Every so often I come across a user experience that is most likely a bug but could also possibly be by design. Here’s a good example. I often write myself emails through Gmail to serve as future reminders. Essentially overloading e-mail and leveraging it as a todo list. After sending myself an email from my laptop this evening, I noticed that Gmail told me that I sent the email 3 minutes ago – even though I had just sent the email. After some investigation, I saw that Gmail uses two different data sources to figure out when an email was written and how long ago it was written. Let’s take a look with a sample email:
As can be seen in the second image above, 7:54 PM is based on the actual and correct time (according to Google’s servers) as to when the email was written. “3 minutes ago” turns out to be based on my computer’s internal clock. This can be easily reproduced by opening up the settings in OS X and changing the computer time to some time different than the correct time.
Not too long ago, Gmail rolled out a new Inbox with customizable tabs which include notification emails from Social channels as well as a tab for Promotional emails. Some speculate that this new design may be a huge headache for marketers as it becomes even more challenging to get eyeballs on the emails that they send out.
I saw an interesting tactic to get past this challenge. In a fundraising email I received from JDRF, I was instructed to train Gmail to send emails from JDRF straight to the Primary tab instead of the Promotions tab.
By dragging the email from the Promotions tab to the Primary tab of my Inbox, I have the opportunity to create a rule to filter future messages from JDRF straight to the Primary tab of my inbox and thus increase the chances that I consume emails from JDRF.
One could argue that this tactic is simply a modern day parallel of the already existing “add our email to your contact list so that future emails are not marked as spam” email technique. It’ll be interesting to see if other products employ similar tactics to optimize their performance for Gmail users.
Found an tiny glitch in Gmail. When you access a draft reply of an email conversation already inside your inbox via the Drafts folder, Gmail incorrectly offers you the call to action to move the conversation to the inbox. Let’s take a look:
1. Start with an email that is part of a Gmail thread that currently resides in your Inbox. As you can see, the top level CTAs offer you to archive the thread, mark it as spam, and send it to the trash, along with some other CTAs as well.
2. Click on Reply to start a reply thread. The top level CTAs remain the same.
3. After the web app auto-saves your draft, wonder over to the left side-bar menu and click on the Drafts link. From here, find your draft reply and click and open the thread.
4. Here’s the interesting part. Instead of having the same top level CTAs as before (archive, spam, and trash), now the user is given the option to move the thread to the inbox. This is a bit strange as the thread is already in the Inbox. Ideally, Gmail should correctly differentiate between threads currently in and out of the Inbox and offer the correct top-level CTAs.
Here’s another case of missing product functionality that may be due to a bug or by design. When going through some of my emails in Gmail, I noticed something interesting with how the Report spam feature works when multiple emails are selected. Let’s take a look.
Here’s a search for all emails that have the label designated as southwest-junk:
And here’s the view after all of the emails on the first page of search results are selected:
At this point, on mouse-hover over the Report spam button, the button appears as enabled and there is a tooltip text that highlights the functionality. The interesting thing, is that this functionality is not available when all 213 emails in the search set are selected.
In the view above, the Report spam button is disabled and the user is not able to report all messages in the search set as spam. While this doesn’t strike me as missing functionality that would be super important to a user, it is a bit arbitrary to allow the user to mark 50 messages as spam, but not 213. Perhaps it was a performance optimization decision – or perhaps a product call.
Gmail has a neat feature that lets you check the latest status of a package that is being delivered to you.
Here’s how it works. If Gmail can detect in the body of an email that a package is being sent to you and the email contains a tracking ID, then a module will be created in the right rail that has a link to the shipping carrier’s website displaying the latest status of the package.
Unfortunately, this feature has a tendency to pop up even if the email has nothing to do with a package begin sent. Below, I will show an example of this feature working correctly, as well as an example where the feature show up incorrectly.
Working as expected:
When you click on the track package link in the right rail, you will see something like:
And here is an example of a false positive where a link is incorrectly shown in the right rail when the content of the email has nothing to do with a package being sent:
In the email above, Gmail is incorrectly interpreting a phone number as a package tracking ID. Also, the body of the mail mentions nothing about a package being sent. Ideally, Gmail can get a bit “smarter” in terms of how they determine if a package is being sent. Some possible ideas to decrease false positives:
– Follow the created link to the shipping carrier’s site and see if it is an invalid package ID
– Check the sender’s email address and match it to a common list of emails that relate to packages being sent i.e. @ebay.com and @amazon.com
– Search for certain key words i.e.: “shipping”, “package”, and “tracking”
In an earlier post, I wrote about the Gmail Send button and its different color treatments for two use cases. In this post, I take a look at the Gmail Compose button for the two key use cases: (1) composing a new email and (2) replying to an existing thread.
Here’s what the Compose button looks like in its default state – when the user signs into Gmail. It is a very bold red color and it clearly is the main call to action for the user.
Here’s what the Compose button looks like when you are sending a new message. The Compose button is no longer a bold red color — it simply has a plain very light gray background. The main call to action is the Send button. This makes sense. As a user, if you’ve entered the flow to create a new message, your next logical step is to send the message, not to compose a new message before sending the one you just worked on.
Here’s when things start to get a little strange. This is what the user experience looks like when you are replying to an active email thread. In other words, you are not creating a new email thread:
In the image above, the Compose button is once again bold and red and the main call to action. The Send button has been relegated to back-up status and has the plain light gray background. I’m not sure it makes sense to not have the main call to action be for the user to send their reply. Why would you want the user to enter this flow and then take their attention away from completing the email and sending away? The better user experience would be to treat the Compose button the same for both new messages and replying to existing threads. Specifically, the Send button should be the main call to action and the Compose button should be the secondary call to action with a light gray background.
This morning, I couldn’t sign into one of my secondary Gmail accounts. Not the main account I use day to day, but a secondary one meant for collecting spam.
Saw this fatal error:
1. I’m amused by the usage of the word “temporary” in this use case — how do they define “temporary”? It is a bit optimistic.
2. I like the “Try Again” link — why not give the user the quickest way to try again?
3. I clicked on the “Show Detailed Technical Info” link and was expecting to see a huge stack trace of Java code, but only saw “Numeric Code: 93” — this is good, we don’t want to see computer code shown to the customer.
4. The page says copyright 2008 — which implies this page hasn’t been touched for four years.
Finally, my favorite part of this page was the classic Gmail logo in top left.The one where Gmail is written in the colorful Google logo font where the different letters have different colors and the ‘m’ is shown as a mail envelope.
I definitely was a fan of this logo. The new Gmail logo treatment is so boring. Instead of having the logo in the top left, there are two graphics: one of “Google” and one of “Gmail”. The one of “Gmail” is written in red and is nothing like the previous logo.