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Re-Designing the classic email client (vanschneider.com)
284 points by agos on July 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 208 comments

Don't fix email. Fix communication.

Why, on my iPhone, do I have:

1. An email app (which required a major update to unite mail boxes)

2. A "messages" app (which abstracts out two different message systems)

3. A phone app

4. A contacts app

5. Twitter

6. Facebook

7. Skype

What I want to do is (a) send messages to people (I don't care how), (b) check messages I've received (from anyone, using any method), (c) manage my messages (both incoming and outgoing), and -- as the writer of the article points out -- (d) manage my attachments.

On the iPhone (which is by no means the worst case) I might end up doing something stupid like looking up a contact, phone them, get sent to voicemail. Go back to the contact. Use a slightly different path to send an SMS. Discover it doesn't get sent. Switch to mail, and send a message.

Meanwhile the recipient gets a missed call, an empty voicemail, eventually gets the SMS, and then receives an email -- in three different apps on their iPhone.

Tiny incremental improvements to email will only nibble at the edges of the larger problem. Let me communicate with a unified UI and unified contacts.


In my kitchen I have:

1. A fridge

2. A coffee machine

3. A stove

4. A microwave

5. A blender

6. Mixing bowls

7. Measuring cups

All I want to do is feed myself. Why on earth do I need to have so many different things to do it?


To...most people, having a separate "app" for things that do wildly different things is a good. Skype and email fill completely different roles to me, and I suspect they fill completely different roles to other people as well.

You might want to send a message to somebody and not care how, but I do care how.

If it's late, I might send my friend an email instead of an SMS because I know that the SMS will probably wake her up, and the email won't.

Being able to control this is a good thing.

Did you notice the descention of immediacy in your example of phone->sms->email? You went from the most demanding contact method "stop what you are doing and talk to me!" to the middle "stop what you are doing and read these 160 characters!" to the least "eventually look at this piece of text".

If you didn't care as much about your message, you probably would have done this in a different order.

If something major in my life happened (I'm having a baby! I'm going back to school! I got into YC! Somebody is buying one of my projects!), I would call my best friends to tell them, I wouldn't SMS them.

So would you.

And this is good.

It's time to cook something! How about an omelette? You need to scramble the eggs first-- thankfully, there's a tunnel between your fridge and the scrambler. You press the button, and 4 eggs roll into the bowl.

While that scrambles, it's time to chop vegetables. You'd like to do onions, but the tube from the fridge to the chopper only fits carrots and asparagus. Not great for an omelette, but good enough.

Time to cook. Unfortunately, your chopper is out of date, and it doesn't work with your pan model. The scrambler, well, it's actually a mixer and was only meant for cakes, so it goes directly into the oven.

So you put special bowls in the fridge, suck the scrambled eggs and vegetables back through the tubes, take the bowl out, store it on dropbox, and give your pan a link.

God, this sucks.

I'm not sure how this really addresses anything in the parent post. Sure, interoperability sucks, but surely you're not suggesting that the solution is to glom everything together into a single monolithic app that does everything?

By all means, fix the fact that tools are painful when you want them to work together. Maybe unify a few of those communications tools.

> Let me communicate with a unified UI and unified contacts.

This was from the top comment. It is suggesting the solution is to glom everything together. I think the comment you are responding to is concurring with their parent comment by providing an illustration of the concerns raised.

I think a better example is how WebOS and Windows Phone handle communication. They treat communication like it's between two people, rather than between two applications. Text messages and Facebook messages are combined into one, so you can continue the conversation from anywhere. Facebook and Twitter posts are added together to show what the person is doing, rather than what accounts on disparate are doing. These aren't huge monolithic apps, they're more like feeds from services all tied to a single person. Both WebOS and Windows Phone allow you to combine multiple accounts for contacts together into one person.

Basically, it shouldn't matter what service someone is using. What really matters to people is people. If someone is at their computer, they might want to use Facebook messenger. If they're away, they'll want to use text. Barring that, they might rather use email. The point is, someone shouldn't have to open the Facebook app, find they're not online, send a text only to wait for a response and assume they do or do not have their phone on them, then send an email. If they can do it with one app, the app telling them the best way to contact someone, it makes communication much easier.

No one has gotten it right yet, but I feel WebOS and Windows Phone are closer than the traditional discrete applications.

No, there just needs to be interoperation layers like file systems, sockets, stdio, etc. In the kitchen metaphor, it's your hands.


Like a lot of snark, it's not really that bright, but it's agressive and presenting itself as clever. Not all of those things deal with the same category of work.

> You might want to send a message to somebody and not care how, but I do care how.

But why do people have to remember how? Why can't I send off a message and have a computer figure out the preferred way to send the message. Remember, a big stakeholder in this preference is often the recipient. Also, most people don't really care about the how. They care about the result.

> If something major in my life happened..., I wouldn't call my best friends to tell them, I would SMS them.

You mean you would use the most appropriate form of communication, with the right degree of formality and immediacy. Right now that means picking from a slew of applications. The history of technology tells us that those applications will probably change, and that eventually people will be somewhat removed from the how, only expecting things to just work. (And that people who realize this can parlay that into tons of money.)

EDIT: Someday our insistence on picking an app to do communications will seem like driver's insistence on manually shifting gears.

If I send 50 SMS to someone who is charged 10c per message, I have cost them $5.00. So I should care whether I send them an SMS vs. an email.

Someone without a data plan doesn't have constant access to email. Maybe they only check it on a computer every few days. So if I want to send an instant message, SMS might be necessary.

Randomly sending an email vs. an SMS does not "just work". Nor does forcing each person to communicate to a computer some elaborate policy for how to reach them best.

> If I send 50 SMS to someone who is charged 10c per message, I have cost them $5.00. So I should care whether I send them an SMS vs. an email.

Yes. You're supporting my point.

> Someone without a data plan doesn't have constant access to email. Maybe they only check it on a computer every few days. So if I want to send an instant message, SMS might be necessary. > Randomly sending an email vs. an SMS does not "just work".

Again, yes, this is it exactly. Things right now are very far from it "just works." Things are horrendously complex, and it often sucks for one reason or another. Some people can manage all of this complexity in their heads, but that's certainly not true of everybody. What's needed is an integrated vertical.

> Nor does forcing each person to communicate to a computer some elaborate policy for how to reach them best.

True, that, though being able to set that just once might be better for some of the tech savvy than having to keep track of it all. That wouldn't fit everyone, though. What if someone could communicate their preferences to something like Siri after the fact, with a machine learning system adjusting preferences taking into account all of the communication stakeholders?

Paying to receive an SMS makes absolutely no sense.

Here in the UK, we pay to send them, not to receive them.

It's counted as one message each for the sender and receiver in the US. We are then billed simply by that number.

Conspiracy theories are bunk. That fact that US citizens stand for SMS double billing is the best proof that we're sheeple.

>the best proof that we're powerless.

More accurate. People need to communicate, and SMS is a good way to do that. Would we like it to be cheaper? Of course. There have been numerous lawsuit attempts, petitions, and boycotts. Doesn't matter. There's nothing we can do to change it. If everyone just stopped using it, they'd bundle it in with a package you had no choice but to buy. If you just abstained from a cell phone, you'd be in more trouble than you'd have been 20 years ago since payphones and emergency phones no longer exist.

It's not that people pay it and shut up about it, it's that people pay it because there's no other real option.

While I see a phone call as fundamentally different from an email, I don't see SMS as different. In fact, I see it as a really lame competing implementation of the same basic idea that deserves to die as soon as possible.

Funny, I see SMS as an improvement. Enforced brevity is an improvement IMO.

tl;dr will be the death of intelligent discourse.

There are lots of things I want to do with email that I can't do with SMS. Maybe half the emails I send could get across most of what they need to in 160 characters. Other recent messages included detailed tech support/troubleshooting, a list of equipment and design discussion with a partner about an application we're developing.

None of those would fit in 160 characters. There isn't even a way to losslessly compress them in to 160 characters. I can always write a short message when I only have a little bit to say though.

I also dislike twitter and like RSS. I'm evidently not in the majority.

The only functionality that SMS provides and email doesn't (in most countries) is network notification, which can be easily fixed. It would be relatively easy to replace SMS with email without users noticing the difference.

> If it's late, I might send my friend an email instead of an SMS because I know that the SMS will probably wake her up, and the email won't.

> Being able to control this is a good thing.

those are great points, and a solution that can really replace the 18 methods we have of sending messages today would take that into account. Email today has this lame "importance" flag nobody uses but certainly, if we could get over the familiarity hump, having a unified kind of message where we can configure how it travels and how it alerts the receiver (not to mention, that the receiver would be able to route these various classes of messages in any way he/she sees fit) is not a huge technical issue.

Software apps and physical appliances are very different, so your analogy is ridiculous.

When I email someone, software automatically routes it to the destination so I don't have to. Why should this not be abstracted across channels.

As for my trying to dictate how the recipient consumes incoming messages -- surely its more intelligent for each person to decide how they want to consume messages. I know some people who live in their SMS but ignore phone calls. Indeed the whole hierarchy of SMS / email / IM / phone / conference is very much in flux. Most people are probably more interested in who the sender is, not how they're sending.

But by your logic maybe I should use one app per person I talk to.

When I email someone, software automatically routes it to the destination so I don't have to. Why should this not be abstracted across channels.

There seems to be a whole world or metadata involving communications preferences which we've just barely started to scratch.

Or you could mark the message as 'important' before sending it.

Alternatively, you could still choose email vs sms with a single toggle instead of having to use two very different apps for what is essentially the same thing.

I agree that having different forms of communication is useful. Phone/SMS is more personal, partly because I only give my number to those I want to contact me. I use my email for personal communication as well but I also use it to sign up for things like coupons from stores, etc. Some seem to be arguing that having so many options is difficult for the user, but I really don't know anyone who has trouble keeping them straight.

Sounds like your snarky self needs a matter replicator. I think the schematics are available in some book about Star Trek somewhere but you'll probably need to find a dilithium crystal to make it work.

Friend, what you need is a Thermomix... and $2k or whatever they cost! (http://www.thermomix.com.au for anyone who doesn't know what they are.)

> If it's late, I might send my friend an email instead of an SMS because I know that the SMS will probably wake her up, and the email won't.

That should be up to the other end to determine. I should not need to say `SMS wakes me up, email doesn't' when they are fundamentally the same thing. That's an implementation detail.

The right way to do this is for the other person to be able to tell the phone what they want, regardless of protocol: messages from my Nagios system at work, or family members, should awaken me. Anything else should be ignored until morning.

Sometimes I do want my friends to wake me up in the middle of the night:

"I'm drunk, I need a ride home."

"Can I stay at your house."


"Hey, I really just need somebody to talk to..."

etc. etc.

I don't want to have to go through my entire contact list, individually setting people who can and can't wake me up at night. There is already a mechanism for this, it's called "human interaction". My friends know who can and can't wake me up; they know this because they're my friends.

By giving them my phone number, I'm trusting them to respect that, and only wake me up if they need to.

I've been wishing there was a layer between my phone and me that said, effectively, "You've reached David's phone - if this is an emergency or he's expecting your call, press 1; otherwise, press 2 to set up an appointment for a later call, or 3 leave a voicemail message." Where 2 would talk to my calendar and ideally their calendar and figure out a time that works for both of us without my involvement. Sure, people could just mash 1, but people always have an option to be rude when there's interpersonal interaction going on, and at least this way they have a way not to be rude while still reaching out to me by phone, and a way to actually get through to me in an emergency.

Mr. Number (for Android) comes somewhat close. You at least have the option of determining who can get through to you.

I'd prefer something more configurable as well -- priority list of who can reach me at any time, during daylight hours, when I'm generally open to talking, and never.

As well as a way for those with at least some level of trust (and, say, emergency services) to reach out to me directly.

Combination of Mr. Number and a pretty acerbic voicemail message ("Hi, you've reached me, don't leave a message, email me instead, if you're a good friend, feel free to text") low-techs this solution for me.

with gvoice, people can leave a voicemail that gets transcripted (vaguely) and texted to me. I glance at the text and decide if I want to call them back or not.

I love that capability, but it's not quite everything I want - I do want a way for people to loudly interrupt me in the case of a genuine emergency, but I want them to have to reaffirm that most of the time. The hands-off scheduling would be nice, too. But for what it is, it's rad, to be sure.

There are a lot of implicit social expectations built into different messaging systems.

I have friends who I regularly email, SMS, and IM with. We've never explicitly discussed this, but it's pretty much assumed that sending an SMS means you want a response ASAP, an IM expects a response within a few hours, and an email can wait a day or two. Even though all three are ostensibly messaging systems, there is a social understanding that different messaging mediums have different purposes; simply filtering based on sender doesn't convey enough contextual information to make a meaningful decision.

It's much easier and humane to accomplish this with multiple applets with different characteristics.

I realise that this may sound like I'm descending into fanboyism, but this is actually something that annoys me about iOS- it's far, far too app-centric.

Take Windows Phone for example: tap a contact in WP and you see their tweets, Facebook messages, your SMS and e-mail history with them. The messages app integrates SMS and Live chat seamlessly. Ideally this system would open up to allow any third party to plug into these hubs (and from the early signs of WP8, it will), but it's still already lightyears ahead of Apple's offering. Even Android, with it's system of intents and actions, provides more integration than iOS. I'm baffled as to why they've not tried to do anything about this.

As someone who has dealt with integrating and synchronizing data and accounts nearly my entire career, I can tell you this whole area is still in "there be dragons here" territory.

Here's a recent example of stuff Google did - merged my G+ circles into my contacts - ok, I can see how that'd be useful... but old or invalid email address for my mom and wife were substituted as first hits on the search when I entered the contacts in Gmail. Consequently, I've sent quite a few emails in the past few days where I'm getting bounces.

That's assuming you don't have to deal with improperly overwritten data, or time-sensitive data (ie, temporary details). Any degree of asynchronicity can create intolerable delays for example.

Abstractions can only get so far, especially for distributed synchronization across potentially adversarial vendors/systems.

If this stuff were easy, it would have been solved. That said, if Apple let us have the APIs, we could take a stab at solving it ourselves.

Yeah, even webOS made a creditable stab in this direction. And that was what, three years ago?

Maemo on the N900 is pretty great too.

To expand on this, Maemo had a "Conversations" application that you could add accounts to. Out of the box I believe it did SMS, Skype and Google Talk. There were plugins available for third party services like Twitter, Facebook, MSN, Jabber, etc.

I love this feature and is one of the main reasons I use a windows phone.

"2. A "messages" app (which abstracts out two different message systems)"

Is the abstraction a plus or a minus in your opinion? I'm asking because on one hand you're asking for a unified communication app, but on the other, the way you wrote that part, it sounds like a bad thing.

Taking this specific example, I think it shows that aggregating communication media is difficult and maybe not a good thing. In Messages, SMS and what is pretty much IM is mixed and I don't know which is which anymore.

I do find the idea of a unified inbox interesting and worthy of being explored but the thing is that each of these have different expectations from the users. If I send an SMS, it's typically because I expect a response fairly quickly: pretty similar to IM, except that I want to reach the person right now wherever they are. An email has a longer reply timeframe: if I don't hear back for a few days, it's usually fine. A tweet or Facebook status doesn't have the expectation to be read by everyone. (because it's one-to-many)

And I think the expectations go both ways: when someone receives an SMS vs. an email, they know the time to reply is different.

There are also different expectations in terms of half-life of the content. SMSs are sent and forgotten for the most part, while emails are archived for years. (though it's probably true that these archives are most likely not as useful/consulted as we'd think)

So I do care how I send my messages to people.

Even the messages app is almost too confusing, let alone combining everything else as well. As far as I understand it, if I send an SMS then anyone with a signal can get it; if I send an iMessage, then they need an internet connection or it won't go through -- is that right? If so, it's a pain to mix them up, as many areas do not get good 3G coverage (especially indoors) but excellent phone signal.

Surprisingly few of the people I text have iPhones (or smartphones at all), so I can't easily verify this.

Messages will send as an SMS if the iMessage isn't delivered in a reasonably short amount of time.

Interesting, but does that mean delivered all the way to the recipient, or just to the iMessage server? Is there good feedback? If I'm in a low-signal area, I need to know how long to leave my phone in that one spot that gets signal.

To the recipient, in my experience. And it tells you when this has occurred or if it is deferring to SMS for the send. The UX is very slick.

The problem is that you are trying to corral a massive set of different technologies and platforms into a unified 'god UI'.

This already exists to a large extent on my iPhone as far as sending outbound messages. I don't know about you, but when I want to email/call/sms/mms/videochat etc say, my father, I don't goto those apps. I just hit the 'home' button on my phone to bring up unified search, type 'dad' and get his contact page allowing me to instantly choose any one of those options to message him. Email, short message, video, phone call, -it's all right there.

If you wanted to take it to the next level, you'd want to be able to open up the API so you could toss in Fb, Twitter, or whatever other services you want on that page to choose from.

The unified UI is basically there already though.

It gets harder when we talk about incoming messages though, because we've got different senders pushing different types of messages to us on a vast array of different platforms and technologies. But isn't this what 'notification centers' are? A single point that unifies and corrals your collection of different incoming messages? And now Apple is merging their iOS notifications with OSX, syncing through the cloud. I agree it's not pretty yet, but we are getting closer, -like I said, I strictly use a unified message UI for sending outbound messages for most of my day.

I think this merging of central messaging UIs that are synced across operating systems will become more refined (so much room for improvement), but will definitely get there. But at the end of the day we're still funneling data from a wide range of different apps in order to present it as best we can keeping both form and function in mind.

I don't think I would want that. It sounds great in theory but in practice, there is a reason why I am on all those different channels. They reason is that they are different, even if that difference is subtle.

The One Big App To Solve All Problems is the wrong way to go, in my opinion. From a coding standpoint, it's a maintenance nightmare. From a UI standpoint, it's nearly impossible to create something that is both easy to use and comprehensively granular. From a user standpoint, it's confusing as hell when that "one thing" doesn't work like it's supposed to.

Yeah, you're right in the sense of why do we need all this stuff? The answer is: because no one uses just one thing to communicate.

On a slightly different note: if someone messages you and is expecting a response, do you really need to try three or four different methods to send that response? Shouldn't the expectation be that you would send a response back by the method that they made the request?

How will initiating a phone call through the same interface as writing an e-mail solve these problems?

You phone somebody and don't leave a message, so they get an empty voicemail. How can the interface on your device possibly solve that problem? (By the way, I have a $30 answering machine at home that's smart enough to not record empty messages, and for day-to-day use its interface is a button for "play" and a button for "delete". The interface is not the problem.)

Then you send an SMS and immediately turn around and send an e-mail as well. How will a user interface prevent the person from getting both the message and the e-mail?

I don't want to turn this into a (mobile) OS war. And my favorite is dead anyway..

That said, did you ever see the way WebOS handle[sd] this cases? The 'synergy' thingy was solving a lot of the friction points you're complaining about - and yet it obviously wasn't good enough to save the platform.

Some ideas:

- Sometimes we come up with solutions for problems that people don't have.

- Not well-marketed enough.

- Too complicated for people to grok. The abstractions get in the way of people trying to understand a feature. A new paradigm for communication would be hard to understand for most people and provide little benefit.

As a business owner, I can't think of anything worse than trying to maintain an archival system for a bloated platform that would combine all of that together.

I do however think that interoperability needs to be improved.

Sounds like this would be a great time for a rewrite of the UNIX Finger tool to solve a problem like this. Real-time client/address lookup and can be protected with some kind of pub/private key.

Right now, all of it is ending up in email anyway, except for SMS (maybe -- googlevoice can route your SMS to email). So you get the disadvantages of archiving all that crap (which actually turns out not to be that bad -- my gmail acct is only half full, and it even has wordpress database backups routed into it) without the advantages.

(Surely writing a rule to automatically throw away old voicemails, say, is pretty easy.)

Threadsy might have solved much of what you're looking for; unfortunately, they shut down.


I would love to see someone else try to build this. Filtering options would need to be robust and flexible to combat potential noise and info overload. I could see marketers being an easy initial niche customer. General consumers, not so much. But I'd sure pay for something like this.

> Tiny incremental improvements to email will only nibble at the edges of the larger problem. Let me communicate with a unified UI and unified contacts.

Isn't that Google's main intent with integrating Google Voice onto phones? The recipient use case seems to work well under the Google apps where Google Voice shows your SMS and voicemails, a quick click would bring you to Gmail. The only issue I see here, is that I that I don't believe there is a cross-app indicator of new email (excluding extensions and external apps).

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "a cross-app indicator of new email," but you can actually have voicemails and SMS forwarded to your email from Google Voice, creating a sort of "universal inbox."

Context matters in communication. Each of those platforms has vastly different expectations of the speed of the response. By unifying it all, what you've essentially done is made me wade through every message as if they actually had the same importance and priority to me. They don't.

Now certainly some things can be unified, but let's not pretend like every form of communication is equal just because in the end, a message is delivered to the intended recipient.

So in other words lets go back to big monolithic software suites controlled by one entity. I can't imagine a faster way to kill innovation and go back to the bad old days of things like the Mozilla Seamonkey Suite (its a browser, its an email program, its a html editor, and it sucks at all 3). Firefox stole that crown for a reason.

Seperate apps all competing for your attention/dollars is a feature not a bug.

That's actually what Maemo5/Harmattan had on my N900: all contacts and conversations across different media were nicely integrated through the Telepathy framework. It was probably the best app on the platform, although it took ages to develop and wasn't very easy to extend.

The unification of all my different messaging types (well, SMS, IM, twitter, skype etc.) is precisely why I'm still using an N900 - there's lots of other things it doesn't do brilliantly, but it does this specific thing way nicr than anything else I've used on a phone.

You must have felt the same way I did about the original Google Wave announcement.

So much potential squandered by a poor design team. I've always hoped some developers would turn the code into what it was meant to be.

What if I told you that a few smart people at http://vox.io are already on your case? :)

Windows phone does this. It collects everything into one place.

Google Wave tried to do all that and failed.

this is great point!

This guy has teeny tiny letters hardcoded into JPGs on his web site. I can't read it.

Fortunately, this means I can disregard what he has to say about UI/UX. Sometimes the medium IS the message.

The text went beyond the window edge and there was no scroll bar. I tried to select the text, but found some image in the way. I deleted the image and found that I was now looking at a pitch for some tool the author had cooked up... which was also an image. This made me so angry that just closing the window was not enough. Fifteen minutes later, I'm still thinking about how wrong the site is. That's quite a call to action. I wonder if there's some way to harness it?

The ghosting on the first quote and the logo is really hurting my eyes. When reading further down "clean typography", I had the same thought of "how can this guy's opinion on this be trusted?".

Before Svbtle, Dustin Curtis had a few posts where the design was completely custom for each one but still didn't use any image to display text in various position. So it can be done.

Any other areas of your life where you throw the baby out with the bath water?

Someone over salt some food so you assume that everything they say or do with food is wrong?

Refuse to ever get a lift with a friend because they forgot to indicate once so obviously they can't be trusted to drive?

I'm not wild about the way he's presented his website but I'm still willing to look at his ideas about e-mail workflow with an open mind.

If someone presents himself to me as a professional cook and then proceeds to over-salt the food, yes, I do feel completely comfortable disregarding his culinary opinions from that point forward.

Where do 'mistakes' fit in in your world?

It's hard to accidentally turn all the text of your blog post into jpegs. It reflects a deliberate decision (and in the opinion of people here, a poor one).

If someone wants to talk to me about proper seasoning while deliberately dumping a box of kosher salt onto some eggs, yeah, I'm going to assume they have no idea what they're talking about.

Someone's Photoshop mock-ups could have new ideas to introduce, yes.

This doesn't. It's just triage of messages as they come in and an all-attachments view, coupled with hand-waving about typography and design by someone who hopes a developer will contact him.

I have no problem with people disliking his ideas, I just think that they should be disliked for what they are, rather than because he's made some bad choices in web design.

Not only that, but the over-wide pages can't be scrolled sideways.

Looks really bad on my retina Macbook pro, all pixelated. If he's to do that JPG stuff, he ought to include x2 images :)

The retina Macbook is going to be in a small minority for a while yet- don't expect people to be leaping out of their seats to accomodate you!

Catering to these users now will preserve the design for the next round of display technology. We all know the future belongs to these types of displays.

Sure, in a perfect world when you have no other pressing issues to attend to. If you do, making @2x versions of every image on your site is going to slide down the scale of necessity.

Have you looked at the Windows 8 tablet resolutions yet? > 1080 will be the new defacto standard.

If the apps could use the real pixels instead of a "retina 2x" mode, there wouldnt be any problems. Those things are apple-specific implementation details (badly designed imho).

Apps can use 'the real pixels'. The lastest builds of Final Cut Pro X and iMovie can show full 1080p video at native resolution in their tiny 3-inch preview windows, and most games will let you set the resolution to the native 2880x1800 .

That wouldn't actually improve this situation, though. Showing this image at native resolution would make the text not be pixellated, sure, but it would also be near-unreadable at 1/4th the size.

That's cufon, give the guy a break. That was cutting edge two years ago. We've gone from no-one but IE supporting font-face to lots of people in a remarkably short-time.

HTML Zealots! I despair sometimes :)

Forget about font-faces. How about supporting the default fonts and sizes that I selected, so that I don't go blind trying to read the page?

He uses cufon on the website, but this page is just a bunch of jpegs — mail1.jpg, mail2.jpg, etc.

Exactly. Images-for-text was never cutting-edge.

The best UX designers I know are pretty horrible at HTML and CSS. Fortunately, that doesn't matter if they can communicate clearly through images.

While I agree that this piece would be strictly better as HTML, I'd rather see that people present their ideas somewhat sub-optimal than not at all.

Really, it's not that big of a deal...

Chrome: Zoomy (http://goo.gl/40hiR) Firefox: Zoom Page (http://goo.gl/80Pa9) Etc.

what about accessibility?

Perhaps you aren't supposed to read them but instead the text in the HTML?

There is no text in the HTML! It is all images. I think that was the point of the complaint.

He's showing something, but I can't see it. Oh, unless it's just a Mac Book Air. I can see that.

I had to use the scroll wheel 5 times to actually see something that might be interesting.

Ahh Sorry didn't realize. I see the problem now.

I comfortably ignore any comments about email and what it should be from anyone who hasn't used a text email client (well configured) like mutt, mh, elm, or an emacs mode for at least 100 hours.

The only real complaints I have about email with a well-configured text client are: * HTML mail from idiots * Syncing on multiple machines, with offline mode (IMAP is ok, but you want to keep full repositories on laptops for use without network, and ideally to process email more quickly than network access) * Mobile clients -- Android has K9Mail, haven't found anything great on iOS yet. The keyboard-based mail workflow doesn't translate to the tablet/phone form factor, but triggers do even more so, so there should be something there * Handling attachments well * Global directory across organizations (FB/LinkedIn/etc. integration could help a lot) * Multi-user mailboxes; you need some kind of ticketing/tagging/CRM on top of it, and these are all standalone, sometimes web based, and fairly universally suck. There are ways to tie them into plain email though.

I comfortably ignore any comments about email and what it should be from anyone who hasn't used a text email client (well configured) like mutt, mh, elm, or an emacs mode for at least 100 hours.

I comfortably ignore anyone that says "email needs to be fixed" from clients to the underlying system - it's awesome and nothing about it needs to change. People just need to learn to use it better.

I run everything through gmail, but I use my own domain (via an external SMTP server), so if gmail goes down I can just route mail directly to another machine.

I use fetchmail to POP everything off from gmail and I read that in pine. It gets everything regardless of filters, except spam.

My android synchs with gmail (obviously) and using the gmail app I can send as my "real" email address (and this scales obviously so I can send as any of a number of addresses I need to). I make heavy use of filters so I only get relevant stuff on my phone.

My daily ritual is to sit down at pine and scan non-vital email (such as newsletters and mailing lists etc.) that I didn't get on my phone because I filter stuff so heavily, then for each email apply the "GTD" approach of doing anything that can be done immediately, or forwarding it to a Basecamp todo list (using mailmanagr.com) or a Highrise task (depending on whether it's sales related or actual work that I have to do).

This generally takes me less than 30 minutes and is a great triage exercise.

Instead of teaching kids how to code in schools, let's start by teaching them how to use email! We used to learn how to write letters, why aren't we doing advanced email training in schools?

Which part of email requires advanced training? The writing - covered by grammar, etc. The thinking - covered by critical thinking.

The spectacularly complex system you have set up to filter your email? That would be worth a semester or so. It's worth it for you, I'm sure, but the average person probably would collapse trying to set that up.

Which part of email requires advanced training?

Primarily subject line usage and interleaved replies.

The spectacularly complex system you have set up to filter your email

It's basically just GTD on steroids. Basecamp and Highrise are used by millions of non-technical people. Reading email in a text based email client isn't rocket science and, I think, would be a skill on par with learning to communicate with letters. Also gmail filters aren't advanced, and Android is pretty mainstream (as is gmail). The only tricky bits there are using an external SMTP server (made simpler through things like Mailgun, Sendgrid and JangoSMTP) and configuring fetchmail to POP from gmail.

The rest of the components are all very simple and readily available. In my experience people are able to cope with seemingly overwhelming complexity as long as they were instrumental in it's creation and the bits that make up the complex whole are themselves quite simple.

I would be interested (in an academic sense) of seeing documentation on the process you've set up and how you tied it together.

I use a far simpler method, akin to a pile.

If I can expand on your "HTML mail from idiots" -- HTML mail from non-idiots is pretty much a non-issue. A textual document with minimal markup renders well in a standard console email client. It's when an idiot sends you a highly-formatted email which is all-but-unreadable as straight text, that you've got issues.

I'll add: the same highly-formatted emails are very likely to break horribly on handheld devices as well, which are pretty much limited to presenting a small amount of information with minimal formatting -- normal, italic, bold, and possibly some colored text.

And dittos on K9Mail.

For IMAP: offlineimap seems to be a good solution (though not so much on mobile).

Directories: really should be a solved problem by now. I still find myself generally maintaining my own .mail-aliases list though.

I also "love" when I receive "thank you for registering, click here to login", and after staring at the e-mail for a bit, seeing no links anywhere at all, I realize that the well-meaning-but-sadly-still-full-of-fail website operator that sent the message went to the trouble of providing a multipart/alternative with a text/plain body part, but implemented it as "strip the tags from the text/html part: that should be good enough".

I have NO idea of what you're talking about ;-)

Let's pretend you're sending messages to your new users who have just clicked the "Sign Up" button on your fancy landing page.

The problem? They, along with a significant percentage of your other users, use text-based email clients.

This is the wrong way of sending text-only email:

    <!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <title>Thanks for signing up!</title> </head> <body><h1>Thanks for signing up!</h1>Click <a href="http://new-registrants.sneakystartup.net/>here</a> to finish your registration. </body> </html>
Stripping HTML tags is also wrong:

    Thanks for signing up!
    Click here to finish your registration.
This is the correct way of sending text-only email:

    Thanks for signing up!
    Click here[1] to finish your registration.
    1: http://new-registrants.sneakystartup.net

(FWIW, I took the emphasis and subsequent wonkier smily to mean he was joking, and in fact have accidentally sent such emails in the past from his own website.)

Indeed I was.

And most likely you only have a handful of these templates, so if you're nice you'll actually just put some effort into each one:

    Thanks for signing up!
    Click here to finish your registration:

(it's much less egregious here than it is in some emails that have 7-8 footnotes)

I just learned about imapsync, imapcopy, OfflineIMAP and Archivemail on linux. I haven't test them out yet. Have you tried any of these utilities? They seem to address the "Syncing on multiple machines" bit of your post.

I use mbsync (http://isync.sourceforge.net/mbsync.html) and mutt. The thing I hate is that Mutt's native OfflineIMAP support is broken, forcing me to use an external maildir syncer, but other than that, it works great. I still haven't set up search.

Global directory across organizations

It sounds like a good idea- I used to think so, myself- but I've steadily been convinced otherwise by the (quite sharp) IT guys managing our directory.

You don't want to give unlimited access, but once someone authorizes an individual as a contact, the contact should be kept up to date automatically if a phone number or email address changes.

(Also, partner organizations might want to share directories easily; I can see giving a full access to your directory to a contracting/temp agency you use, rather than giving them accounts. I'm sure there are better examples.)

* Full text search and tagging. (Hence, http://notmuchmail.org/)

This person needs to try outlook. You see, there's a little flag you can click on next to the email with a task priority. And a todo bar/list which shows them in priority order. Not only has it existed before, but it really doesn't help that much. You still need to apply yourself to use it correctly. This doesn't change that.

Sigh... but then I knew I was in for wheel re-invention as soon as I saw the "modern creative workflow" sales bullshit. Perhaps there's something to be gained by making it prettier than outlook, I dunno. I feel like Alan Kay -- read about your history folks. If you're going to "re-invent email" you might want to, I don't know -- try out many different existing email clients?

Thank you. Outlook 2007 and 2010 have a) flags, b) user-taggable-color-coded categories, c) an extremely usable ToDo bar, and d) Xobni and a million other plugins that attempt to prioritize your incoming mail automatically.

I'm not saying Outlook works for me (it doesn't), but it's annoying that the author pretended Outlook doesn't exist, and essentially proposed his version of Outlook as a solution to the "problem".

To be fair, as far as I can tell this is only a concept by a UI designer, created as a portfolio piece. I believe the its purpose isn't to reinvent email as much as it is to show off his knowledge of graphic design and CSS transforms.

I had a serious crack at using Outlook for this a few years ago and I found it woefully inadequate. Outlook tasks are either todo or done. There's no way of monitoring "waiting on Alice for confirmation", "waiting for Bob's approval of the finished work". Related to this, the task list seems to only display one-dimensionally, e.g. I couldn't put together a useful list of my more important tasks that were due later this week alongside my less-important tasks due today. Also, tasks are effectively a pointer to an email. There's no way of tying together disparate emails into a single task. Lastly, I found myself wanting to really use tasks as a something like "tag annotations" - I'd be having 2 or 3 conversations about optimization in the team and want to note them all together along with a high-level view of things to do before and after.

I quite like Outlook and would love its task system to be more useful, enough so that I've thought of putting work into it to make it what I want. The fact is, though, that it doesn't really do most of what the author of the article wants, and it definitely isn't suitable as anything more than building blocks for a workflow system.

I've also tried outlooks tasks and while it's good as one-off reminders it doesn't solve the big problem with email, and neither will this mockup that doesn't even propose anything else than the action-lists.

The problem with email is that all information you need is everywhere! It's a matter of discipline. Labels only solve half the issue. To start with we've got improper headlines, emails with information about many, totally unrelated tasks, replies to old messages in same conversation - this breaks threading in every email client i've tried, especially if many different senders jump in and out of the conversation.

Gmail can have several star colors and labels, too. So I guess you could replicate his workflow there as well.

Uh, let me see. Attempt nº 5712 to revolutionize the way we use email. Tell me more.

"Mark as read" is useless? I thought nowaday we had "archive", "search" and such from gmail... no mention of that. OK then, let's see what you offer...

"Clutter-free interface", "clean typography" and the mystery option "what you really need"? Are you (f) kidding me? This can't scream "I'm thunderbird but made by graphical designers" any louder.

Oooh Actionsteps! I have NO idea what you are, but you must be "what I really need"! Scroll, scroll, still no idea... Aha! I have Favourites (why didn't I come up with that?), and Actionsteps, which "organize" my stuff. So like, categories, but with a mysterious name.

And, it can handle attachments! What year is this?

Plus facebook etc integration like that's something I'd ever not want to disable.

Attempt nº 5712 archieved.

I still maintain we should ignore the "problem" with email and instead focus on making it easier just to share stuff. As it stands, it's always a crap shoot when I send a file to someone as to whether or not they'll actually be able to read it.

Agreed. I can basically get everything he wants in gmail with a few extensions/labs enabled.

holy shit just write your web pages in html, not everything needs to be a crazy javascript abomination where the body text fades in slowly

I guess you didn't RTP where it said "if you're a developer[...]"?

Guy's a designer :|

That's just mean. Comments like this ^ sidetrack the whole post from what-could-be an interesting discussion into a group bashing over irrelevant little details.

These kinds of comments aren't necessarily inappropriate here. When someone's writing about "great interaction design", it's reasonable to point out the terrible interaction design of their site. If someone were discussing "great font design" on their blog and using Comic Sans, it'd be pretty surprising if they were not attacked.

Well, if the top comment starts with "holy shit", it typically drags all other comments in the same direction.

Also, questioning someone's font survey by attacking their use of Comic Sans is, bluntly put, retarded. You still need to account for the quality of the content to make a judgement.

Did you seriously complain about someone else saying "holy shit" and then follow it up by calling my comment "retarded"?

And no, it's not "retarded" to question someone's expertise when they're presenting themselves as an expert and making critical errors. Your opinions on fonts are at best suspect if you use Comic Sans for the content of your blog. Likewise, your opinions on interaction design are at best suspect if your blog is rendered as pixelated jpgs, fades in slowly, breaks middle click, and is laid out more like an Apple product page than a page intended to convey meaningful information.

No, not your comment, the ad hominem approach. There's plenty of reasons why Comic Sans could end up on the page talking about fonts. It can be a joke, it can be a fallback font, it can be some hosted template that got messed up.

In this case, pixelated jpgs are probably the fasted way for him to publish the content, fading is likely inherited from the general site template, it is presented unconventionally, but I personally had absolutely no problem reading it. The actual content is thoughtful and it makes sense. So do tell me again why nitpicking on the text fading thing coupled with a holy shit drama is a good way to start the discussion.

I think you missed the point of my comment about calling it "retarded". The issue is not whether you're attacking my comment or the general thought or even me directly. It's that you are criticizing someone else for lowering the standard of conversation and then doing it yourself. This is the same kind of thing the author is being criticized for. If you want your advice taken seriously, you should probably follow it yourself.

> There's plenty of reasons why Comic Sans could end up on the page talking about fonts.

Joke? Okay, but if you made the entire page Comic Sans, then clearly the joke is more important than the content, so I see no reason to take the content seriously.

Fallback font? Then you still suck at choosing fonts, and your opinion is as useless as if you'd made it the primary.

Broken template? Did you not bother to look at the page after you published it? This seems like an unrealistic scenario.

> In this case, pixelated jpgs are probably the fasted way for him to publish the content

Expedience for the author at the expense of usability? Tell me again how this demonstrates any expertise in interaction design. Seems like the opposite.

> fading is likely inherited from the general site template

Undoubtedly. It's still a poor design from an interaction standpoint, both on this page specifically and on the site in general. It's designed to look pretty, which is fine, but it's bad for interaction, which is not fine.

> but I personally had absolutely no problem reading it.

I found much of it to be pixelated and fuzzy. I also found the layout to greatly detract from the reading experience. It looks like it's designed to sell a product by dazzling the user rather than educate the reader.

> The actual content is thoughtful and it makes sense.

I was not actually very impressed by the content. It looks like he drew the Twitter iPad client. I didn't see anything new or innovative, but there's plenty of other discussion here about that.

> So do tell me again why nitpicking on the text fading thing coupled with a holy shit drama is a good way to start the discussion.

Tell me why I should take an author seriously when he doesn't follow his own guidelines.

I'm sorry, I didn't really want for my remark to become the top comment.

I left it intentionally brief and shallow because I didn't want to give the impression that the sentiment expressed reflects my opinion of the entire article. I think the expletive helps convey that it was a unrefined first impression on that single aspect.

I do think that pointing out unnecessarily bad accessibility is a valid statement. Maybe I should have clarified that the content was entirely invisible without javascript enabled, but I am a bit disappointed that we're just stopping to see full-page flash applets masquerading as websites, and are immediately transitioning to reimplementing that same user-unfriendly approach in javascript.

The guy's talking about getting shit done and is wasting my time with a fancy page with readability problems? Seems pretty ironic to me.

His project seems interesting, but sometimes ad hominem attacks can be relevant.

If it falls back gracefully, why not?

As pointed by others, the site just is a bunch of JPEGs, which is a very bad choice indeed (accessibility, search engine access, speed, etc).

But aesthetics do matter. If done properly, you could just grab the content and use your favority reader with a click of a button in case you desagree with the author's taste.

>If it falls back gracefully, why not?

It doesn't. Content doesn't load here on a FF with js disabled (not that i do this normally, disable JS, just tested it because of your comment).

I think it kind of matters in this case. The "mail has to be repaired" is such an overused term, and seldom the people claiming that even try to give reasons for this ruling. Mail is an asynchronic system for letting people send messages (with attachments) and it works really well. If someone fails to see that, claiming something is broken which most probably isn't and is doing that from a technically broken site, it weakens his point even further.

So mentioning the observation isn't totally out of place.

It doesn't.

I had to switch browsers and start doing NoScript Bingo until the damned page rendered.

I want those 60 seconds of my life back. It wasn't worth it.

Of course it doesn't.

I'm not defending the site, I'm saying there is nothing wrong with a JavaScript intensive site, if properly done (this one isn't).

Surprise! There is no body text!

Having the web page fade in slowly gives the impression of speed. It's not just a fancy gimmick.

I ran a website speed test on this page; it performed very poorly (load time more than 14 seconds). Personally, I'd rather see websites with real speed, rather than something pretty that just has the impression of speed.

In my opinion, having a web page fade in is just a gimmick.

What is the difference between real speed and the impression of speed? If it feels fast, is it not fast?

Automated website speed tests aren't a good measurement the way you're using them. They're good for a site developer to find bottlenecks but can't tell you much else one way or the other. Perhaps most of the page load time is spent loading images below the fold.

You're much better just loading the page by hand and seeing how fast the content shows up. And when you do that, the impression of speed is important.

In all fairness, running a speed test against a site that is currently on the front page of HN is a little bit of a stacked deck, isn't it?

Isn't that when it matters the most?

Perhaps, but that completely misses the point.

The HN effect completely crashes lots of servers. It's not at all unlikely that the page appears snappy most of the time and is simply so ill-performant at the moment because it was being hammered.

Not saying that's true or false, mind you; Just that when something is on the front page of HN is perhaps the least likely time to gather a representative benchmark.

> fade in slowly ... impression of speed

Surely you see the contradiction here.

> It's not just a fancy gimmick.

Right. It's a cheesy gimmick.

Looking at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1072027/Screenshots/1z.png, I find the comment about "perfect spacing and clean typography" almost laughable. I also prefer design that incorporates smart typography to convey importance and structure. His app mockups seem to show an understanding of this, but the site layout in general (especially this section) does not.

(1) why is the "We spend a huge amount of our day..." text in red? (2) why is that text smaller than the previous chunk of text? (3) why is that entire previous chunk of text italicized? (4) how is "Mark as read is useless..." at all related to "Emails aren't just emails anymore"? why are these in the same paragraph? "Mark as read" seems like it should be the beginning of a list of complaints about email, not the supporting sentence for "Emails aren't just emails anymore" -- this just comes off as extremely bad flow of thought, and the typography makes it more confusing. (5) why is the heading for each of the boxes split into all-caps tiny text and no-caps large text? the idea in itself isn't terrible, but the tiny text is too tiny, and the splitting into tiny and large text isn't consistent -- clearly it's meant so that the large text can be read on its own and the tiny text adds to the experience upon closer inspection, and so putting the "and" at the end of the "A clean and" tiny text for the first box makes sense, but then why is the "and" at the beginning of the "and clean typograhpy" large text in the second box?

Sparrow is so close to this. All it's lacking is the all-attachments view and the prioritizing, but you can hack the prioritizing easily enough with Gmail labels. Even then, I don't think that's enough, though. I think e-mail nowadays needs to be more of a TODO manager and less about messaging.

Agreed, 100%. I saw the screenshot and thought, "Oh, it's Sparrow with some red colors and a new little organization feature. Neat."

Sparrow is literally this exact client design, minus the cute "Actionsteps" or whatever. They could easily add some more color coding to Sparrow and it would fill this need pretty easily (well, that and fix some annoyances, which as is usually the case, is the larger usability problem—simply not being annoying).

More importantly, you're right: e-mail is no longer just communication. Our e-mail clients are how we organize incoming tasks and work. This is why GTD and the like focus so strongly on e-mail, because it's become our primary means of incoming information. Organizing that is the problem, and it does need a solution.

This is so close to Sparrow because it completely rips-off the Sparrow's design.

Take a look at the compose new mail window, it's the same except the send button is red (and I think the bcc line has moved up). The toolbar icons and order of the icons are identical to Sparrow.

All sorts of other little things that could be different too are not, like the select state of the current email.

It would be ok if he, at least, mentioned that it was based on Sparrow.

There's one or two original things in the design, for example, he put his url in the left corner though.

MS Outlook has had something along these lines for years - they call it something else ("Quick Click" or something) but it allows you at least one-click colorization + task creation. It's not quite like he lays out but it's the basic idea of his "Actionsteps". I don't use it, and I would consider myself an Outlook power user. I have learned techniques that, quite frankly, just work better for me.

I use Outlook every day too, but don't really bother with the task tools that are built into it (even if it might (might!) integrate better with my email).

It's too general-purpose. It's like giving me a full toolbox, and the only limit is my mind! I'd rather have a tool that is more purpose-built to handle my needs.

These days I track todo-s in Trello and make sure my Inbox unread count stays at 0. That's it.

The only thing I'm missing is better attachment management, but that's just a nice-to-have. It's not a problem I personally run into very often. I could imagine though if your workflow involved lots of attachments it could be frustrating that they're treated as second-class citizens.

I use the heck out of the appts and tasks - appts are "things that I have to physical participate in" (phone call, lunch) and tasks are "reminders". I would not survive long without those. I use Trello but only to manage a small team of tasks.

You said, "The only thing I'm missing is better attachment management" - to me, the worst part about Outlook is the search functionality. It's just awful IMO. I can deal with the crappy attachment handling/saving/etc but when it takes a week for the "Instant Search" thing to index my 2gb Outlook file, I get pissed haha

The problem is that this approach helps his workflow and it does absolutely nothing for mine. I understand what he describes, I just can't relate to it.

The layout of the page (or lack thereof) makes it hard to know what portion you must focus on. The flow is really messy.

This was my hangup. My eye was going towards all of the heavy red and black shapes and not the screenshots themselves.

Phew, thought I was the only one. Like I was getting old or something.

Leave email alone. It's doing it's job 95% alright. Just use a reasonable client (e.g. http://mail.google.com, Sparrow) and there is really almost nothing to complain about.

The problem is that we are using email for everything. Since Facebook, people rarely send pictures to each other anymore. Since Blogging, people rarely send long personal stories to 100 friends. Etc', etc... Slowly and carefully we find the right alternatives to the default, which is email.

If you need task management, use Asana or something. It's really good, and it integrates with email quite well. Also, Trello is excellent as a flexible Kanban board.

It's all about finding and using (rigorously) the right tool. Don't force everything you need in computing into email, and you won't have to reinvent email.

I really doubt email will change at all. Maybe it will die, or be less common. But it will not change.

It's so simple, why change it anyway?

Is there anything out there right now that handles email attachments like described in this pitch? I would love the ability to see all the attachments ever sent to me, organized by date/sender/filetype. Or clicking on a contact and seeing all attachments I've shared with that person.

The mail client built into the Opera browser has an Attachments filter which allows you to see all messages by attachment type. After that, you can sort the messages by 'From', 'Subject', 'Size', etc. No thumbnails as in his example, though.

As with everything in the Opera mail client, it is all handled through two panes - filtering on the left (Unread, Received, Labels, Attachments, etc.) and the email messages themselves on the right. All email accounts are aggregated together. I've been hugely enamored with its simplicity and elegance for years.

It's built into Outlook 2010. See the attachment tab in the People Pane [1] -- I use it all the time.

[1]: https://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/introduction...

Xobni for Outlook does it. https://www.xobni.com/

I used Zenbe's webmail when it was free and it did just this. Now their site is off and I've learned they have been acquired by Facebook in 2010.

Brian, am working on something like that, please leave your email address at https://ronomon.com to be notified when ready.

Like drunkenfly mentioned, there's the Smartr Contacts app, and Rapportive as well for contact management:


Postbox does that to some extent. See screenshots:


I know that MS Entourage keeps its attachments in a database, though I'm not clear on how it presents them to the user.

Many of the facile assumptions designers make about email are wrong.

The sanebox service, for instance, has the same wrong assumption -- that the problem is spam and unimportant emails.

The toughest problem I have in email management is important emails that are difficult to answer. For instance, before I took off for San Diego this week, I had to answer an email that required a prompt reply. This email involved an important relationship for which the circumstances had radically changed -- I wasn't sure what I wanted out of the situation or what I could do for the other party.

Given an email like that, my natural temptation is to put off dealing with them, so I have a plug of "important and somewhat urgent" messages sitting in my box at any time.

Spam and other unimportant messages, on the other hand, can be deleted in seconds, and pose very little cognitive load. If there's any real cost of dealing with spam it's that I have an itchy trigger finger and occasionally delete an email that I shouldn't.

I love this concept.

I'm curious how well this would work for multiple projects, a blend of personal and work email, and high-volume inboxes. Seems like it'd really need some type of labeling in addition to the actionsteps.

Hopefully I get some free time this week, I might look into building some of this. Looks like fun.

Labeling would definitely be a key feature set especially if it's heavily integrating with email service providers like gmail. What were you thinking of building it in?

I've been working on something similar in the past year and I'm considering bringing it back.

As a designer, the OP should know better than to design webpages as a giant <img> tag... It's unreadable on my Retina MBP.

I like the idea of creating actions from within your email client. Integration with some project management tools like pivotal or trello would really smooth off this part of my workflow.

Both Evolution and Thunderbird with the Lightning plugin has right-click → convert to task. Lots of room for improvement, but it works.

Even Outlook has it. Right click, Follow up to create a task; right click, Categorize - to assign category. Out of the box, no plugins required.

It looks like a different functionality than mail. It is risky to try solving different problems with the same tool. Though the tasks are abviously connecetd.

Immediate thoughts:

From a business perspective, 3 steps like that isn't enough. What I really want is email completely integrated with a CRM/Project management tool & a calendar - I have tried Googl Apps and the whole Email / Tasks / Calendar separation just doesn't work. From what I've seen Exchange comes close, and I believe one of the others (Zimbra?) does too.

The problem with email is everyone uses it differently. The email client that works for my work emails won't work for my personal email account and vice versa.

Minimalist for GMail is nice, it starts to improve by removing clutter: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/bmihblnpomgpjkfdde... and I wouldn't be without it.

I totally agree about typography - it would make a massive difference. But not just here, everywhere.

Grouping email is another problem - I've tried folders (one per email, not enough), tags/labels (unmanageable). This is symtomatic of our whole digital information management issue - how do we deal with so much flexible information? Hence my need for a CRM/tasks/todo app on top of email.

[Background: I run a small company, it's growing, and managing projects/developers/clients/email is a headache. If you've found a way to reduce the pain, say!]

Am working on this. Please leave your email at https://ronomon.com and I will let you know when it's ready.

I take the point about clutter and typography, but the best email client I have ever used is nmh <http://www.nongnu.org/nmh/>, largely because I was able to hack together this kind of work flow effortlessly. I'm always marveling at how modern clients lack the capabilities I have in a piece of software that has changed little since the RAND Corporation put it together decades ago.

I think it's an interesting UI design and concept and has some strong visual appeal to it. I realize a lot of the concepts in this design have been tried before in one way or another. However, just as important as the design is seeing how if actually feels. I think it certainly looks good in photoshop but the trick is executing in a way that makes it feel "right" too. Any plans for development?

If you are into GTD, an email workflow for handling email could be much more flexible. Example when going through your inbox:

1. Respond to/do anything that can be done in two minutes and archive the email. (It helps if you are maintaining your inbox at zero.)

2. If it takes longer than a few minutes to do, send it off to your GTD app for processing as an action step, waiting for or something else, and archive the email.

Is anyone else seriously disturbed by the layout?

The whole page is a big giant JPEG full of unscalable, unsearchable text.

Google doesn't read .JPEGs. Kiss your SEO goodbye.

I can't zoom into a page like this. When I do, it's pixelated and you've somehow managed to screw up the horizontal scrollbar so I can't even read the text on the left and right sides.

This also makes the site completely unbearable under any screen resolution smaller than 1280x1024.

I've been through mail clients for a while now, and I've even written one. The thing I realised is, even when it does exactly what I want I'm still burdened by the fact that for my needs email sucks, so I've managed to move a lot of work stuff to things like Asana for project management, and the email side of it is pretty much for junk and occasional correspondence.

Nevermind classic email clients, let's begin with the method the author used to make his point. It's a verbose mish-mash of disjointed text flow and pseudo-infographics. It does not flow well at all.

From what I can tell, you can achieve his vision of an email client by changing preferences in Mountain Lion's Mail.app client, so his vision is here today (well, soon).

I'm not going to take design advice from a website that thinks it knows better than I do how wide my browser window should be.

Horrible site. The text is served as jpg image. This guy can't get the basics right but it's designing "experiences"....

Wow, haven't read such a vaporware article in awhile. The author promises a "I'm going to change 30+ years of email UI/UX" and instead proposes 4 different labels and a workflow that works for him. Yup, you revolutionalized email alright.

Looking through the article, I found most of the changes to be superficial, other than 'actionsteps,' which I'm not convinced will solve any problem. Instead of trying to stop mail from becoming a separate to-do list, actionsteps encourages you to keep some to-dos in your mail client and the rest outside of your mail client in a third party app.

Also, I tried the social thing with emails, and what it looks great in theory. However, I really don't get a lot of emails from people I'm friends with on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

Postbox does everything he mentioned, and has for quite some time. It might behoove this guy to do some due diligence in the space, or maybe take time to explain how his designs are better than current apps.

Also, while his designs look "nice", they are over-designed and would start looking stale very quickly. When you're building a product that is used on a daily basis, less "design" is more. But I'm sure as a result of this post, he'll find some clients and make some money from it, so good for him.

Email nor anything related to core email protocols do not need to be fixed or redesigned. It's doing what it was supposed to be used for and still doing it very well. Over the years desktop and web mail people have added too much and its 70s design idea of anyone can send mail to any other's inbox (btw, creative idea at the time worked till 2000s) have cooperatively decreased its usage.

We still need this universal and mature protocol but we should do a different thing for communication. period.

Just going to pimp a startup working out of Sydney called ZeroMail.

zeromail.com is a real product looking to shake up the traditional email client. Best of luck to them!

at the risk of sounding like a broken record, when I read the 'actionsteps' section I immediately thought of TSW. http://www.thesecretweapon.org/

the idea behind it is is that we don't rely on the inbox for our todo list - which is what we all tend to do! because, email isn't designed as a todo list and neither are any email clients I've used :P

The take away here should be, if you're going to spend time redesigning email clients, you should take an equal or greater amount of time laying it out on your website. So much for sharing ideas. When half the comments trash your WordPress template before they even get to the subject, you know it's a tough crowd.

This looks almost identical to Sparrow with the exception that Sparrow simply uses a star as an action item.

LOL, this looks identical to Sparrow!

My exact thoughts when I first saw his screenshots.

Please, please, please - for the love of all that is good and grammatical - change "noone" to "no one" as quickly as you can possibly photoshop in mail2.jpeg. This single error tainted your argument (for me, at least) for the rest of the page.

Title should be Redesigning Sparrow :)

The design is clearly inspired in Sparrow, which already does the facebook pictures thing, nice typography and all. It's only missing the "action levels" (you can only mark as favorite/important).

Forgive me if I'm missing something, but I already have this with my Thunderbird email client, which allows me to assign tags with customizable names and colours and to sort my emails into an arbitrary set of folders.

At first I was going to commend the author on being a UI/UX reincarnation of Dieter Rams (I know he isn't dead yet, so that's not quite logical). Then I realize the entire page was all images. Why???

Slightly unrelated but your portfolio webpage is absolutely gorgeous!

Dont know about any one else, but I couldn't close the window fast enough after the page loaded. It just assaulted my brain. I have no idea why. It literally repelled me. Quite strange.

Mail-Pilot is awesome for email as an inbox. Take a look at Mail-Pilot.com and how it has read later, tasks, connections to people, and more. Disclosure that I'm one of their backers.

Microsoft (Outlook+Exchange+Lync (formerly Office Communicator))

Yeah. So why you didn't earned bilions of dolars on new, great e-mail clients? Maybe it's not what people needs, huh?

I feel sorry for the author here. Its very easy to criticise and hard to create. There are a lot of people here trying to tear him down. If you know better - stop sitting around on Hackernews and go make it. If not, then stop whining when someone is trying to do something constructive - or at the very least provide some points you think he can fix and be nice about it, not like a petulant 12-year old...

So have you heard of www.mail-pilot.com?

There are chrome extensions that solve these functional issues. ActiveInbox and Attachments.me

UI/UX is still up in the air.

Have you taken a look at the code? It's disgusting, seriously.

GNUS already supports all of the features proposed by this article (including personalized pictures) and it has been around since the early 90s.

edit: s/early 90s/late 80s/

to much text for a "disruptive" idea

cufon+a lot of jquery and look what happens...

Like PostBox only online.

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