An Inconvenient User Experience: Gmail Drafts

Summary

  1. I love Gmail.
  2. If you accidentally discard a draft its gone forever.
  3. I think Gmail should send discarded drafts to trash.
  4. You can vote for that feature here.

I love everything about Gmail except one thing…

Discarded drafts are unrecoverable without warning. I accidentally clicked the Discard Drafts button while scrolling by a different part of the page in Gmail. I also happened to have an important long-winded response selected. After the accidental click, it was “discarded”. Or in Gmail terms, “deleted beyond all recognition, and NOT held in the Trash like deleted messages, you should’ve used Google Docs, and your hair looks funny.”

Me: “Geez Gmail. Settle down. We’re all friends here. I just want my draft back.”

Gmail: “No.”

After googling “accidentally discarded drafts” I found that I’m not the only one whose had this problem. There are Gmail users who have lost drafts of love letters to children, important business responses, and other irreplaceable or inconveniently lost documents.

I should have known better.

The popular answer on Google discussion threads are, “You should have known better. You should have used Google Docs.” …

Should we? The Gmail interface doesn’t explicitly or implicitly say that I will not be able to find discarded drafts in the Trash. There is no confirmation to explain the consequences of this irreversible action. Granted, if you’re in the inbox, when you click Discard, there is a temporary “Undo” period. But user beware the Discard Drafts button in the Drafts section.

No warning when discarding drafts in Gmail

Angry little button

There is nothing about the “Discard Drafts” button that says,

“I will delete the (expletive) out of this draft, son. Do it. I dare you. What! WHAT! (slaps you in the face).”

That’s the message the button should convey visually.

Instead we get,

“Hey bud, I’m a normal button. Grey even. Need a back rub. There. Therrre ya go. That’s it. Shhh…”

The Discard Drafts Button: Accindentally discarded drafts in Gmail
The message is not consistent with the severity of the action it initiates. Glance through the book [amazon_link id=”1592535879″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Universal Principles of Design[/amazon_link] and you’ll learn about creating things in such a way that the user can’t fail. I recommend the section on Affordance.

A love letter

Dear Gmail UX/UI Design Team,

You guys are great. You got it 99% right and its only gotten better over the years. Its just that the 1% you missed happened to delete all my junk.  Please send discarded drafts to the Trash so that the click happy-fingers of myself and other Gmail users have a reasonable safe-guard against accidental discardationmentness.

Sincerely,
Paris Vega
AKA Guy whose lunch was stolen by the “Discard Drafts” button.

Yes we can (if there are enough votes to prove users care)

I’m sure Google gets millions of complaints daily. To their credit they have a robust help/support system. After voicing my concerns in Gmail Help they directed me to a place where you can vote on new features for Gmail. Low and behold “Discard drafts to trash” is in the Helpful Additions section.

gmail user experience suggestion

If you are a Gmail user and a decent person, please go there now and vote for this feature.

Product Review: Ecoflo Stainless Steel Water Filter Bottle

So, the doctor says I’m going to die if I don’t change my ways. According to him, sitting for 8 hours-a-day slurping down caffeinated high fructose corn syrup is not how to live a long healthy life. He recommended something called eksersize and claims there’s a type of food that grows out of the ground. Gross.

After my appointment I went by the health food store to grab the fish oil he recommended and gear-up for a healthier lifestyle. In the water section (the store has a water section) I found an interesting water bottle that filters as you drink. The Ecoflo Stainless Steel Water Filter Bottle.

Ecoflo Stainless Steel Water Filter Bottle, self-filtering

The Ultimate Water Bottle

The label claimed you could fill it with river, lake, stream, or even pool water and drink safely. Awesome. Not only will it help me kick my coke habit, but I now have a trusty source of clean water to carry me right on through the apocalypse.

Its made of 304 food grade, non-leaching , BPA and lead-free stainless steel. That means you don’t get that plastic taste or brain cancer. Bonus.

Screw plastic water bottles.

This thing filters 150 gallons of water before having to change filters. That’s 960 20oz bottles of water. Even if you bought in bulk, that much water would cost about $150. The Ecoflo cost $35, saving me $115. I’m all about saving money.

What about replacing the filters? I couldn’t find any info at the store and assumed they were expensive. The manufacturer’s website says each new filter costs $20 and cleans 150 gallons.

Sold

I’m now a proud, and somewhat leaner, owner of  a self-filtering water bottle. When I have it with me I drink way less soda and coffee. The only negative thing I have to say about the bottle is that sucking through straw took some getting use to. It takes a little more suction than a regular sports bottle might.

Tornado Proof

That’s right, my Ecoflo has also came in handy as a survival tool. The tornadoes that recently destroyed the south hit my city, Tuscaloosa, hard. The government issued a water warning for several days after the disaster. We were all supposed to boil our water before drinking, or use bottled water. With confidence I filled up my Ecoflo straight from the tap. After not dying from some water-born bacterial nastiness, I’m convinced of Ecoflo’s filtration claims.

Recommended

I recommend buying one for yourself and even everyone in your family. Especially if you like saving money, travel, or live in a disaster prone area.

Perfect for Paleo

If you happen to be following the Paleo Lifestyle this water bottle is critical since water and coffee are basically the only fluids recommended.

Bought one yet?

Thanks for reading, and if you decide to buy the Ecoflo please use the affiliate links I’ve provided to help support my blog. I leave with a promo video created by Ecoflo:

I’m a podcast junkie.

Podcast Icon

I love listening to podcasts while I work. Especially if the task at hand is monotonous or design related. Now if I’m coding, I usually just listen to instrumental music. Hearing words and writing code don’t mix. I’ll end up typing what the person says somewhere in the code. That breaks things.

I love my podcasts. They feed my unquenchable curiosity. Almost weekly I get randomly interested in a new topic. One of the first things I do is find a podcast on the subject.

I consider this one of the few perks of having a desk-locked job. Sure I’m destroying my spine, waist-line and life span, but hey, at least I’ve got my dang podcasts.

Here’s my current rotation:

  1. Bethel Church "Sermon of the Week" (Bill Johnson)
  2. The Ramp Podcast (Damon Thompson/Casey Doss/Micah Wood)
  3. The Paleo Solution Podcast (Robb Wolf)
  4. The Paranormal Podcast (Jim Harold)
  5. The Big Web Show (Jeffrey Zeldman/Dan Benjamin)
  6. The Daily Edition
  7. Everyday Paleo
  8. The Dave Ramsey Show

There about 20 others that I listen to every once in a while, but I’m always looking for more.

What are your favorite podcasts?

Book Review: The Four Hour Work Week

Summary

Overall, my mental and emotional experience reading the The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris felt something like this:

I’m having a chat in a coffee shop with Tim, the author. He suddenly flips over the table, screams “Eighty Twentyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!”, punches me in the face, injects an adrenaline shot into my neck, and throws me into a Ferrari that flies off into space.

In other words, it was moving.

Context

I finished a this book sitting at the foot of my pregnant wife’s hospital bed listening to the sound of the IV machine pump fluids into her dehydrated veins while she got some well-deserved rest from the effects of Hyperemisis Gravidarum. Because of her condition, she wasn’t able to care for our 2-year old while I was at work. We moved in with her parents. Life was hard, but good. Hated to see her that way. As she fought to give life, I pushed even harder to work for a better life for our family. Tim’s book entered my life at the right time.

Take Aways

I had an idea of what the book was about from friends and reviews. My general impression was something about traveling, business and four hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find more depth than I expected. Yes, there were business tips and travel how-tos that were very helpful, but what stood out to me were Tim’s ideas about lifestyle design. Here is a brain dump of my lingering impressions of how the book affected me:

  • gave me hope
  • opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities in business
  • made me feel like I CAN do something different with my career if I choose to
  • revived dreams I’d almost completely let go of
  • gave me permission to pursue the life-STYLE that I think is best for me and my family instead of accepting what someone else expects of my time
  • informed me about how to start a product-based business
  • informed me about traveling smarter
  • explained the power and purpose of automation
  • helped me understand the reason big businesses outsource parts of their business to other countries
  • made me realize that I’m not alone when it comes to ideas and feelings I’ve had about a drastically different work and life style
  • inspired me to be more focused while working
  • made me question my current lifestyle
  • confirmed ideas I’ve had about restructuring my work life because the current 8-5 structure that keeps you away from family all day doesn’t seem natural (most people were in the “family business” a short few hundred years ago)
  • confirmed ideas about the benefits of fasting from media and information

Live Smarter

Although I don’t agree with all of Tim’s philosophical ideas, I appreciated his honest logical approach to everything, including spirituality. Whatever Tim’s spiritual beliefs are his book came into my life at the perfect time. It may even have been a God thing. I could see his book being extremely helpful to missionaries because of the international lifestyles they live.

I recommend it. Read it: Buy The 4-Hour Workweek here

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated

Fitts Architects Website Design Process

fitts architects office building

Fitts Architects in Tuscaloosa, Alabama hired me to redesign and rebuild their website. Here is the story behind the project and the process we went through to polish their brand on the internet.

Respect at first sight

In college I lived within 100 yards of the Fitts Architects office. Every time I drove by I would think to myself, “I really like the look of that building.”

The simple modern lines resonated with me. The design stands in stark contrast to the Classical, Victorian, and Early 2oth Century Style homes that surround it. I respected their boldness.

Fitts Architects office building front steps

A few years later I drove by and thought it would be awesome to have them as a client. I sent a cold email to the owner of Fitts Architects… Fitts himself.

I simply told him I was a fan of their work and that if they ever needed help with their website or other graphic design services I happened to be skilled in those areas.

Fitts Architects metal sign on brick wall

To my surprise he was very gracious and told me to come by the office. Several meetings later,  we signed a contract and I was officially the web designer for one of my local design heroes!

The Design Process

Here is a look inside the process I used to go from concept to finished product.

Phase 1: Set Goals

The first step involved meeting with the client to figure out the purpose behind the website. What goals were they trying to accomplish with this project?

  1. Basically, they wanted an updated version of their current website that was easy to navigate and elegantly designed.
  2. The design and functionality of the original website lacked the sense of high quality professionalism the Fitts brand stands for.
  3. However, there was a certain simplicity and elegance about the original site that the client wanted to carry through to the new design.

Fitts Architects original website

Considering their goals for the functionality and design of the new site I moved on to the next phase.

Phase 2: Get Exposed

Exposure to as much information about the client’s business, competition and industry at large is critical. I began scouring the internet for the websites of other modern architecture firms, taking note of how they solved similar problems to what my client faced.

Then I collected benchmarks, including  local competitors and global peer, and sent them to Fitts. He reviewed them and sent me valuable feedback and his vision for their new website. I’ve found several benefits of involving the client in the research process:

  1. Helps them compare their current site to others in their industry, reinforcing their need for my services.
  2. Helped answer questions that I never thought to ask by getting their feedback on the design, features, and functionality of other websites.
  3. Keeps the client and I in an ongoing conversation about their website throughout the project.

Phase 3: Find the concept

Phase three is basically visual brainstorming. With information from my research fresh on my mind I take out my sketch book and a mechanical pencil, or an ink pen depending on my mood, and spend at least an hour sketching out everything that comes to mind.

The goal here is not to create perfectly rendered illustrations, but to sift through the ideas that started to form during the first 2 phases. Sometimes I’ll draw random stuff to help kick-start my creative juices.

The Fitts sketches above include random lines, logo ideas, and even a sketch of their building – none of which were part of the website design I was hired to create. You might think this is a waste of time, but while exploring ideas like this I uncover valuable perspective and unexpected inspiration.

Until I have a strong conviction about a specific idea I keep scribbling. I think finding the right idea, or concept, is the most critical step in the design process. I’m a firm believer in pencils before pixels.

Phase 4: Mock it up

With sketches in hand I start bringing my favorite concept to life in Photoshop, or Illustrator. Depending on the project I may show the client some of my sketches to make sure we’re on the same page.

Fitts Architects Website Re-Design: Concept 1

The first concept I created for Fitts Architects strongly resembled their business card at the time. The header section shares the same logo placement and color scheme as their cards. My attempt to create consistency among their existing branding materials was rejected in the end.

After reviewing Concept 1 the client stressed how much they enjoyed the simplicity of the current website and wanted to see something in that direction. Happily trying to please the client, I presented Concept 2:

Fitts Architects Website Re-Design: Concept 2

Another meeting, another concept down. Concept 2 didn’t quite hit the mark either. They offered some more ideas, including the integration of a new gold-ish color into the design. I obliged and presented Concept 3:

Fitts Architects Website Re-Design: Concept 3

When this third concept failed to excite the client I got worried. Were they going to fire me? Not quite. The project continued but with some unexpected twists.

At the meeting to discuss the third concept pictured above, the client had literally built their own concept for what they thought the site should look like using construction paper and previous concepts I sent them. This was a first in my experience as a designer.

Client concept for FittsArchitects.com

They wanted the logo bigger and suggested the use of some decorative colors and shapes in a kind of modern art/abstract way. Architects are fellow creatives, so I understand the urge to just show me what they wanted. Still, this was one of the more awkward moments of my career. Dutifully, I agreed to digitize their mock-up:

Fitts Architects Website Re-Design: Concept 4

While presenting their idea to them, I suggested they give me one more chance to take their design and add my own styling to it. They easily agreed and I breathed.

This time, I wasn’t holding back. I axed the color, and made the shapes more of a subtle accent than a feature. For the logo I recreated their metal sign. The photos are the main feature of the site so I didn’t want random design elements to compete visually. The work is what the client wanted to feature. This design would do that.

I felt good about Concept 5. I sent the email with the concept attached and hoped for the best.

Fitts Architects Website Re-Design: Concept 5

With a simple, “That looks great!” the design was approved.

After building the site with HTML, CSS, Javascript and WordPress, the new site was launched: Fitts Architects Website