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Old 25 Aug 2022, 08:23 AM   #1
mypi
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Join Date: Jan 2022
Posts: 2
Confusing message commands

I sent this to the Fastmail support team, but thought I'd also post here. I'm wondering if it's just me, that there's some obvious organizational logic that I'm missing. Or if others indeed have the same confusion.

***

With a couple years' use under my belt, I've grown accustomed to Fastmail's UI, and I generally find it friendly. Not perfect -- nothing is -- but pretty good. There's one big area, however, where I just cannot get the hang of it to save my life: message commands. You know, commands to do things like mark messages as read, initiate a reply, or apply label(s). Try as I have to get used to what's where, I still get it wrong at least once basically every time I use the app/site. Now, I'm not too dumb a guy, nor am a I totally inept technologically, so I imagine if I'm getting it wrong so often, then so are lots of other people.

What's the issue? Well, for context, I'll point out what you already know. There are two toolbars that contain commands that operate on the current message, and each of those has a menu with additional commands. There's what I'll call the "top-level" toolbar (because it appears above the main message area, near the app's global UI), which has Archive, Delete, Snooze, Labels, and a More menu. There's also what I'll call the "message-level" toolbar (because it appears inside the box containing the message you're reading), which has pin/unpin, mark read/unread, Reply to all, and an Actions menu.

The problem is that when I'm looking at a message, and I want to apply some command to that message, I don't immediately know where the command is. Depending on the function, I may first scan the visible portions of both toolbars, then I'll randomly check in one of the secondary menus (More/Actions), then in the other secondary menu. The crux of the issue is that no matter where I find it, it seems to make sense that it's in that location.

In other words, there are basically four places that contain commands that act on messages, and there's no obvious explanation for why a particular command appears in whichever of those locations where it appears. Which means that when one goes to use a command, there's no good heuristic to use to determine which place to go to to run it; the only guide is pure memorization of the UI.

As evidence that confusion here isn't just on my part, some commands (e.g., Pin and Unpin) actually appear in both toolbars, and I would bet that happened precisely because of this confusion (perhaps coming from users, perhaps coming form your own devs, perhaps both). And, my favorite: the Report phishing and Report spam commands are split across the toolbars, rather than being in the same place; this one gets me all the time.

Here's an exercise. All of the message commands that appear in the four places are listed at the bottom of this message in random order. Can you quickly sort them into their actual locations? And can you explain in one short sentence what logic you're using to do so?

You can certainly rethink the whole UI and what the best user-centered design might be, but that's obviously a longer-term solution. For the short-term, I feel like the simplest approach is to consolidate to just one toolbar. A secondary menu in there is fine, but put everything in one toolbar with one secondary menu, and organize things between those two spots so that it makes the most sense.

Message commands:

Mark read
Print
Forward
Report spam
Reply to all
Block xxx...
Snooze v
Unpin
Add rule from message
Labels v
Pin
Reply to all
View as text
Edit as new
Mark unread
Show raw message
Forward as attachment
Archive
Reply
Mark as read/unread
Send a copy...
Delete
Forward as attachment
Delete
Pin/Unpin
Report phishing
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Old 25 Aug 2022, 10:01 AM   #2
Grhm
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Ha! That is terrifically well expressed! Please do share with us any response you receive.
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Old 25 Aug 2022, 11:11 AM   #3
BritTim
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For all the commonly used functionality, I use keyboard shortcuts, so the difficulties with menus you describe are not something that occurs to me. I would probably be affected if I used email on my phone, but I avoid doing that.
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Old 26 Aug 2022, 04:37 AM   #4
SideshowBob
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If you go to a message list and select one or more message you get "Archive...More" appear at the top of the list, so these are all actions that can be applied to multiple messages. This list is also duplicated at the top of the message view - anything you can do do a list you can do to the current message. The actions menu located inside the message itself is a place for actions that can't be applied to multiple messages. There are also some things that are repeated, e.g. "forward as attachment", presumably for convenience. It seems reasonably logical.
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Old 7 Sep 2022, 07:08 AM   #5
hadaso
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SideshowBob View Post
... There are also some things that are repeated, e.g. "forward as attachment",...
"forward as attachment" can be applied to multiple messages (although they forwarded as attachments).
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Old 7 Sep 2022, 09:35 AM   #6
SideshowBob
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hadaso View Post
"forward as attachment" can be applied to multiple messages (although they forwarded as attachments).
That's the reason it's on the top menu, not the reason it's duplicated on the lower menu. Presumably it's so all the forwarding and reply options are present on the lower menu.
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