Thursday, May 15, 2008

Power users are supposed to be intelligent

My friend had a doubt in Gmail

Friend: In Gmail how do you see only the emails that are starred and also tagged with something specific?

Me: Go to show search options put label:yourlabel in has the words box and select starred in search in drop box. Not very intuitive but you can do it. Its a power user feature

Friend: oh ok

Me: Basically you see all the mails labeled with YourLabelName if you search for Label:YourLabelName

Friend: ok

Me: So in advanced search we just say search in starred

Friend: I looked at this screen but then i did not use it

Me: k

Friend: I did not know the has words as labels

Me: It need not be labels

Friend: Actually does not work quite right when i search label:Umesh

Me: If u say label:umesh then it searches for mails with label Umesh. If you want to search mail from me the operator is from:umesh

Me: You can also do your query using only search operators in the simple search box. in: is for searching in a particular group/box. By group I mean inbox, starred, chats, spam etc. So your query could be in:starred from:umesh label:usability to see all mails from Umesh, labeled usability and were starred

Friend: ah cool it works

Me: There are lots of such advanced features in Gmail which are not out right straight forward. The UI is for simple usage and advanced things like this people like us will figure out; thats the idea. They give tips and tricks on their blog

Friend: But then how did you figure it out in the first place?

Me: If you are "powerful" enough to do such kind of mail searches using the UI you can notice the subtle hints Gmail provides using which you can explore further.

eg As a normal user when you click on a label to view all mails in that label just notice the search box. Gmail gives you the hint that its actually doing a search with the operator label:LabelName. Similarly when you click on trash the search box says in:trash, and when you click on a name in your contacts to see all the conversations you had with that person the search box shows from:ContactName. Actually I first noticed the label hint and then explored more out of curiosity to discover others.

Friend: Fair enough

You can have advanced features in your application which will make your power users happy and expose them like something as simple as a tips and tricks list. But the UI should be always targetted for simple usage.

May 16: Updated with the discoverability point. Thanks to Vinodh for bringing up the point

7 comments:

vipul said...

Nice Analysis and good way to explain by example.

Vinodh Nandakumar said...

I think it's more about the discoverability of the feature or shortcut that will enable your standard users to move into the power user mode.

In this scenario, I would think about giving a small search tip, once the user has done the search and explain to him the various possibilities.

Umesh said...

@vinodh True and Gmail does that. This is something i left out in my write up, may be i will add it.

The discoverability is very subtle though. If you are "powerful" enough to do such kind of mail searches you can notice the hints Gmail provides you and then you can explore.

eg As a normal user when you click on a label to view all mail in that label just notice the search box. Gmail gives you the hint that its actually doing a search with the operator label:LabelName

Similarly when you click on trash the search box says in:trash, and when you click on a name in your contacts to see all the conversations with that person the search box shows from:ContactName.

That way Gmail does gives you hints which you can notice and then play with it. Actually i first noticed the label and then explored more out of curiosity to discover others.

Though i dont know why it doesnt show anything when i click on groups like sent mail and starred.

Vinodh Nandakumar said...

Well, frankly I have not truly explored Gmail, coz I never got the chance to do it. Stuck with hotmail as I have been using that id from ages :)
And hotmail doesn't even have auto forward!

Umesh said...

@vinodh What are you saying? You have enough to learn about product design by just exploring Gmail. Its a wonderful product with pathbreaking UX and technology

Raj said...

I know many people here do not use gmail just because they are used to Yahoo or Hotmail. At the first look they think Gmail is harder to use and they ask, " Where the folders go ? I need them to organize my mails. "

I am not sure Google has explained somewhere about Folders Vs (Labels + Archive) for users who are in transition to Gmail.

Umesh said...

@raj agreed. and I read somewhere that they are working on it. They are planning to hit it at the root level. The same reason the tagging is treated like folder management in Google Reader.

Also i'm plannig to write about the whole funda of tagging / labelling of stuff and why its been abused or not used in the right way.