Based on the pictures above, I have proposed the following:
The main page of the Mail interface should be arranged in a hierarchal fashion. Inboxes can collapse and reveal folders within them, thus removing the need for an “Accounts” section. The space left empty due to the unification could be allocated for something such as an RSS inbox.
Note: I do not claim to be an expert or master on this subject. I’m still learning and eager for feedback. What has been written is based on my own personal analysis which includes my experience in this field.
I rest my concept on principle number nine from the book 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk
People believe that things that are close together belong together
As such, if the user feels that a component is connected to the main branch, they will understand its purpose in the interface scheme. This establishes familiar gestures, methods, or other types of user-initiated actions for more then just one part of a page.
One argument, that I would suggest to you, is that Apple’s aim is to unify iOS and OS X to make one single OS for the betterment of all devices. Although there may be no disagreement, this plays a significant role in how to move forward in both systems.
For a moment, let’s briefly evaluate how the Mac handles mail in the way I’ve proposed it for iOS.
- Inboxes are ordered in a hierarchal fashion
- These inboxes can reveal and hide folders based on clicking
- Whether hidden or in view, there’s a connection between what folders are with which respective inbox or folder (depending on how deep folders go)
In the name of unity, I would propose that this functionality could be beneficial in iOS. Tapping the inbox icons would reveal or hide certain sections, as distinguished by an arrow to alert you to whether it’s open or closed. Because each section would fall under its associated folder or inbox, the user would understand its connection and could more easily navigate through the various folders; a supporting factor to Weinschenk’s ninth principle.
This would relieve the “Accounts” section giving space for something else. Whatever that may be, in this case an RSS inbox. To prop up my thinking on this matter, I once again direct you to OS X to see what it holds.
Jumping to Mail once again, let’s head to Preferences. In this pane in regards to Accounts, we find the following.
- The Accounts section lists accounts that are added and are in the Mail application
- In this section, the settings of the accounts or inboxes can be changed and (or) updated
- There is no connection to actual folders or organization of them in any way
How does this play out in iOS? I would suggest that this mindset might throw off the user when using Mail. A new user could be confused by the notion of an “Account” section, where in the OS X example, only deals with settings and configurations.
When it comes to existing users, I feel that compartmentalizing sections and unifying components not only allows for better organization and gains space, but it moves parts forward to bring a unique but similar experience between all devices.
As for RSS, I chose this feature for the following reasons:
- It promotes unification with OS X and its functionalities
- Coming into one collaborate area is better for reading and dealing with notifications
One might argue that RSS should go into a separate application or in the Newsstand. I don’t disagree with having a different application, although for simple and easy RSS reading and managing, I don’t feel there’s a need.
Newsstand on the other hand, I don’t feel is the right place. The reason for this is because RSS is not just news. On that simple basis, it doesn’t fit. Also, RSS is generally just text and comes in as such. Because Mail doesn’t preview images and only shows them as attachments, keeping the feeds that work and perform similarly gives this sense of belonging or a reason to why it should be there versus another place.
Note: Adding favicon support is possible, however the icons would have to be sized correctly to fit the specifications (most favicons would be too small and would look distorted if stretched to size).
Also, RSS is not necessarily an end-game feature. This is an example of a possible addition.
Here’s a list of functionalities this incorporation could or would have.
- Unified inboxes and folders
- Collapsable sections - tapping the arrowed inboxes or folders reveal or hide them
- An RSS inbox
All iOS devices would support this feature.
"There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction." - Winston Churchill
© 2012 Joshua Tucker