- It's very easy for users to make snap judgments about the value of most emails based on the subject line. Reducing the need to actually open and or read an email first. Allowing them to quickly determine the right action to take that would best reduce their email clutter at that moment.
- Newsletters can often be tricky since their subject lines may not always reveal what content is inside. Especially if this is a newsletter the user feels contributes value to them and if the newsletter contains links and articles.
📌 If a user can't immediately determine if a newsletter is valuable or not to keep without having to first examine its content, there's a tendency to leave it unread until they find a suitable time to read it. At lower daily email volumes this is manageable using Gmail as it is now, but at larger volumes, this problem scales significantly. A larger influx of emails leads to more items demanding a user's attention, which then leads to more unread newsletters and lost value that could otherwise have been gained from these newsletters. Gmail currently is not designed to handle this problem.
An adequate problem statement to address these issues looks like this:
How might we create a feature within Gmail for its users to read, manage & derive value from their favorite newsletter subscriptions without having to clutter their inbox with unread emails or store them in folders where they can be easily forgotten?
Focusing solely on newsletters here are some summary insights.
- Newsletters generally are given a lower priority when it comes to being read when first received.
- If the user feels the newsletter has perceived value it is usually bookmarked for later. If not, it is deleted.
- When bookmarking a newsletter: if it's kept within the inbox it contributes to clutter, becomes very easy to overlook, and detracts from the user's attempt to reduce email clutter.
- If it is kept within a folder either by manual moving, labeling or by a rule. They are removed from the user's primary focus and are rarely checked. They also become harder to search for or reference.
- This also contributes to clutter in the long term as these emails tend to pile up in folders, taking up valuable space
- If newsletters end up in either the promotions or socials tab the likelihood they get read at all drops significantly. This is even more egregious when considering the number of instances where Gmail incorrectly places an email within one of these two folders.
Habits & Behaviors
Archival: When it comes to archival, users either tend to use the move to folder or archival feature in google interchangeably. A user's motivation for archival is primarily to store an email they think they might need in the future but are not 100% certain. It removes the email from their inbox and reduces clutter. Very rarely do they refer back to their archived emails.
- Using move-to folders is a way to archive similar emails together. Whereas the archive is just a general pool
Bookmarking/Read for later: Users would rather keep emails unread in their inbox to serve as a visual reminder to read later. Alternatively, one use user uses the star feature as a way to bookmark.
Inbox Zero - Inbox zero is an overarching philosophy on managing your email by reducing clutter to zero. In practice, most users can't achieve this fully either due to the volume of emails or because they still need to keep important emails in their inbox. The compromise is having no unread emails in the inbox as opposed to zero emails.
Engaging with newsletters: Newsletters generally don't get priority reading over a standard email. A common habit amongst users is to read other emails first and leave a newsletter unread as a way to save for later. What usually determines if a newsletter is going to get read?
- If the newsletter subscription is one that the user feels consistently adds value to their life, for example, it's from a news publication or something relating to a topic they are currently interested in.
- The newsletter content itself is easily skimmable
- The user can identify based on the subject line that the content within the newsletter is going to be valuable to them.
In total, the users interviewed generally have between 3-7 newsletters they are actively engaged with up to 10 subscriptions they are currently aware of. This number doesn't reflect the subscriptions gained from marketing, shopping websites, and others involuntary signed up for since users consider most of these junk mail.
Doing things manually
- The habits and behaviors described above are all done manually by each user. Even though Gmail provides a slew of automation tools via the rule feature. Users would rather manually go through their email to delete/manage their inbox