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Gmail and useability


A. Tabone

Gmail has a lot of usability flaws.

My dad, aged 64, has recently created a gmail account (with lots of help from nephews). He uses gmail straight from the browser (no Outlook or Thunderbird). The following are some questions he asked me since that day:

  • “What is this thing?” (the chat sidebar)
  • “Why do they want my telephone number?” (in case of a lost password)
  • “What is the buzz?” (Google buzz)
  • “What is this Classic, Important first thing?” (the option to prioritize emails, recently introduced)
  • “How do I forward an email to someone else?” (a hidden drop-down list next to the Reply button when reading an email).

I am sure there will be more questions of the same nature in the coming days. I have been using gmail for 5 years, and it never occurred to me that it can be so complex to other generations.

I think that Steve Krug’s first commandment should be kept in mind when designing web portals:

“Don’t make me think”

It is difficult to achieve such a state for any web app, especially those targeted to a wide audience (any age, any society, etc.). But in many cases, the less-is-better approach in web design is a worthwhile path to follow.

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