user experience

Gmail & What You Think

Sharing some of the great off-blog thoughts and advice from others who have been or may some day be converted to Gmail -- more than a few with whom I agree.

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb355This is part 7, an interlude in the 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.

For before I lay out my thoughts on what Google should consider putting on their ‘Should Do’ list, I thought I would share some of the great off-blog thoughts and advice from others who have been or may some day be converted to Gmail — more than a few with whom I agree.

What Other’s See

imagePosted by Antoine Bonnin

There is so much to do, I’m not sure where to start :).

Easy ones could be to allow folder creation (instead of labels) and an option to sort emails in your inbox (by dates, name, etc).

It would also be great to use Ajax instead of refreshing the page when opening an email, the email content would appear as others slide down (tough one to explain without an image).

Posted by Ilana Schwartz

Top 3 wish list for gmail:
1. Preview pane
2. Tabs for inbox, email in progress, other folders.
3. Sort by (as mentioned)

Posted by Ilana Schwartz

Some are required, by law, to save information and folders seems to be easier conceptually. It does mirror how info is saved to an os.

I could do without folders, but I think that Gmail lacks convenience without preview pane and a variety of sorting methods.

But maybe I’m taking too small a view – I’m quite interested in these fundamental changes you would make…?

image Posted by Eric Sunderhaus

Further mirror functionality in Outlook that users have come to rely on.

Such as..
1. Allow screen capture function similar to Outlook.

"Window Key" + "Print Screen"
"Control + V"

2. Allow users to easily change default email in operating system from Outlook to Gmail so that when applications trigger an email message they don’t immediately open Outlook; but rather Gmail.

Posted by Antoine Bonnin

I agree with llana, preview pane would be a nice feature, so you can easily go through each emails without getting lost in the confusing "email UI".

The "search" is so not user-friendly, you can tell Gmail was created by engineers for engineers 🙂

image Posted by Luca Candela

I think Gmail is ripe for a serious overhaul… most of the features and settings aren’t easily findable, the legibility of pretty much all text is poor, the interface doesn’t make very good use of big screens…

In general I see a lot of space for improvement, although I’m a fanatic of the service.

image Posted by Roberto Champney

Luca, has a point. Gmail’s has some serious usability problems. I can’t ever remember where things are and even to create a new message it is hard to find the function (even though it is right there in front of you; but some genius managed to make it almost invisible). I use it as backup and for its calendar sharing feature, that’s about it.

I like the thread approach, but things can get scary after a few threads are going on. Also the lack of a "drag ‘n drop" capability makes it more a hassle than good all outlook (try attaching 5 files and you get my point)…

good luck…

image Posted by David Garrett

I think step 1 should be more from a business requirements standpoint than a user experience solution. In other words, they need to accommodate all the services that Hotmail and others provide, such as calendar tools but, at the same time, include some of their own unique tools and link tightly with Maps, YouTube, etc. and seriously consider how those services can play into the evolution of gmail.

Posted by Luca Candela

Matt, I STRONGLY disagree with you. Gmail doesn’t need to be beautiful but needs to get better at being usable. Right now it’s downright distracting. Live mail is way better at letting you know instantly what is what and what’s the purpose of everything.

"If they do it that way there’s a good reason for it" it’s the kind of mentality that keeps progress from doing its job. I grew up in a small town surrounded by farmland, and it’s the kind of rationale old farmers would come up with when they had no better way of arguing against some improvement or change in old ways of doing something.

Gmail is an awesome product that was put together by people worried about a few things but definitely not about making it easy to use. It would take very little to make it a better product and I for one wouldn’t miss the old interface AT ALL.

In fact, you can check some interesting experiments in skinning with the style plugin for firefox, if you can’t find it just let me know and I’ll give you the links.

image Posted by Vera Lugovskaya

The absence of sorting was a big issue for me. I needed to be able to sort by Sender. After a while I found "Filter". It kinda solved my problem but column sorting would improve usability a lot.

Another detail which was bothering me was "Print All" when I needed to print one message from a thread. It seems recently they added "Print" to message features which prints one message though I still feel that "Print All" should be a second choice in the Message window.

I agree that labels are limited. Besides they have "Tree" widget in their GWT library. I wonder I they don’t use it in GMail.

image Posted by Matt Gist

Gmail should keep pegging away as is. People should get used to the fact that something like a web-based email client should be highly-customizable and ever changing.

Gmail might not be beautiful, but it wouldn’t be designed the way it is without exhausted research and data to support why it is design the way it is.

If people need acclimating, then the best thing would be tutorials and such.

image Posted by Bob Stoneburner

Actually what Google is doing is probally the best strategy. Provide Android as an open source platform with multiple communication options in a single client, (email, online presence, schedualing, video conferencing, SMS, ect). Get traditional Microsoft OEMS to build smart phones on your mobile platform. Ultimately cost and level of integration in the cloud (with mobile being a primary access point) will drive adoption of which email system users select.

The Next

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. But, that, my friends, that part of this short story, I will save for 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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  1. The print function in Gmail IS awful.

    I have a lot of thoughts about how to improve Gmail but I really truly believe that Google (and companies like Google) ought to PAY for this type of information.

    I think topics like this, while interesting, end up hurting web product professionals in the long run. It’s informational spec work.

    Thoughts anyone?


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