However as much as people hate it, it is still effective. It is a decades old medium that serves a very simple purpose. Send a message to another person anywhere, anytime, and on any subject. They can read it, respond to it, copy someone else in, or forward the entire conversation. It is flexible, simple, and ubiquitous.
Email works, but just barely. It still has a horrible outdated user experience often cluttered and littered with spam. Especially confusing about emails are threaded conversations. Oftentimes it will club together mails based on the same subject, even if they were sent to separate people, and threaded conversations tend to be too cluttered. A chain of all previous emails, replete with to, from, and lengthy signatures all in a nested layout, which is incredibly difficult to follow and not visually appealing in the least.
While other technologies have advanced and feel current and contemporary, email’s user interface design is still decades old. It is used by many to communicate professionally, manage tasks, chat, and organize thoughts. However email’s main use case, the ability to communicate and share content professionally is predominantly still the main use. And while other apps have come up to let people communicate (i.e. Whatsapp, BBM) or manage tasks and organize thoughts (i.e. Asana, Trello) there still seems to be a major hole in letting people communicate and share files in a professional work setting via an app that is sleek, modern, and intuitive.
Mailbox created an app that tried to redesign the user experience of sorting, filtering, and dealing with email. I say try because it was snapped up and acquired before it had a chance to breathe. Mailbox was able to tap into mass excitement over a new experience for email, that other apps are trying to capture. Several high profile enterprise messaging apps just raised massive investment rounds, TigerText and CoTap both are trying to offer companies an alternative to email. However the experience on these apps is just like most other non-enterprise chatting apps. While social networks like Yammer and Chatter — tools that add another layer of complexity over email, to team chatting apps like Campfire and Hipchat — all provide a decent enough way to stay connected and quickly chat, none organize conversations around topics like email does.
For example using any one of these many new IM apps like Kato, Slack, or Hall, I’d have a chatroom called Marketing, in which I’d have a persistent infinite chat log about everything marketing related. How annoyingly difficult it would be to search for a decision we reached about our new brand name. Decisions and actionable messages get lost in a constant stream of chatter, often irrelevant to the topic being discussed. Although these apps can enhance their search capability, it just isn’t organized in a way to instantly chat with your team over a topic and reach a decision or take action. So when my designer wants to send me a message about a new design he’s come up with its often more intuitive to send an email because it has that all important subject line, while adding a new topic into a persistent chatroom almost feels like it will get lost and drowned out.
However when you look at the rise of messaging apps its clearly evident that there are a number of key features that would be incredibly appealing to business users. The read receipts to let you know when your message has been read or heard, voice messages that add a human touch to your business chatter, quick file sharing, in-stream photo and video messaging capability, and best of all, instant action and reaction from team members.
It is about time that someone comes up with app that lets us move beyond email. We deserve better.
If you’d like to know more about how we’re tackling this problem at my startup, email me at email@example.com.