Give me back my text labels, GMail!

The new GMail interface includes icons in action buttons instead of old text labels; not a good decision from a usability point of view.

A lot has been written about the new GMail interface; most of it is a matter of opinion, but I’m afraid Google has committed an obvious mistake: using icons (in buttons) that don’t have a clear single meaning.

Let’s take a look at two of the buttons; isn’t this your first guess when you see them?

Guess for two of the buttons in new Gmail interface: download? important? 

Wrong. The real functions of those buttons are:

Real meaning of the icons: archive and spam. 

Using fancy original self-designed icons is a common mistake made by novice interface designers; icons are hard to memorize, and users usually recognize just a few of the most common. Many times, the best way to describe a function is simply a text label.

I’m surprised Google has fallen into that error; maybe they have been paying too much attention to people complaining about their ugly interfaces. Anyway, Google, please, give me back my text labels for actions!

D’oh! The attachment! A simple solution

A simple and easy solution to those forgotten attachments in e-mails. Hasn't it happened to you?

Has this ever happened to you? You want to send a file to someone, so you write a nice e-mail explaining what it is; then you click the send button, and some minutes later you receive the reply: “ok, very nice, but … where’s the attached file?”.

Yes, you forgot to attach the file. It’s a common but hard to avoid problem; a good rule is always attach the file before writing the e-mail, but aren’t there any better ways to avoid this?

Some systems, like GMail or Thunderbird, have options to alert you when you try to send an e-mail which includes specific words (“file”, “enclose”, “photo”, …) but has no attached files. It’s a nice idea, but far from perfect: you will still miss files if the system doesn’t detect these words, or you will get an annoying alert about an attachment you don’t want to send.

A simple solution

Here’s a simpler solution: the user gets notified of how many attachments the e-mail has when he/she is about to send the e-mail, not using annoying alerts but simply including that information in the send button, like this (GMail example):

Composing a message in GMail, with the button 'Send (0 attachments)' highlighted 

So when you are going to send the e-mail, you realize that the message has no attachments. Simple and effective, don’t you think so?