hierarchy would allow users to zoom in on what is important, becoming less dependent on knowing the precise search, becoming less likely to miss the ever critical email buried in a long list or discussion thread. Beyond the custom coloring of tags (a labs feature) tags should be able to be grouped as well as support hierarchical concepts, sub-tags. This would allow for a bridging of the folder and tag paradigms within the Gmail experience. Of course, having the choice to use tags, tag groups, and sub-tags and their groups, together with folders would provide for even more flexibility of these means of thinking and empower the users to choose the paths best suited for them. Most importantly, these concepts, when implemented, should facilitate finding information without knowing the exact details incumbent to initiate a search, i.e. browsing, possessing the characteristic of easy historical reference of read and unread content within an organizational superstructure that can cut through the overwhelming list of lists experience of today’s Gmail.
    • Sorting and filters, dynamic, inline, and customizable, as well as saved filter rules, another concept that Outlook implemented very well by way of their Search Folders (the name itself almost necessitates a Google equivalent), would also help cut through the clutter.
    • Provide the option to display either the total number (read + unread) or total unread tagged items alongside the tags. In turn, this would provide the ability to immediately archive communications, while maintaining a visual cue of their existence. In this approach, tags could function as more than mere labels, but become more action oriented keeping track of such things as to-do items or other rapidly evolving and critical communication (that would benefit from being separated from the clutter of the Inbox).
  • Discussion threads for tracking communication evidently work well for some people. For others, the thread is a sure fire way to misplace an important subset of the conversation.
    • Enable the ability to disable threads altogether, establish new threads and sub-threads, remove components / emails / sub-threads from a thread.
    • Allow for archiving of selective portions of a discussion thread.
    • Permit discussion threads that consist of multiple modes of communication; a single discussion thread could consist of Google Talk, Twitter, and Email communications centered around a single topic.

Google has many products that have official, open API’s and hooks for cross-product integration; lacking in the case of Gmail . Open source and APIs play very google_apisimportant roles at Google. They …

  • accelerate idea creation — inspire and build upon,
  • leverage the power of the community — improving and extending the product through community ideas, learning and need discovery,
  • facilitate testing (and bug fixing) on greater scale,
  • increase the stickiness of Google products,
  • .. among many other value-added benefits.

And, greater attention to Integration and Consistency within Gmail would also greatly benefit its current and potential users by…

  • Enabling better cross-linking between Google products (e.g. between Google Calendar and Gmail) as well as amongst external properties (e.g. Gmail and OneNote). For example, including the Gmail live discussion thread from which the Google Calendar event was created would be a step in the right direction. In addition, Gmail and Google Docs could be more tightly integrated, with document revisions coordinated and displayed and accessible, alongside the messages within the discussion thread making use of the underlying document(s). Even integrating, to various degrees, with Google Analytics can provide greater understanding of effective communications, best times to reach out to people, best ways to get desired responses, etc.
  • Creating an open Gmail Labs, or Gmail App Store, for third party development of plugins and enhancements for Gmail.
  • Increasing openness, modularity and portability of Gmail and its parts by establishing an Open Development Platform to provide for the rapid evolution of the features and ideas of Gmail; leverage the strategy that has proven so successful in other Google products.
  • Blending the social media stream, from Picasa, YouTube, Facebook, and Orkut to micro-blogging, blog posts, and comments, building upon the current integration of Google Talk and Google Voice to further become the centralized, single place for all an individuals web communication.
  • Supplying a framework for the robust flexibility and customization of the UX and UI. For example, let users create their own buttons, button containers, and both custom and common actions.
  • Integrating more easily and seamlessly with the OS. Microsoft Windows allows the user to right-click ‘send to mail recipient’ on files.’ When Gmail is the primary email client of choice, performing such action should direct the straight to a newly composing Gmail message.
  • Experience and information management should be consistent from one Google product to another, most especially products like Gmail (tag-based organization) and Google Calendar (calendar-based organization) and Google Docs (folder-based organization).

Now

htc-hero-pictures-15 Now that I have switched to Gmail from Outlook, I couldn’t be happier that I was so coaxed into this long resisted position. But, the conversion could have been better facilitated, and more can be done to accelerate others still resisting. I only hope that this journey, together shared, was more than fun, but also illustrative and educational for those that use, may some day use, or are in positions of power and influence to improve the web-based email / communication platform, Gmail.

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too. I resisted the Android, and succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. Through all of this, despite the long path already journeyed, there remain many more steps to walk, specific steps that those overseers of Gmail can take to further enlighten the experience of ones as of now converted as well as those yet to be.

Remember & Share

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss out on other exciting product explorations and in-depth looks at the people and strategies behind them.

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn 
The Product Guy

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You and the Future of Gmail

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3555htc-hero-pictures-15 Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities.

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the extent of the then existent exercising of resistance. Now, with such resistance eroded, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, let’s explore what improvements remain undone, those of the ‘Should Do’ variety that would directly facilitate the conversions of many, many more to the ways of Gmail.

Should Do

Seemingly, the most obvious steps that could be taken in easing the path to conversion for the average Gmail user are those that would directly both Encourage and Assist in the change.

  • Provide tools that can synchronize email, to-do, and calendar with other client-based and web-based solutions; allowing for the parallel use of communication platforms.
  • Automate the complete or partial porting of existing email organizing and sorting rules to Gmail from platforms like Hotmail, Automate, and Outlook.

00_gmail-all

Gmail takes a very unique approach to t he email paradigm, from tags to discussion threads. Such uniqueness can take some time to adapt to, while also being very intimidating to both the experienced and novice web user. Gmail would benefit from helping users gradually gain comfort, be in control of the transition from one way of thinking about email to another, by addressing the needs for Familiarity and Usability.

  • Allow for multiple paradigms to co-exist. Let the user decide which parts of the current Gmail UX they want right now and what aspects they want to keep in their ‘old,’ more familiar ways. Maybe tags are too much for a user to absorb in conjunction with discussion threads. For example…
    • let the user optionally use a folder hierarchy if, and until, they want to toggle over to the tag model, and/or
    • allow for different signatures per email account; signatures with pictures, links, etc.
  • Allow for the gradual transition to the Google perceived ideal of email and online communication, as well as the non-committal experimentation with all and/or parts of this newer email pattern.
  • With the incorporation of the very commonly found preview pane, the ability to scan through communications and discussion threads can be seriously accelerated.
  • Permit email reminders and the capability to schedule emails to be sent in the future.
  • Gmail and the other Google communication and time management tools should ease the performance of multiple simultaneous tasks, composing multiple emails, scanning another, planning an event, browsing contacts, without having to open quite so many additional browser windows.

01_outlook-instant With Google’s integral strategic goal to ‘make the web faster,’ one place they can most certainly focus on is the Speed of Gmail. Using Google search for the web is the fast way to find something online. The problem with that, of course, is that the user of Google Search does not differentiate between searching for something on the web and something in their email box when both seem to possess the same goals — "find what I want." Further raising the need for speedy email searching, especially for those converting from Microsoft Outlook, is Outlook’s Instant Search, a near real-time search of all one’s indexed email. It’s super fast. So when switching over to Gmail or even experimenting with it in prelude to a possible conversion, to experience performance slower than that of Outlook as well as the average Google web search, for an application so very central to a productive day, it isn’t surprising to see some continue their resistance.

  • Beyond accelerating the speed of displaying search results, Gmail would greatly benefit from a form of Instant Search, as would its users’ productivity.
  • Initial loading of Gmail, as well as individual page loading, should be greatly reduced. With long page loads, Gmail often regresses to a website feel, away from the target application experience desired by all. One such approach can be to always start in an ‘Instant Offline Mode’ and then update and populate the content; at least in this way, users won’t be delayed in getting into their email and finding what they want. Only the updating of the content would be slowed — much more inline with current application behavior expectations.

Now

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too, I resisted the Android, but eventually succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. Through all of this, despite the long path already journeyed, there remain many more steps to walk, specific steps that those overseers of Gmail can take to further enlighten the experience of ones as of now converted as well as those yet to be.

Remember & Share

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss out on the exciting conclusion to this series exploring the challenges facing Gmail and the most important of what should be done next, and other exciting product explorations and in-depth looks at the people and strategies behind them.

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Gmail – Sweating the Small Stuff

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb35This is part 6 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 6: To Resist

Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities. But, to fully grasp this fortune, these new degrees of productivity, it is important to pause, take measure of, and understand the crux at the heart at the core of the resistance to Gmail.

I am often asked, more so in the days since my recent conversion to Gmail, what is was, specifically, precisely, that caused me to build up such a strong aversion to a product such as this. And, the final piece, pieces, that made whole, almost immutable, my resistance to this conversion where the slowness, and the abundance of the little things.

Tiny Things

My on again, off again relationship, my basic resistance to Gmail was many-fold and lasted only until most recently. It was often the tiny things that got under the skin and kept us apart.

These things that grate at our well being, drive us apart when everything else feels surmountable, like pebbles, individually dismissible, together formidable, and in this case, significant in their contribution to the resistance heretofore exercised in the prelude to my conversion to Gmail.

Enough

Such infractions within this relationship had a cumulative effect:

Of course, to a much lesser extent than those explored in prior weeks, nonetheless, one of those pebbles, was the lack of customization of Gmail and Gmail related products (e.g. Google Calendar). And, by customization, I am referring to the abilities of plug-ins and other functionality aspects of these products whose counterparts in Exchange and Outlook had proven a comfortable harbor — one which I did not long to depart. Sure, calendar coloring by category is a tiny feature, a tiny thing, but one that I had grown accustomed to, one that has been there for me in helping me group and highlight important or critical elements — the similar offerings from Google Calendar, colorizing by calendar, not category, did not pass muster.

01_outlook-colors-calendar

02_google-calendar-colors

Another, inconsiderate act upon which I was frequently subjected, and even continues to this day, with greatly decreased frequency, relates to another notable series of infractions. Gmail never meant me any harm. I know that. It, I have believed, has always had the best intentions in trying to meet my needs, even trying to protect me from harm. But, its rigid treatment of spam, its very powerful spam filtering, … some interruptions occurring mid conversation … has resulted in me losing more than a few messages over the years.

03_gmail-spam

04_outlook-spam

It’s the tiny things that served as a persistent reminder to the Gmail resistance, individually minor, almost insignificant, but there nonetheless, unchanging, unmoving, and reminding me of all the other bigger things, that too persisted in like form. It’s the daily, tiny things that, when the larger ones fade from sight, serve has reminders to all the problems in the relationship that remain, remind us and eventually succeed in ensuring a persistent divide unbridged…

 

…that is, of course, unless, until you have the chance encounter, with an Android.

 

 

The Next

And, these propellants of reluctance, delayers of adoption, the fundamental causes of my resistance to what would eventually be overshadowed and forced aside, through the coercion of an Android to my conversion to the ways of Gmail, will, my friends, have to wait until next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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More Gmail Problems – Slowness

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3This is part 5 of a short story of personal exploration and development by one new to the daily employment of Gmail, long resisted, long desired, and eventually brought to conversion by an Android.

Part 5: To Resist

Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities. But, to fully grasp this fortune, these new degrees of productivity, it is important to pause, take measure of, and understand the crux at the heart at the core of the resistance to Gmail.

00_gmail-all

I am often asked, more so in the days since my recent conversion to Gmail, what is was, specifically, precisely, that caused me to build up such a strong aversion to a product such as this. And, the final piece, pieces, that made whole, almost immutable, my resistance to this conversion were the slowness, and the abundance of the little things.

Slow Play

The slow ticking, deafening to one waiting for the anticipated. Uncomfortable, the overbearing beating experienced, slowly. For far too often, especially when compared with its (Gmail’s) client-based counterparts, the tortuous drip of the less than instant search…

01_outlook-instant

…as well as the much lamented loading and screen transitions …

02_loading-gmail-1

02_loading-gmail-2

…that seem, even to this day, to reassert themselves and do cause the reluctant reassessment, of reversion from this conversion. And, impediments enough prior to that, too fostered, bolstered the overall aversion.

Thus Be Slow

This product, whose existence in my heart was a duality of contradiction, both courted and simultaneously resisted, placed further strains on this relationship that was still yet to be through its exhibition of yet another form of slow, adding unnecessary ballast to an already firmly cemented resistance.

This flame, with whom I oft flirted and fled, constantly tempted me, showing me a directional inclination to meet my needs and address my concerns. Such innovations were Gmail’s enchantments.

Dressed in exciting and alluring features befitting many a niche market and wanton suitor, myself not excluded, Gmail showed off such items as inline Netflix — great for that quick, one-time thrill; directionally appealing, but not enough upon which to build a long term relationship.

03_gmail-netflix

My family is a small one, but with everyone having their role and doing their part, up to now always getting along. Sure, there’s the occasional spat. But, in the end the family has always come together, harmony reached, OneNote sharing with Outlook, email and notes kindly cooperating and linking up with calendar, etc.

04_onenote-link

05_calendar-link

Gmail looked like it may someday get along with the whole family. However and again, its slowness came into play. Oh, sure, it worked hard in demonstrating the desire to improve and move in this direction, but lacking in facility, and those of which to bring home to and boast about.

But, for sealing the deal, a broader, some more whole approach, more generally appealing would be needed.

Separations

Passionate reunions were, over this long courtship, ignited…

06_gmail-gears

I waited, just outside, for what seemed, maybe even was, an eternity, to be able to take Gmail out and offline. But, while the time did eventually come, and did go a long way in wearing down my long established resistance, freeing myself and Gmail in our travels, enjoying our time in the park, on the plane, in far off places, places where WiFi had yet to reach.

… but, each and every time ending in disappointment, each subsequent breakup more disheartening than the last.

And, while dazzling, this flame, with whom I flirted, was a slow burning one. The evidence of aforementioned inclinations dwindled, giving rise to apprehensions of illusions, concerns of progress in ways most fitting to the needs most relevant, most pertinent to my resistance.

Little Things & The Resistance

But, what of the other reasons for my resistance, which managed to be sustained from the early days of the private Gmail beta to the most recent of but few weeks passed? What sort of little things could have kept me apart from Gmail for so long a time? For surely there must be more to such a stalwart position as has been held by me, and I am sure many others still, for, for them, the resistance most definitely continues. And, indeed there are. In addition to…

Exiguous Encouragement,
Inescapable IO (Information Overload), and
Suffersome Slowness

… there too are the staunch galvanizers of resistance …

Tiny Things.

The Next

And, these propellants of reluctance, delayers of adoption, the fundamental causes of my resistance to what would eventually be overshadowed and forced aside, through the coercion of an Android to my conversion to the ways of Gmail, will, my friends, have to wait until next week.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook,

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Add to Social Bookmarks: Stumbleupon Del.ico.us Furl Reddit Google Add to Mixx!