Gmail “Report Spam” Missing Bulk Functionality

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. 



Safari, Google, and Browser Search

Noticed an interesting change from Safari 5 to Safari 6 in OS X. In the Safari 5 header, there are two text entry modules: one for the URL, and another for a search query.


In the upgrade to Safari 6, the two separate fields have been combined into one that serves as both the URL entry as well as the search module:


Some things that come to mind:

1. Looking back at the history of the internet over the last 20 years, there was a moment where Search got really big. What I mean by this is we reached a point where the majority of users who came to the internet initiated their session by searching for something. Very recently, say in the last 3 years, with the boom of mobile apps, there has been a shift away from search as the starting post and more toward apps as the starting post for the user. What I found interesting is that this browser change pushes the user just slightly back toward the direction of search as a starting point.

2. Apple vs. Google. It’s an open secret that Steve Jobs was not particularly fond of Google toward the tail end of his time at Apple. While initially Apple and Google had some partnerships i.e. Google Maps and YouTube being two of the very first native apps on the iPhone, the relationship between the two companies went sour with the heavy investment of Google into Android. Just recently Apple has received a lot of negative attention by creating their own version of Maps for iOS instead of using the already beloved Google Maps app. So in this angle, it is very strange to see Safari, an Apple product, make it much easier for the user to use Google.

3. Web vs. Mobile. While this change has been incorporated into the web version of Safari, the iOS version of Safari remains the same with two separate fields. This is interesting for two reasons: (1) Apple has created an inconsistent user experience across different platforms OS X vs. iOS and (2) It is strange to see two separate fields in the UX for the platform with extremely limited screen real estate. If anything, one could make the case that there’s more justification in the web flow to have two separate entry fields due to an incredibly wider screen than a mobile view which has a much smaller screen width.


Google Voice Verification Email Is Not Clear

Google Voice is a service from Google that gives users a phone number that’s not necessarily tied to one particular phone (or piece of hardware in general). Today, I got the following email from Google notifying me that some action is required by me to keep my account up and running:


What got my attention about this email is that the next steps I had to take in order to verify my account were not entirely clear to me. Consider the following passage:

If you’d like Google Voice to continue forwarding calls and texts to this forwarding number, you will need to verify it by November 21, 2012. If you no longer own this phone number, please remove it from your account at

While it’s perfectly clear where I should go to if I wanted to remove the number (the link shown above), I have no idea where to go if I wanted to continue using the number. In the ideal user experience, the user will either see:

– In order to verify your account, go to <link1>. In order to stop using this number go to <link2>.
– In order to verify your account or to stop using this number, go to <link3>.

Google Finance Institutional Ownership Metric is Broken

Institutional ownership refers to the percentage of a company’s shares that is owned by large institutional investors such as mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds, etc…

Most finance sites that provide stock quotes also track this metric. Based on what I can see, it looks like Google Finance may have a technical issue or two with the data they are showing for this metric.

I’ll provide two examples. The first is VeriFone. According to the Google Finance quote, this company has an institutional ownership of 103%. No need to double check with other finance sites. Already we can see that this is technically impossible (as the highest amount of ownership is by definition 100%).


The second example is Google. According to the Google Finance quote, this company has an institutional ownership of 66%. Based on my limited knowledge of the stock market, this seemed way too low of a number. So after double-checking with a couple of other sites (Yahoo Finance & Etrade), I’m assured to know this number is actually closer to 83%.


Most likely the Google Finance Institutionally Owned metric is simply outputting a number it gets from a stock service data feed. It could very well be the case that this feed is what is feeding the site the corrupted information. But either way, this is something that should be fixed.

Gmail Compose Button: Compose vs. Reply

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. 

Google and the Future of Maps on the iPhone

According to recent press reports, Apple may replace the Google Maps app on the iPhone with their own in-house Maps app. While this came as a surprise to me (Google Maps was one of the earliest apps on the iPhone and one of my most used apps), I’m eager to see how Apple can improve from the Google product. 

Recently, I noticed a use case for which I was annoyed with Google Maps, and this could be taken as an example of a room for improvement for any competing product. 

I was on the Caltrain going from Sunnyvale to San Mateo to meet a friend for dinner. Along the ride, I was curious to see how much distance (and time) remained ahead in my journey. So I pulled out my trusty iPhone, went to Google Maps, and searched for San Mateo, CA. What I wanted to do was to find the city and have the app calculate the distance (and time) remaining from my current location. My expectation was for the app to find the city and to serve up the city as a pin for me to touch and then go to the next level of calls to action. Google Maps found the city for me, but instead of serving up the city pin as the main call to action, I was shown the following: 


As can be seen in the image above, the primary pin shown to me was a sponsored result of a dentist near San Mateo. I had to manually touch the San Mateo city pin in order to toggle from the sponsored result to the desired result:  


This example reminded me of Google’s famous motto, “Don’t Be Evil.” This motto means many different things to many different people. To me, it means that it is possible to make a business viable product while not drastically sacrificing the user experience for the purpose of generating revenue. Google Search (especially its earliest incarnations) was a great example of an extremely profitable product that kept a great balance with user experience. With the example above, I feel that for this product, Google crossed the line and sacrificed user experience a little too much in order to generate revenue. 

Google Finance and +1 vs. Yahoo Finance and Facebook Like: A Comparison

In an earlier post, I wrote about the +1 component of a stock in Google Finance. Recently, I noticed that stocks in Yahoo Finance had a similar social component: a module that captured the count of Facebook Likes. So I was curious as to how the counts of +1 in Google Finance compared against the counts of Facebook Likes in Yahoo Finance for a given stock.

In this post, I compare the number of +1s of a stock in Google Finance versus the number of Facebook Likes for a stock in Yahoo Finance for the top twenty US companies as ranked by market capitalization.

Here’s what the +1 module in Google Finance and the Facebook Like module in Yahoo Finance look for an example company, such as Apple (AAPL). (Note: red arrows added by me)



Here is the data for the top 20 companies:


The first initial reaction is that, in general, the number of Facebook Likes is higher than the number of Google +1s. One big outlier is Google, and as explained in the earlier post, this is because users who use Google Finance are more likely to be employees of Google or even fans of Google products and thus in both cases more likely to be fans of the stock.

So what was the point of all this? I think that these numbers are a function of two parameters: (1) How effective the respective finance site is at drawing user traffic, and (2) How popular the Google +1 and Facebook Like features are for users who use such finance sites.

Google Maps Doesn’t Support Multi Destination Routes With Public Transportation

When looking for driving directions on Google Maps, it’s possible for the user to click on a link to Add Destination. By clicking on this link, the user can add another destination to their trip. For example, say you wanted to start in San Jose, travel to Mountain View, and then finally travel to San Francisco. This feature will let you obtain directions for all phases of the trip instead of having to go through this flow for each phase separately. A pretty nifty feature. 


The interesting thing is that on Google Maps, it’s not possible to do this if you select public transportation as your method of travel: 


Not sure why this is. From a functionality stand point it’s definitely possible for the service to be able to offer this type of user query. I checked the walking and cycling options — and they too offer the option of adding multiple destinations, so it’s a bit odd that you can not plan out a multi-destination trip using public transportation on Google Maps. 

News Null Search Results: Yahoo vs. Google

One subtle, yet important, aspect of search is how a search engine handles null search results. This is the use case when the search engine cannot find anything relevant to the user’s search query. The ability to handle this use case is important for traditional search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo), vertical search (i.e. Yahoo News or Google News), or even an e-commerce site such as eBay or Amazon. 

I ran a search query in Yahoo News that led to zero results being returned. So I tried the exact same query in Google News and saw plenty of results. 

Yahoo News: 


Google News:


So what’s going on here? I know people prefer Google search to Yahoo search and algorithmically, one could make the case that it has a smarter search “brain”. But for one site to have plenty of results and for another to not have any results is probably not a deficiency in the search “brain” but rather the product choices for the Yahoo news search engine. 

Perhaps the Yahoo news search is looking for an exact match of all three search terms consecutively in an article i.e. “mega millions tragedy”. Perhaps Google news search is more loose and simply searches for articles that contain at least one instance of all three words, or even more loosely at least one instance of one of the search terms. 

The point is, in the case of null search results, the product is better served trying to find a partial match for the user instead of admitting defeat and returning nothing.