Luckily I'm a pretty lazy shaver so I could still join. No Hogan look this year, keeping it a little bit more traditional.
Are you growing a mo as well?
If you managed to get an invite, how has your experience been so far?
Do people remember Google Wave? It was announced five years ago, and quite a radical approach to handling collaborative communication. Google called it equal parts conversation and documentation. It was interesting, but simply too much. It was too confusing, there was too much to do, it didn't feel streamlined or intuitive. It was shut down not long after, but it made a compelling case for "next-generation email."
This morning a kind Googler sent me an invite for Google Inbox, a new email app for Android, iOS and the web. Of course, I had heard a rumour a few days ago (http://goo.gl/5oMT42) talking about how Google was working on giving Gmail a visual overhaul as part of a project called Bigtop. But the project was unveiled properly much faster than I expected. Last night The Verge said that it "feels like the future of email" (http://goo.gl/Bxatj5), and CNET called it "Google's new killer email app" (http://goo.gl/pZqaq4). The expectations are high, so after accepting the invite I actively started using Inbox, trying to find out if it's really "next-generation email".
Inbox categorises the emails that you receive, and presents them in a different way than you're used to. It's intelligent, and it's behaviour reminds me of Google Now. If it thinks a message is important it will make sure that you see it. But less important messages will be bundled together. When I look at my Gmail inbox right now I see six Amazon confirmation emails underneath each other. And an email confirming an In-App Purchase I did in my own game to test something. When I go to Inbox it's all shown as just one clean message, and I can slide left and right to see all my individual purchases. It's clean, it's fast.
I can confidently say that I'm quite organised with my Gmail. I always aim for "inbox zero", all the emails I've dealt with are archived and anything that remains gets starred so I can follow up on them later. I use Google Apps at work as well, and I use the same approach there. It largely works, but there are always 5-10 emails that linger in my inbox such as purchasing confirmations, ticket confirmations for events, et cetera.
Inbox deals with this in an incredibly elegant way. Everything is grouped in exactly the way I want it to. And it's odd when you go back to Gmail. Gmail now just looks like the database where my emails live, whilst Inbox is the app I use to manage the data within. The traditional emails have become something different. I've started to pin important emails to make sure I didn't forget about them (there's even a little switch that allows you to only see the pinned emails). You can snooze emails that you don't want to pay attention to right now; simply hit the snooze button, select a time (e.g. one day) and only then the email will pop up right back into your inbox. It's great. And last but not least there's the Done option. Click on it and the message will disappear. It's archived, gone from the main view. You now have a clean inbox. Pin, Snooze, Done, that's what it's about.
Not everything is great about Inbox though. Earlier today I was writing a reply to someone. In Gmail I'm used to seeing my replies showing up in a pop-up (I know that this is a setting that can be changed), but in Inbox all your typing happens on the main page. I had sent a few messages using Inbox, and I thought I had a good sense of how it worked. However, at some point whilst I was typing a reply it somehow pulled out my text in a separate pop-up. It really confused me, and the message in the main view disappeared and just had the word 'Draft' written over it. I clicked on Draft, and suddenly I was creating a second reply. It's hard to explain, especially if you haven't used Inbox before, but I can say that it was odd. Later on during the day I tried to reproduce this issue, but I couldn't. I guess it was a one-time bug? Let's hope so.
Another thing that frustrated me was a little inconsistency in the visuals. Inbox makes good use of Google's new Material Design language, it looks incredibly good and there is a nice sense of minimalism. There are patterns here that demonstrate structure and organisation in an incredibly elegant way. However, what really irks me is that I can't get the main view as clean as I want. This is an incredibly small annoyance, but to the left of the last message that I looked at is a weird vertical blue bar. I can't get it to disappear! It makes that message stand out to the rest, even though I'm not doing anything with it. It makes Inbox looks inconsistent, and it breaks the design a bit.
Another part of Inbox that I don't like is that I'm not seeing any advertising, so I have no idea what the business model for it is. Are there people in Google that worry about Inbox taking away valuable advertising revenue? Perhaps they're still looking to add advertising? I can't believe that they're satisfied with just gathering more data about me, so there must be something else in the pipeline. Maybe I'm wrong, and simply 'gathering my data' is enough? I'd be surprised if that was the case though.
I also wonder how Inbox is going to work together with Gmail in the future. What is the strategy? We now have a separate app for it, so I suspect there is no plan to integrate Inbox properly with Gmail? Gmail has seen several UX improvements in the last few years, is that going to stop now? Don't get me wrong, Inbox is a great product, but it definitely raises a few questions.
However, all of this shouldn't hold people back from trying to get their hands on an invite to Inbox. It feels like a much-needed fresh approach to email and I can't see myself ever going back. Go and play around with it.
Inbox isn't perfect, there are some questions that need answering, but to me it definitely is the next-generation of email. In fact, earlier today I removed the Gmail app from my phone. This ain't no Google Wave. Inbox all the way, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Satellites (they work like stationary air units that affect tiles under them),
*quests* (two kinds: 1. do something, get reward; 2. we have this new building, would you like it to produce more something or something else or give you bonus to something something?),
*aliens,* that are not barbarians - they are neutral to you if you don't provoke them, hostile if you keep attacking them, and even friendly if you domesticate them)
tech web instead of tech tree (this is huge, you can no longer just constantly be ahead of everyone else if you have bonuses to science, because while you are researching something, your opponents can go in entirely different direction.
unit upgrade - you no longer select promotions for particular units (actually, there are only two choices on promotion - either make unit stronger or heal it), instead when you reach certain things you can upgrade the design of unit itself. For example, you can choose that your artillery units will be either more mobile or have increased range, or something else. Every such choice make your units look different.
affinities - this is fun, you can either focus on one thing or try to balance them - this affects your choices with diplomacy, unit upgrades, technologies, things you can build and what you should do with aliens (cooperation, neutrality, extermination).
In other words, in Civ5 everything is static. In CBE, you can customize everything, even starting races.
Behind the scenes we have been working long and hard to completely rethink how email should work and how to make an Inbox that really works for you.
This is only the first step, but I'm pretty sure it is going to be a super exciting journey. Join us!
- Leiden University / Royal Academy of Creative and Performing ArtsMedia Technology, 2008 - 2010
- Haagse HogeschoolInteraction Design, 1998 - 2002
- User experience designer, 2011 - present
- FreelanceUser experience designer, 2008 - 2011
- MexxUser experience designer, 2004 - 2008
- ScixedPartner / Interaction designer, 2000 - 2004
- Datamex E-SitesInteraction designer (intern), 2002 - 2002
- BFB CommunicationsInteraction designer, 2000 - 2001
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