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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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The Product Guy
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