Since moving to California two months ago, I began using my Gmail account for personal correspondence, and I’ve come to two conclusions.
Reading email with Gmail is a joy
It groups back and forth emails into single conversations—solving, in my opinion, the email overload problem. It searches my email in a heartbeat. Even the act of adding labels or using the star feature seems unnecessary in the face of full text search. I must admit, though, that the omission of a “trash” button does come across as a heavy-handed attempt at behavior modification. Hello Gmail Delete Button.
Writing email with Gmail is not a joy
Recently I’ve noticed I have a very subtle distaste when it comes to responding to email. As a result, email that I should enjoy replying to remains unanswered in my inbox for intervals longer than I’d prefer. I think part of the reason for this is Gmail’s user-interface.
Prior to switching over to Gmail, I checked and wrote all my email using Pine running on a university server via SSH. Here’s a screenshot of the Pine interface.
The yellow highlighting is intended to demonstrate the relative area of the composition space as compared to the rest of the user-interface. Now take a look at the Gmail interface (which I’ve edited only to remove personally identifying information).
Many of us spend a good deal of our lives in HTML textareas, but what struck me is how “cluttered” or loaded up the Gmail interface is, as compared to Pine. I think for this reason, my enjoyment in responding to emails within that tiny textarea surrounded by so much clutter is considerably diminished.
And I’m not even touching the scrollbar next to scrollbar usability snafu—other than to say the Gmail team might be best served to create an interface that never triggers the browser’s vertical scrollbar (a la Google Maps).