I recently downloaded the Google Inbox app because Apple’s native email app feels like a relic compared to the newer email apps. Inbox looked sleek, is gesture friendly and had good reviews on the App store. Lastly, it is from Google, so what could go wrong! However, there is an unpleasant twist to this story!
This post highlights two glaring UX issues that Google needs to address because it simply doesn't work.
Let’s start with the email bundling feature which on the surface seems like a great idea. Bundling groups similar emails together, which makes scrolling easier and the user gets a larger snapshot of unread emails. However, it comes with a pitfall and I learnt that the hard way.
I don't trust online providers with keeping my financial data safe, so I created a checking account exclusively for online payments and I keep a balance of no more than $200. So if any of the merchants get compromised, I don't lose my shirt. In addition, I have notifications setup in the event of my account balance falling below $100. Upon notification, I simply replenish the account back to $200 balance.
On a beautiful Sunday when I was at a beer garden I received a text message from a merchant stating that my payment was declined. After the issue was resolved and my reputation was tarnished, I wondered about the email warning me about the low account balance.
It turns out the email was bundled (buried in this case) with other finance related emails. The bundle Finance lists emails horizontally (see above) and the first email was a statement from a financial institution, followed by a few amazon invoice emails. I had ignored the chain since I already knew what all the notifications were about. The account balance warning email from my bank was buried underneath 25+ emails and the only way to notice was by clicking on the bundle (unless you noticed it on it's arrival).
A quick visual survey of the summarized bundle gave me the impression that there was nothing important to pay attention to. A simple inbox interface that was meant to improve my email experience actually cost me my reputation
I reviewed my Inbox to see if there are any other forms of mis-categorized bundles and I found a few that made absolutely no sense. For example, my weekly HTML newsletters were bundled with online forum emails. Although bundling can be disabled, it comes as a default option at the time of onboarding and most users accept the default.
I am not blaming the bank incident on Inbox but I’m pointing out that bundling fails to understand that even if certain emails belong to the same category, the importance or priority of each email may be different.Without bundling, I am forced to go through each email and take appropriate action.
I enjoy reading newsletters during my commute. I tend to load the articles beforehand in the Safari browser (as new tabs) so I can read them even if my connection is lost during the commute. But all that changed with Inbox.
When I click on a link, Inbox opens up the article in a Chrome browser and provides an option to go back to Inbox (replacing the usual browser back button). This seems like a useful and innocuous looking feature. Wrong!
Instead of creating a new tab/window for every new link, Inbox re-opens the link in Chrome over the previous page, without an option to go back to the previous page (see below). Even worse, clicking on the “back to Inbox” button simply closes the tab.
Re-opening Chrome takes you to the default home page. I have to manually open up the history via burger icon to retrieve the visited pages.
Inbox assumed that I would always finish reading an article before clicking on another link, which in my opinion is presumptuous.
It's frustrating to see new features break the flow of work or in some cases making decisions without considering different use cases. UX should be effective (getting a task done) and efficient (the shortest time possible) and a few features in Inbox fail to deliver that.
On the bright side, I absolutely love the pinning of emails and turning emails into a task on the calendar. Google Inbox changed the way I manage my Inbox. Kudos for that!