View Full Version : G-Mail Test Report & Screens

11-04-04, 02:41
Google's Beta E-Mail service screenshots:

First Screen (http://www.tombraiderchronicles.com/~aaron/news/april/gmail3.png)

Second Screen (http://www.tombraiderchronicles.com/~aaron/news/april/gmail4.png)

Third Screen (http://www.tombraiderchronicles.com/~aaron/news/april/gmail5.png)

April Fools turned into Christmas very fast. When you get given a gmail account for testing and told to use it, break it in, love it, report bugs, and talk about it all you like, you do exactly that. Screenshots first, explanations thereafter:

Gmail only innovates where it needs to: threading as default view, the enormous space, use of labels/keywords instead of folders, and the ability to use Google's search power on your email are the main such features. The first screenshot is of the search functionality. Note that when you search for messages, it displays the whole threads that are found, not individual messages. The interface and is consistent in that everything is categorized and viewed based on metadata in the emails, or the labels that you assign. You can assign multiple labels per email, but mostly you aren't going to need them: now you can search for "to:(www-talk)" and have it return all of your www-talk mailing list emails. There's no longer really any use for personal folders.

Of course, there are still folders, but they're treated like special labels. "Inbox" is itself a label that's applied to all new mail, "Starred" is a message highlighting feature (essentially it's a label that uses a funky star logo instead of a name), and "Spam" and "Trash" fulfill their obvious functions. When you want to remove an email from your inbox (if you should want to do so), the process for doing so is termed "archiving" in the interface, and the email then becomes available only by clicking the "All Mail" link, or by searching for it.

Consistency and attention to the user's experience are rife: for example, the use of "Newer" and "Older" instead of "Forward" and "Back", and very quick JavaScript interface. Even the signup is clean and smooth, allowing you to write your own secret question for example. Sadly, you can only choose a username between 6 and 30 characters; I really wanted "sbp", but no one is allowed a short username.

The second screenshot shows a single email ready to be replied to. See the input box at the bottom? As soon as you click inside it, it morphs insantly into the view in the third screenshot.

In fact, the system is so straightforward that there isn't really a great deal to comment on. The adverts are very similar to their usual Google search counterparts, but they don't get displayed all the time. They seem to be more common the more text is in an email, which makes sense given that it allows for a more targeted ad-set. Privacy is a valid concern, but having used Google search for years, I'm sure they know enough about me already, and the concerns are no greater than for other Web based email accounts. At least, unlike certain providers, Google won't automatically spam you as soon as you've signed up.

I was worried about information integrity, but it would obviously be a very bad thing indeed if Google were to go losing their customers' emails, so it's likely that they're committed to gmail being fast and reliable. I'm told that there will even be a way for users to export email in case they want to switch to another system; it's not been implemented yet, and I'm not sure what form the export will take, but that it's being provided at all is odd given that it'll circumvent the adverts.

There are still some display bugs per the beta phase, so I can understand why Google would not want to make it public yet, though I do think that having released it before common availablity is a bit of a tease for us non Google employees—especially given the April Fools day metaprank. Nontheless, there are no bugs that prevent usage, and gmail is already so good that I've no qualms over using it for my regular general email straight away. Looking over the list of issues that I have already, most of them are actually feature requests: for example, it'd be nice to have the ability to remove labels that are different to the label view you're currently in, and I'd like a Thunderbird-esque quickfilter, though that would be hard to implement. But the nice thing about beta testing is that I can just report these things and they may end up in the finished product, so expect the released Gmail to be even better than I'm reporting it.

One example of a feature that appears to be under testing is the use of chevrons to indicate whether email is sent to the user directly, or sent for example to an email list. A ">>" indicates the former, a ">" the latter. It's a good idea, but only available by explicitly turning it on in the options; I think that they need to find a better set of labels for distinguishing 'twixt the two. It's the little things like this that have a cumulative effect that'll matter to users, and I think that the nice touches such as email remaining checked even when you move it about or re-search for it are from Google's staff actually using this for their daily email, and for similar reasons to those espoused by Gruber, namely in that with UI you get what you pay for. The joy and genius of gmail is that you pay nothing except having a few unobtrusive ads shown sporadically, and so everybody wins.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop by #swhack on Freenode. It's interesting how quiet Google managed to keep this, but now that the cat's out of the bag, there are other screenshots and comments from Google employees Kevin Fox and Jason Shellen which you've should've seen already.

I'll likely have a lot more to say once I've gotten even more use out of it, and the search facilities will only start to become useful with a lot more email, but by then I'm sure plenty of other beta testers will have emerged. Since I feel compelled to provide a summary, I'll just say that unlike Segway it's nowhere near disappointing, and if folders and convenience issues make you as frustrated as they used to make me, you're going to love it.

Article (http://miscoranda.com/102)

[ 11. April 2004, 03:43: Message edited by: laracroft8290 ]

11-04-04, 02:44
Two more:

One (http://www.tombraiderchronicles.com/~aaron/news/april/gmail.gif)

Two (http://www.tombraiderchronicles.com/~aaron/news/april/gmail2.gif)

http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/c-2.gif http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/privateeye.gif

[ 11. April 2004, 03:46: Message edited by: laracroft8290 ]

11-04-04, 11:11
Yahoo and Hotmail are going to have to work something to beat this...

11-04-04, 13:13
seems impressive :cool: , and yea draco yahoo and hotmail are gonna have to do some serious work to beat this http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/wave.gif

tlr online
11-04-04, 20:57
Did anyone receive their G-MAIL Beta account details? I'm still waiting for mine.

11-04-04, 21:37
Hi http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/wave.gif

You know, 1GB is more than enough for a mail account. How will they give 1 GB to each one (I still think is a joke), and avoid spam? Yahoo/Hotmail, beware!

11-04-04, 21:40
Originally posted by crazyguy100:
Hi http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/wave.gif

You know, 1GB is more than enough for a mail account. How will they give 1 GB to each one (I still think is a joke), and avoid spam? Yahoo/Hotmail, beware!There probably gonna run out of memory in a few days :rolleyes:

Im not going to bother making an account, my yahoo account gives me plenty of space http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

tlr online
11-04-04, 21:43
Did anyone read the small print? As I understand it, Google will now be able to marry email accounts to their search engine. So justin@gmail.com could be attached to a search on "Tibetan religion and their exiled government" and then subsequent advertising specifically targeted at me be placed on the Google pages I access.

[ 11. April 2004, 22:44: Message edited by: tlr online ]

11-04-04, 22:26
Originally posted by tlr online:
Did anyone receive their G-MAIL Beta account details? I'm still waiting for mine.No I haven't gotten anything http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/c-3.gif

tlr online
11-04-04, 23:04
Screen shots look pretty basic, but I guess they're gearing for speed rather than appearance. I still can't fathom how on earth they're gonna cater for 1GB of space for each account holder.

11-04-04, 23:56
depends...200GB hard drives can be found for $20-50 sometimes.

tlr online
11-04-04, 23:58
Google are about to float... perhaps this is where the funds are coming from.