Importance of Inbox Design And One Reason Google Got It Right

Importance of Email

On average, people check their email about 77 times per day, this number can go up to 373 times a day for some people. Putting away 8 hrs of sleep or downtime, it brings us to roughly 4 times per hour. It’s also estimated that there will be around 4.3 billion email accounts by year-end 2016. For something so intertwined with our daily lives and business productivity, it surprises me how little the design of inbox has changed over the years.

Evolution of Email Clients

Below is how most clients have evolved over the past two decades. Basically, typography and some style changes, that’s it. The UX is more or less un-evolved. All messages are treated equal, yes, one can do color-coding and folder organization but that’s it. Newsletters, attachments, web- pages, all share the same presentation inside the inbox.


Enter Google Inbox

At first glace, Google Inbox looks like Material styled classic gmail, but for someone whose inbox is constantly filled with market alerts and industry related email subscriptions, it’s key differentiators around providing a significantly better presentation of email content start to standout.

Below is comparison of how an exact same Google Alert appears inside a very contemporary version of Apple Mail vs Google Inbox.

Apple Mail
Google Inbox

One can see the links that are part of the alert neatly organized with their full title — without requiring click to view the full message content. This doesn’t seem like a lot of change in the UX, but having more upfront context around the layered content often results in saving clicks and boosts the overall productivity. It is estimated that every $1 invested in UX returns $2 to $100 in return on investment.

Biggest rationale for adopting a Human-centered design are economic and social benefits that it affords to users. Emails being the business and formal medium of communication of our era it is encouraging to see the inbox evolution finally aligning with the times.