Gmail inbox and productivity (or Archive? my a$$)

Gmail inbox

Does your gmail inbox look like this one? Mine does.

Does having a never-ending, never-empty inbox stress you out? Yeah, me too.

Did you know *you* can have a beautifully clean, empty gmail inbox with all your emails beautifully filed away, out of sight where they’re not going to make you feel anxious? No, me either.

In fact, I just got half way through a ranting post about how unproductive the Gmail inbox was and how it made me feel stressed that I was forgetting or losing something and then I discovered…

…the ‘Archive‘ button doesn’t mean *really* mean archive. It actually means ‘don’t show in the inbox anymore‘.

I had to do a Google search, then read a whitepaper on using Gmail for GTD (Getting Things Done), then test it out in Gmail myself, before I actually discovered this. But, the good news is – it’s true. So now I have a few thousand emails to label and archive and a stress free, productivity enhancing inbox will once again be mine. Hoorah.

ok. Now for the vent…

Who was the crazy person who thought that ‘Archive’ was the right word for that button? And then who approved it? Did this get tested with users? How many? Who are they?

When you think of Archive, what associations does it carry for you?

For me, when I think of archive, I’m thinking of documents that have gone to a ‘special place’ often in a special format (where else do we still use tape, i ask you), that have gone there because we either don’t think we’ll need them anymore OR because we might need them in the future so we have a backup.

They’re typically hard to find, hard to access, hard to restore. They’re for the future… preferably future generations. They’re not intended for next week.

You sure as hell don’t get to my idea of archive using a simple keyword search!

What is the right word for this button?

Like I said before, what it actually means is ‘don’t show in my inbox anymore’. I’m thinking ‘File’ might be an alternative, but it’s got all those ‘file, edit, view’ assocations, so probably not a good option. Maybe ‘File Away’?
The folder metaphor doesn’t exist in Gmail, so we can’t use something like Outlook’s ‘Move to Folder’. Maybe it is something like ‘Remove from Inbox’ or ‘Don’t Show’ – maybe not… it would be preferable to have a positive label rather than negative here. This is nice functionality!

Hrm… so off the top of my head, I’m not sure. Anyone feel like workshopping it here and we’ll email Google and ask them to change it.

I’m not sure if I’m more relieved to have found it, or angry at how it’s been labelled… but one thing is obvious. Labels matter. Let’s spend some time making sure we’ve got them right and that our audience understands it.

OK. So tell me:

– Am I the only one who didn’t get the archive thing?

– How would you label that button?

Image credit: Ario @ Flickr (who is also interested in Information Anxiety)


it makes me flinch just a little when I read a page written from a usability perspective about how different countries and cultures have language and other nuances that need to be accounted for in experience design, and to find that the page is littered with US spelling. Now, I know, it was written in the States, and that’s how you spell things over there. It’s just feels a little ironic or paradoxical perhaps when the words are localization, globalization, and internationalization.

I propose that in this context (when we who talk about such things are talking to each other) we use this format: internationali(s/z)ation. It’s like a little natural reminder that the only our American friends use the letter Z with such frequency and that the rest of us English speakers have probably had Microsoft Word try to correct our spelling for the better part of the time we’ve been interactive with technology.

So, perhaps I’m a little sensitive… go take a look at this page on the new Usability Body of Knowledge website and see if you think I’m overreacting.

define: design

and, speaking of definitions

is there another word responsible for so much confusion as ‘design’.

every time I use that word I have to spend another three sentences defining exactly what I mean by design… because there are so many different types of designing, and everyone has a different default setting.

I give you:

  • visual design (surface design, branding, etc. designers in charge of gorgeousness)
  • motion design (Visual designers specialising in things that move, animation, video etc.)
  • interface design (designing elements on a page that users interact with… e.g. forms, applications etc)
  • conceptual design (aka. strategic design, ‘the big idea’)
  • user experience design (related to but more than interface design)
  • information design (designing content, sometimes used to describe information architecture… I think, incorrectly)
  • interaction design (v. closely related to interface design, but more focus on the ‘interactive’… unsurprisingly)
  • instructional design (used largely in eLearning land, actually v. similar to conceptual design, but focussed specifically in imparting and measuring learning)

That’s just a quick list. I’m sure you have more.

I propose never to use the term ‘design’ in isolation ever again. From here on, I vow to always use it with a descriptor that ensures me meaning is entirely clear.

Well, as clear as possible.

Who’s with me?

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User Centred Design and Leg Waxing – An Instructional Analogy


I went to a new waxing place on Saturday, and I’m never going back there again. Ever.

Even though they’re half the price of my old salon. There is nothing that would entice me back there again.

I had my legs and eyebrows waxed. I’ve been thinking about the importance of user centred design ever since.

Let me start by saying that I emerged unharmed (there are pots of hot wax involved, personal safety shouldn’t necessarily be assumed!). And I emerged more aware of the power of user experience for branding, loyalty, word of mouth and, ultimately – revenue.

So, what happened, and what on earth does a leg wax have to do with user experience online?

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