I was very pleased to read an article from Alex@Google that describes how they have decided to develop the new gmail mobile web interface.
There are at least two reasons why I liked this article, one is that, as Alex mentions, the team originally developed a J2ME application (that I used quite a bit on my old Sony Ericsson W810i) and then decided they needed a web application to serve slightly different needs (and probably slightly different users). The second reason is that it seems like if you don’t create an application for the App Store you are going to fail, while Alex explains quite a few reasons why developing a web site was better than a native application.
Bottom line is, of course, that users get multiple options and an opportunity to choose what suits them best.
I think the article is well worth 10 minutes of your life, if you still haven’t read it, hurry up to check HTML5 and WebKit pave the way for mobile web applications.
I remember when Opera initially launched the concept in its e-mail client that you did not really need folders to organize your e-mail, but that it was sufficient to group them.
Fairly recently Google reviewed the same concept and defined the labels and a very similar way of organizing your e-mails. Google certainly added a very powerful search engine, but the original concept is very much the same.
Being a Mac user, I have been using Apple’s Mail for a few years now. Mail.app has a standard a hybrid approach to e-mails, the standard folders are available, but since Spotlight became part of the OS, users are also able to create filters and organize e-mails in “dynamic folders“.
I have never been a fan of Opera’s approach and the same applies to Google’s approach and Apple’s dynamic folders.
I really like the threaded view, though. Both GMail and Mail.app offer this feature.
For my normal inbox and for a few folders I use the standard view with e-mails sorted by date descending.
For mailing lists I just love the threaded view. Here are two screenshots of the same mailing list:
And here is another screenshot of the same mailing list with a standard view:
When you read and contribute to a mailing list with a fair amount of traffic and different topics discussed, maybe with a lot of replies to the same topic, the threaded view lets you have e-mails organized very well and lets you follow a full thread even if other e-mails were sent for other threads in the same timeline.
While both Google’s and Apple’s e-mail clients are not exactly perfect when grouping e-mails, it still is very helpful and works smoothly in most cases. I have been using this feature for a couple of years now and liked it. I realized how I’m not used to it when last week I read my e-mails using a web client and found myself lost in the e-mails, losing track and having a hard time identifying the context as I was moving through the list of my e-mails, but were actually about different topics.
Going back to check old threads is also very easy when using this feature as you immediately get all the e-mails together.