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Gmail is over-rated and underwhelming

September 6, 2004

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Gmail is over-rated and underwhelming

The only good things I can say about Gmail are that (a) the search is excellent, and (b) it prompted other mail providers to up their disk space.

I have been using it off and on for a few months now and find the interface is counter-intuitive. Initially, I chalked that up to lack of familiarity with the U.I., but after playing with it for a while, I have concluded that not only is the interface counter-intuitive, it is just awful. Perhaps all the usability folks at Google are too busy with other things, because it does not seem like anyone has given much thought to it. Yes, I am exaggerating, but it’s not too far from the truth.

Minimalism is good…I like minimalism…but when you are providing a webmail client, there are some expectations and Gmail falls short. Some of the issues I have with it:
– Variable location of primary action links such as Reply, Forward etc. These are at the bottom of the email message. On long messages you have to scroll to find them. You can click on More Options at the top, but this is a silly place for some obvious functions.
– Two clicks to delete — Actions, Move to Trash. Dumb!
– Message thread in chronological order (i.e. conversations( — I hate this. I do not need to see older messages first. I rarely need anything but the most recent message to have thread-sync in my mind. Who cares about what was said three weeks ago. And if I do, isn’t that what search is for.
– No personalities — I have grown to love Yahoo!’s personality feature so I can use the same mail client for managing multiple email accounts.
– Text overload — This is a contradiction. With all the DHTML in use, Gmail assumes a newer browser (although I am sure it degrades well). Why then the emphasis on text? Some interface actions deserve buttons. Make them clear to the user that they are actions.
– New metaphor — Everybody is familiar with a folder metaphor. Why come up with a new and unnecessary metaphor for organizing messages called Labels. This is another dumb feature.
– No WYSIWYG editor.

I could go on and on. I believe good U.I.’s should not make you think. They should be easy to work with and key functions should be easy to find and perform. Google search is fantastic…simple and intuitive. I wish I could say the same for Gmail. My opinion — Gmail sucks!

Co-founder/CTO WhenHub; co-founder DNN Software; founder Edaptable; educator; Open Source proponent; Microsoft MVP; tech geek; creative thinker; husband; dad. Personal blog: http://www.kalyani.com. Twitter: @techbubble
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