I’m not the only annoyed one.

It must be Cranky Day today, because I’m not the only one. I forget when I started reading Hanford Lemoore (I think it was one of these posts), but he’s my favorite type of blogger: he doesn’t post that often, but when he does, the posts are insightful and original. Today Hanford posts about two potential snags in the Gmail UI: the “arrow of mystery” and editing subject lines.

Personally, I’ve never had problems with editing the subject line (once you know it’s there, it’s not hard to edit the subject line), but I can shed some light on the “arrow of mystery.” If you turn on keyboard shortcuts (which are off by default), you can use the ‘j’ and ‘k’ key to move the arrow down/up, and ‘x’ to select/unselect. If you’re a Gmail user, the keyboard shortcuts let you handle email without reaching for the mouse. Compose? Use the ‘c’ key. Mark as spam? Use the ‘!’ key. For elm/mutt/pine converts, that’s really handy. More info can be found on the Gmail keyboard shortcuts page.

Could the arrow of mystery be handled a little better? Well, a tooltip would be helpful. I’ll pass the feedback on to the right person.

Update: I’m already hearing back from Gmail UI folks. One thing I didn’t know is that the arrow o’ mystery only appears if you’ve already turned on keyboard shortcuts.

24 Responses to I’m not the only annoyed one. (Leave a comment)

  1. Matt, I take the editing of my post means you read what really bugs me.

  2. Sorry Matt, I posted that last comment by mistake.Hadn’t realised you started another cranky thread.:)
    When you hand it over to the blogger team, I hope it doesn’t go to the wrong person in the team

  3. That blog poster is spot on, the way gmail handles subject lines DOES suck.

    But I’m feeling left out now because I don’t have an arrow (sad face)


  4. I tell you what else sucks, the all uppercase captchas being served appear to need their response in uppecast too – SUCKS

  5. I’ll try to shepherd it through, HaHa.

  6. BTW, HaHa, I’ve already heard back from a Blogger person.

  7. Hey Matt would you mind clearing up a problem? You know the one I speak of ;), since I know you had to edit my last major post in your blog about the hidden links and text of a competitor.

    I didnt realize that JeffM was the one who gave you the name Bigdaddy. Since he is part of what I would call the largest link farm I have ever seen. Is what this group doing ok by Google webmaster standards? A simple yes or no if you can or if you would like to explain further, I am sure none of us would mind.

    The reason I ask is because there have been conflicting statements about this. The ones that say it is ok are the ones who participate in this, the ones who say it isnt ok are unbias webmasters other than myself who have nothing to do with this group.

    Holding My Breath…:)

  8. Gmail is a strange creature over here in the UK. I still don’t call it Google Mail, although legal people would like me to. I don’t have any “delete” buttons and try not to feel jealous. I can’t do anything with RSS on Gmail either, over here.

    If only we could report Gmail spam via the mobile interface!

    I presume you look at which URLs get scooped up in Gmail spam reports and send spam-detecting spiders out to investigate them.

    I’d be lost without Gmail though. It’s my first line of defence not only against spam but against not being able to check my email for a few days. Some small web hosts only provide in-boxes with a few Meg and I’d easily fill that up if I didn’t download from it regularly.

    The thing, I note, about Gmail is that it did email radically differently. For such a radical change it managed to get the GUI almost exactly right. That’s an impressive feat.

    Weirdly, it’s a similar sort of design as Google Groups and that was not so warmly received (but some old UseNetters can be a bit Luddite at times!).

    I suspect we’ll see Google Video edging towards a more “Gmail-like” design over time. I won’t complain 😀

  9. Hi Matt and all,

    first post to Matts blog, but just to join in with the crankyness.

    My biggest annoyance with Gmail is the reply, reply all links are ath the bottom of the email text (arggghhh!)

    I don’t want to scroll down past previous emails in the conversation I’m having when someone replies to me with just one line.

    Please, please, please can we have reply, replay all, forward etc just above the subject line too.

    bah humbug and all that!!


  10. Hey Matt,

    I just think that gmail is has the best UI from all other stupid email services I have ever used.

    Google services just rock!

  11. Just a small thing on Gmail – in Inbox view, the Delete button is to the right, just to the left of the drop-down menu of more actions.

    In the Spam folder, that space is occupied by Not Spam and Delete is to the left.

    I have to think to hit the right button in the Spam folder.

  12. Out of curiosity Matt, why are keyboard shortcuts off by default in Gmail? I was without a mouse using it and couldn’t do anything, not even turn on the keyboard shortcuts. This is a major accessibility flaw because someone using a screen reader or a switch would need help in order to set up and use their account.

  13. Matt,

    Nice hearing & seeing you last week at SES. As far as keyboard shortcuts go…could we have one for Delete? That would be fabulous. It could be d, x or whatever.

    I’m glad they finally added a button for delete, instead of having it one of the drop-down menu items, but having a keyboard shortcut would really make me more efficient (and my Inbox smaller!).

    The spam filter is really good, but I wonder how my address got out there in the first place, as I’ve barely given my address out.

  14. Good point, Sue. If I see a Gmail UI person, I’ll mention that too..

  15. Matt,

    One other thing about that guy’s post – he wrote about how he wants to edit the subject line when he replies when he wants to change who he sends it to. He should (quite obviously) be using Forward instead of Reply for that, and when you forward, GMail (sensibly) does show the Subject box then.

    In general, I love the GMail interface, but there are a few things that bug me the most:

    – No reply/forward at the top of messages (or at least the very first message) means I have to scroll down through a whole message to be able to reply to it (and often I might not need to do that if they just have a large sig). [this really confused my wife recently when she couldn’t see a reply button]

    – I really, really need an ‘add label’ button for draft messages, it is my biggest pet peeve I thnk.

    Also, could you ask if they could turn on GMail Chat for English UK also? People who have English UK get the ‘New – GMail chat!’ introduction screen which asks them if they want to enable chat history or not, but then don’t actually get given it. It sounds like you allow EN-UK for the message but not for the actual use of it, which sounds like a pretty big oversight. Having had a quick run around the GMail chat interface, I didn’t see anything which was correct EN-US but incorrect EN-UK.

    Lastly, the ‘X’ after you do ‘Add contact’ and want to cancel it is a bit faint and hard to see.

  16. “Lastly, the ‘X’ after you do ‘Add contact’ and want to cancel it is a bit faint and hard to see.”

    I meant in the GMail chat interface.

  17. My first problem with Gmail was to create new folders as I didn’t find anything to create a new folder.

    Only then I figured that Gmail decided to call “Labels” to “Folders”, and for someone that used Outlook and Yahoo, it’s not intuitive the name Gmail uses for folders.

    The Gmail way
    Instead of folders, Gmail uses labels to give you the functionality of folders, but with more flexibility. In Gmail, a single conversation can have several labels, so you’re not forced to choose one particular folder for each message you receive.

  18. Ian, I just wanted to use Reply in order to send a new email/subject to the email author, NOT for fowarding. I do use “forward” for that.

    If the person I want to send the email to is not in my contact list, then Reply is the really the only way to send them a new message, short of more-options -> highlight the address -> copy -> Compose -> paste email. Which is more steps.

    A hallmark of great UI is allowing the user to do things in the way that makes sense to them. I may not know until finishing my message body that the email deserves a new subject line. But when the subject line is hidden, it makes it harder to do this. This confused me, and I guarantee it confuses others who don’t see the “edit subject” link.

  19. Hi Matt- just posted this at Hanford’s next door – but since you’re carrying a list to the GMail UI team, I thought I’d add this here as well. Cheers.
    Since we’re at it, flag-up: no ability to sort by unread messages.

    For huge inboxes…you’ll be paging with “Older” for days to get to all your unread threads. This kills me. I have to actually HUNT for the unread items in the archives so I can get the unread count down to a normal number and feel my inbox is somehwat in order…

  20. We must understand that Gmail is still going through an evolutionary phase (aka BETA). While Yahoo, Hotmail/MSN and the other biggies have had years to fine-tune their webmail UI, the Google fellows are putting in a lot of effort to come up with some great ideas.

    Please note that this means that there will be frequent (and sometimes radical) changes in the Gmail interface. Also, they are not obliged to cater to all whims & fancies of their users, since Gmail is still a subscription-only service (not counting the signup feature via mobile). If you don’t like it, delete your Gmail account.

    Mind you all, I am not blindly favoring Google, but stating the facts as they stand. Yahoo and its ilk are only recently catching up with the AJAX tricks which have been a forte of Gmail since its inception.

    However, I do agree that Gmail’s slick interface can be pretty counter-intuitive at times, and could do with some new usability testing. Gmail seems to be aimed more at the power users rather than the common folk.

    The Gmail developers need to have some convenient forum or feedback form wherein users can post their suggestions, bug reports, etc. Maybe an official Gmail blog ?

  21. Any updates on a keyboard shortcut for Delete? I’m assuming Gmail intentionally left this out because more emails in the inbox = more emails to scan for targeted advertisement content = theoretically improved precision of targeted ads. If that is the case, I think that is poor business to choose the bottom line over a usability feature, but maybe this is debatable. Google certainly isn’t hurting for cash though so monetizing user inability to delete emails from the keyboard seems sharky. How could a designer “forget” delete?

  22. Google Gmail Chat option let other know if you are at home or not!!!!

    -it’s a privacy violation.

    -It’s a threat for the security of my home and family.

    -I realy need to remove this chat feature!

    Please help me.

  23. To Dave, re Gmail chat:

    You can turn it off. Just click on your username in the little chat box, and it will display a drop-down menu where you can select “Sign out of chat”. Gmail will remember that setting from now on.

    Plus, if you don’t want to see which of your friends are online, you can click on the “Quick Contacts” text (the title of this box, next to a little black arrow) so you can minimize the box and not have to worry about it again.

  24. Hi Matt, When people send email messages on Yahoo! or Gmail we tend to save them for future reference but often find that the subject line used by the sender has no relevance to you. Case in point is a recent email that I received with subject: “thank you” but which contained a very useful contact information of another person we had discussed on phone. I would have loved to save that email in my inbox, without having to forward it back to me with a subject line “Peter’s contact updated Feb 2008”. It would have been nicer to just be able to change the subject line. Do you know a way of doing it?