Reflection point: Usability, Accessibility, and Ethics

Product: Gmail

I am admittedly an email-junkie. It’s hands down my preferred mode of communication when it comes to communication. The reasons why I enjoy email, most specifically GMail, is because you have options — you can take as long or as short as you like to craft an email, you can use the text editor to format parts of your email, you can add attachments, insert media, send to individuals, or groups, or BCC people — the options are there at your disposal.


The usability of GMail for both the desktop and mobile version rank highly for me. The most important functions that need to be accomplished are:

  • Creating an email
  • Sending an email
  • Reading email


The CTAs for creating and sending an email are easy to identify. To create, or compose an email, there is a large ‘Compose’ button on the left navigation bar. To send an email, a prominent blue ‘send’ buttons is located at the base of the composition screen.

CTA buttons on the desktop version

The mobile version is different, but still quite easy to figure out. Instead of a rectangular red ‘Compose’ button, it’s a prominent red circle icon with a pencil icon, signifying the act of writing a message. To reply to an email, you can sit on of the pre-populated responses, or click your desired response type (reply, reply all, or forward).

CTA buttons on the mobile version (Designlab email takeover, right?:)

Composing an email

In composing an email on your desktop, you have access to your rich text editor, which allows you format the text within you email body. Unfortunately, these options are limited on the mobile version, so you aren’t able to format as freely.

GMail rich text editor options
If you didn’t notice the alpaca farm link, it’s the rainbow highlighted line items #11–15. Unfortunately you cannot achieve this link design greatness on the mobile version.
Extremely basic RTE functions on GMail’s mobile app

Reading email

Reading email and being able to identify which emails have been read and which haven’t is extremely intuitive. Unbolded text means you’ve read the email; bolded text means it’s a new email that has not been read.

Gmail even goes down to a granular level on this — if you notice the Diana and Tiffany thread, the bolded names represent which emails in the thread have and have not been read. Diana sent an email earlier this morning that I was able to read, but Tiffany sent one recently that I haven’t read.


Accessibility from a disabled person POV is unfortunately unsatisfactory, which was surprising to me considering how big of a company Google is. I could not easily find option on how to adjust my screen settings to accommodate for visual impairments. After clicking through setting tabs and themes, I resorted to googling options for accessibility. It appears they have a ‘High Contrast’ theme available, but the differences do not make as huge an impact as I thought it might.

Also, in tabbing through GMail’s interface, I was disappointed to find that not all links were accessible through tabs.


Aside from the lacking accessibility functions for GMail, there are no other ethical concerns with the product. It’s a straightforward tool that can be used by all users — basic novice users, or advanced users.

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