I'm very pleased and proud to announce Gander's availability to public beta testers. No lies, it took a bunch of months, ears, eyes, and brains to create an app that reduces the amount of time you spend in email, but now, to paraphrase Professor Higgins, by jove we've got it!
Not all of it, yet, but enough to release, in increasingly less wee parcels, it into the wild. So, come stomp on it, hoards!
Or, if you're interested in the what/why/how, keep reading.
Motivation no. 1: Email is Painfully Addictive
"If I'm not in a meeting, I'm on email."
Over the last year, we've interviewed over 200 heavy email users, looking at the pain of dealing with the non-stop deluge of email. Email at 4am. Email at red lights. Email at lunch. Email, email, email - like Sisyphus, it never stops. Email reduces smart, educated professionals to dopamine addicts, looking for the next little hit from pushing the hamster's button.
Motivation no. 2: The Current Tools Are Crap
The Inbox of 1972 looks just like the Inbox of 2013 - a tabular list of sender, subject, date, sorted in reverse chronological order. The two most commonly used innovations since then are threading and search. And most of that happened six years ago with Gmail. Really, is that the best we can do? Even the spreadsheet and word processor are considerably smarter, but email is locked in bearskins and stone knives.
PSA no. 1: Gander is not for Everyone
The two most common email clients, Microsoft Outlook and Gmail, have the same user experience whether you get 5 or 500 messages per day. We think that is broken. In our user tests, there is a pretty clear step function that occurs when there are over 100 read-worthy messages per day. Gander is built for high volume professionals. It is not for the casual user. Should a small propeller Cessna have the same automation and instrumentation as a Boeing 737? Then why does email?
"How often do I check email? All the time."
Gander Innovation no. 1 - Put the Bacon in the Skimbox
If email had to be split into categories, they would be a) "stuff you need to really read and deal with" and b) "stuff you can quickly skim, usually just by the header and preview." Using a weighing of several algorithms (see "How to Prioritize an Inbox" parts 1,2,3,4) Gander does that: it splits your inbox into two major categories: Main and Skimbox (tm). Both views are easily visible at once. If an email is miscategorized, you can swipe it to the correct category, and Gander will listen.
This is much faster for users to triage. Under the covers, we have dozens of subcategories. When we tried showing to test users the main inbox and 3-4 grouped subcategories, they hated it. Too many places to look and unclear what the chronology should be. The Main / Skimbox divide has been well received by our private beta users and we hope heavy email users will find It super useful as well.
Gander Innovation no. 2: Continuous Multiscreen Experience
In July 2012, the inevitable occurred. Mobile email finally overtook desktop email. The problem is that most people are constantly switching between the two. On the road or in a meeting, it's mobile, Back at the desktop, it's Outlook or a browser. Even in mobile and desktop Gmail, the interfaces are pretty different. For a few common functions like delete / move / reply, why do the buttons change? (Quick quiz: what is the most heavily used email feature? Answer: Delete, of course). While we were testing Gander internally, we found one of the surprising benefits to Gander was a consistent, yet responsive design across mobile and desktop. Kudos to Christina, our UX Designer, for finding a simple elegant UI to do the most common operations on both mobile and desktop.
Now we've taken a huge leap forward - the mobile and desktop views are consistently in sync. Users never have to change contexts as they switch devices. The email open in mobile will be the email that is open on desktop. The folder being triaged on desktop will be the folder that is being triaged on mobile, It is continuous, automatic and fast. And it works through a regular browser.
The Magic Behind the Curtain
We don't yet have synchronous reactivity for composing an email, but might by the time you read this. Yes, it is that easy with Meteor.
Shout Out to PG
I saw Paul Graham talk in Fall 1996 down the river in Cambridge, MA about a new company called Viaweb. My legacy company, SoftArtisans, was one of Viaweb's first 50 customers. We built our first product as an RFC1867 uploader because of the Viaweb browser upload feature I saw that day.
For three principal developers over five months, I think we have a good start. The entire team, from Marketing, QA, and IT has done an awesome job of getting this rollout put together.
Earning Your Trust and Being Polite
Gander won't fly unless we earn user's trust about the confidentiality of their email. It is a central tenet of our organization. We never store user credentials - we use OAuth instead so a user could revoke access at any time without asking us. While we've taken every measure to ensure our databases do not get hacked, in the event they are compromised user names and passwords are safe because we never know them, let alone store them.
We are not an ad-supported business, so no external automated system is targeting users with ads based on email content. We maintain a copy of some of our users' email in order to make email a better experience. We also maintain a copy so as to not screw up an existing mailbox. We do not add any folders or rules. We do not change anything about the user's inbox whatsoever. The user is completely free to switch back and forth between Gander and whatever email client they already use.
Our job is to continue to improve Gander so much that users won't want to switch back. That switching back will feel like going back to the Stone Age of email.
So join us. Help us in this frighteningly ambitious plan to bring email into the modern world. Try Gander today and help make it better.