With Gmail, Google introduced a couple of peculiar ways to deal with email. One of these is the “search vs. sort” approach to finding emails of interest or finding related emails.

Instead of going with the common approach of sorting by column which is typically done to easily find related emails (by author or by similar topic) with Gmail the way to find such related emails is to search, which takes extra steps such as more typing or more clicks. The end-result is the same but with one caveat — it takes too much time and clicks and typing to accomplish the simple task of finding related emails.

This makes me wonder about the UI design approach and its designers, as this approach feels as designed based on engineering-factors concerned about (back-end) performance vs. a design focused on “human factors”.

In any case, why not offer a solution that balances both? For example, fast filtering for related emails by adding new actions to the “Select” section, for example new “Author” and “Topic” actions, such as this:

  >> Select: All, None, Read, Unread, Starred, Unstarred, Author, Topic

…where selecting an email and then clicking “Author” would result on Gmail searching and filtering and displaying only the related emails based on author, and clicking on “Topic” filters by related topic.

In any case, right now is more complicated than it needs to be…

UI designers — keep in mind human factors; it is about the user!