Friday, February 26, 2010

Scott Adams: In search of…the Gmail Reply button

So I pull up the Dilbert blog for today and Scott has more on his ongoing elevator repair saga. His new house has an elevator in it, which is great to have if you’re worth ten gabillion dollars. The elevator is having issues, and he’s a bit wound up about that. He segues into the elevator update today after riffing on Google’s Gmail:

Today I went on a scavenger hunt. Specifically I was trying to find the “reply” button on my Gmail interface. The damn thing keeps moving, depending on the length of the message. And it’s pretty well hidden in a forest of 40-some buttons sprinkled around the page that do all sorts of things I rarely or never want to do. Three of those buttons are different ways to get you back to the inbox.

To be fair, Gmail is lightning fast, and free. But did anyone with training in interface design even look at Gmail before it launched?

The Reply button has a left arrow next too it. The forward button has a right arrow. Would it kill Google to let me use the left and right arrow keys on my keyboard to do those functions, given that they already teased me about it?

I won’t say the interface design is bad, because that would imply that someone in the relevant field actually tried to make it user friendly. It looks to me as if that step got skipped.

I can always find the Reply button.  Maybe I’m special that way, plus I’m wearing my Steel Blue Dilbert sweatshirt as I write this.  When you read through the comments, you can read one from a fellow named Kevin Fox. Kevin gets all worked up, as you can see. Is “suckily” even a word? Word of advice to Kevin…tread carefully or someone’s gonna end up in a strip.

Hi Scott, I designed Gmail 6 years ago while working at Google. I’ve studied Human Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon and Cognitive Psychology at U.C. Berkeley. Hopefully one of those would constitute a ‘relevant field’ for designing a web mail service.

I’m sorry you’ve been having trouble finding the ‘Reply’ button on Gmail. When I designed it we kept it right at the bottom of the message, just a big text box you could just tart <sic> typing in if you wanted to.

Because some messages are really long and you know you want to reply to them without having to scroll all the way down, there’s a ‘reply’ button at the top right of ever <sic> message as well.

If you’ve used Gmail for any length of time you know that it groups messages into ‘conversations’ which, while convenient for understanding the flow of a, well, conversation, means that you can’t just have a simple ‘reply’ button in the control bar or side navigation because there wouldn’t be any way to specify which message (and therefore which person) you wanted to reply to. Putting the Reply call to action on the card itself not only makes it clear what you’re replying to, it puts it in a consistant location in relation to the message itself.

You mention that the ‘Reply button keeps moving’. Can you tell me where it used to be? I’m not aware of any changes to its placement in the last 6 years.

Anyhow, you usually sound like a nice guy, but your post was pretty insulting to someone who works hard to make products that most people enjoy well enough. I know you probably get a little sad when people ask if Dilbert could afford a real illustrator instead of a sketching hack, but now imagine that was said as a throwaway line by someone really famous whose work you actually respect a lot and you’ll get an idea of the power you wield and, in this instance, how suckily you wielded it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We ask. You deliver.

Much peace and love to the commentards who made this happen.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Comment of the week: Turns out I’m a total "moran"

Every once in a while the flame bait tactic just scores a comment so beautiful, so perfect, so thrilling, that it’s worth reprinting. Below is a comment that arrived in response to this item where I mentioned one of my personal heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. Of course it may be that the comment is itself a prank, in which case I’ve been punked. If so, prankster, I honor the place where your comments and my flame bait become one. If not, commentard, then I will pray for your soul. Here goes:

umm, i’m ashamed that the ceo of a company as large as apple doesn’t know that martin luther king never said anything like that. are you for real?
you have to be a total moran!
martin luther king practiced nonviolence. “by any means necesary” implies that it could include violence.
so i don’t think he would have said that.
i thought you had to be smart to run a large company but i guess you just have to be rich.