A former Google employee who helped model Gmail and later created Inbox has a plan to correct the company’s design flaws in a completely different way.
If you’ve been following my debates for a long time, you know how I feel about Inbox, Google’s short experiment to reinvent the way we experiment with email.
Inbox, built on the basis of Gmail, was an extremely different approach to message management. Into the its launch In 2014, the service was described as «years in the making», a «completely different type of e-mail box, designed to focus on what really matters». Google told us that Inbox was «designed for the problems we’ll see in the next 10 years» and described the app as the future not just of Gmail, but of email itself.
And then, well, Google Google. After you push the Inbox idea and add it Additional features and polishing for a while, the company lost interest in the product, let it go unattended and eventually I’m eliminating him about four years after his birth.
Although Inbox may disappear, its spirit continues thanks to the continuous work of one of its creators, a former former Googler named Michael Leggett, who took on the responsibility of upholding the same minimalist principles that made Inbox so effective. available to anyone.
Leggett just announced launching a new full-time business called Simplify . Its goal, he says, is to improve the less-than-optimal design of outside web services, using its coding and design skills and relying on common web extensions as a vehicle to deliver its vision. And if it sounds a little familiar, it should.
That extension was originally just a hobby, born out of something Leggett has been working on for his own use and for the benefit of family and friends since he left Google in 2015. And now, take the same idea, applying all attention and preparation to become something even bigger.
«My goal is not just to make your e-mail box more enjoyable,» he tells me. «I really think there is an imbalance between companies and their goals and users and our goals … It’s about making technology work for us, not working for technology. «
So what does that mean in practical terms? First, Leggett’s Simplify Gmail extension, which has so far garnered about 70,000 active users, according to the Chrome Web Store, with an average of five rarely seen reviews, is about to receive a major update. The software will receive many new features and internal enhancements, all of which exist on the regular Gmail website and without being granted worrying access or sharing of confidential information. (Leggett is determined to maintain complete privacy and privacy say what your software will never send or receive user data or incorporate advertisements, analyzes, cookies or other trackers)
But beyond that, it will also become a small part of a future subscription service, one that will bring the same design change principles. other Google applications and web properties. It’s an approach that Leggett hopes will allow you to take the time to continue to expand and maintain your offerings and take your signature vision to more and more places.
«I hate visual noise and I hate when products don’t do what I want them to do and I like to fix that,» he says. «Instead of complaining and instead of saying ‘That’s how it should be’ and just judging, I’d rather go deeper and say, ‘Look, there are challenges here, what’s a better middle ground?
Leggett is still working on price specifics, but hopes to keep the cost at a dollar or two a month, paid annually (something he says would make the project viable for him even between 5 and 5. 10% of the current user base would follow to participate). He hopes to offer an extensive set of Simplify brand enhancements on the web, with future projects already underway for Google Docs and Chrome itself. And it will continue to support and maintain all this on its own, which is no wonder, he notes, given how often companies like Google play with the core fabric of their services.
«All it takes is continuous work,» he says. «No matter how well I’ve built it, things are constantly changing from under me and I have a very sophisticated system to try to detect those changes and adapt in real time.»
It is a striking contrast in the approach of the independent e-mail service model, which attracts a lot of attention nowadays, one exemplified by The superhuman Gmail application $ 30 per month, highly publicized , which gives you a completely separate interface to interact with Gmail. , just like him Hey service from $ 99 per year, recently released , which asks you to leave your email inbox and current history completely behind and move to a whole new email environment.
For Leggett, the decision to build on what already exists and what many of us already use has been deliberate.
«[El correo electrónico] It shouldn’t be so expensive and you shouldn’t trust a company with that level of access to get a nicer Gmail that doesn’t have, for example, small red dots and icons everywhere, «he says.
This is not a draft committee.
And, of course, working in Gmail is a familiar ground for Leggett, who spent years refining Gmail’s design from within, as a leader in designing the Google user experience for the service, before turning his attention to Inbox and finally, move on to other things. But application improvement experience from outer it is quite different, something he sees as an advantage compared to the dynamics of large companies, where competing forces and overlapping priorities often lead to a significant dilution of vision at the outset.
«[Con Simplify]You don’t get a draft committee, «he says. «I have a very strong vision and a very strong aesthetic … and that’s why it’s more consistent, because it comes from a single voice.»
On that note, Leggett tells me that Inbox was originally designed as a much more ambitious service than I finally saw. I gathered one episode Special of Podcast Android Intelligence Platinum called «The Inside Story of the Google Mailbox,» where you can listen to our entire one-hour conversation and listen to the dramatic story of the evolution of the Inbox, its disappearance, and how it all brought Leggett to where he is. he today (and I ‘I will share some important moments in my newsletter Friday), but in short, the first incarnation of Inbox involved an accordion-like navigation area, which allowed you to access the most important parts of Google’s many apps and even some third-party services in the email box, which Leggett and its co-founder Inbox considered a «personal information management system».
The idea, he says, was that «users shouldn’t be aware of these other products to take advantage of them» and that «you shouldn’t skip them all» just to use the features you need. It’s a notion that seems extremely appropriate now, at least on a superficial level, as Google works integrates several communication services in Gmail.
«We were doing crazy things that people laughed at us for, saying we would never go up, and we thought, well, we’re not following the rules now. Thinking that in a few years the rules will change,» Leggett recalls. .
Finally, the Inbox, which was actually under development Six years Before we saw it externally, it was reoriented and reduced to just email. And then Leggett saw the writing on the wall.
«It’s like a walking man,» he says. «Compete with Gmail and the only way to be successful is [si] you have some kind of playground to play with and you realize what works and what doesn’t in a more secure environment and then you push it into Gmail. «What, of course, is exactly what happened.
Leggett left the team shortly after, and the co-founder of the Inbox concept soon followed suit. In Leggett’s eyes, Inbox remains «the project that could have been.» And now, he is determined to make up for what he lost along the way and allow his own vision to reach people in a way he never fully did then, within the walls of Google.
«I still believe in vision,» he says. «I don’t want to go to another big company and have a great idea and rot it in a closet and gather dust.»
To that end, Leggett says he will never sell Simplify and that he intends to always remain personally involved, regardless of your progress. For now, your next goal is to get the new version («v2») of Simplify Gmail before Labor Day and then slowly enter your new subscription settings and start implementing enhancements for other services. As for the specific services that will eventually be included, Leggett has a guiding principle to follow, one that has served him well throughout his design career:
«I only want to do something if I think I can do a little better.»
It is a principle that, now more than ever, seems exactly what the internet needs.