Bad UX and Death by a Thousand Cuts

I’ve recently been thinking about the phrase “death by a thousand cuts” for the cumulative effect of bad UX experiences daily across different tech and services.
I seem to be a major sufferer of this problem, where almost everything I use has a minor or major aggravation,

Case in point, I just literally threw my phone on a table after a walk because

  1. it decided to reboot itself when I walked out the front door and wanted to play a podcast;
  2. I lost service – yet again – and had to reboot, yet again;
  3. it turned onto accessibility mode and I had to Google how to turn it off when I got home.

Or, trying to do emojis in Teams after you’ve used Slack?

  1. you can’t do standard emojis;
  2. typing “:” starts the joyemoji, which seems half-baked, and has no search, and
  3. when you type “:p” automatically used the original Skype emoji tongue out.

What product developers fail to realise is a small design or UX annoyance in their product is not isolated – at least, not for the user. For a user perspective is “one more” issues in a larger set of products they have to deal with. When you come that across a day and a week, that makes for a lot of extra work, effort, unnecessary attention and not to mention aggravation for the person. Feedback on why I’m not going ahead with it

Two weeks ago I managed to receive an invite to the new email service from Basecamp. I heard Kara Swisher interview Jason Fried about the service and was excited to give it a try.

I knew a full switch to Hey was not likely, even in the next 12 months, but I am a huge user of email subscriptions for news and updates and wanted to see if I could separate all those emails into a different service to start.

Alas, after 7 days I realised Hey is not yet for me. The UX (user experience) just isn’t there yet.

To be clear, I have purchased my first year subscription, primarily to secure the email address for the future. But I have undone all my email subscription changes.

I’m still 100% behind Hey and Basecamp in this venture. I think email needs a revamp and recognise Hey is still very early days. I have also provided feedback to Hey support as to my issues with the service at this time and wanted to that message here, in its entirety.


5 July 2020 8:40am


I wanted to provide some feedback.

I was excited to join Hey, however, now that my 2 week trial is almost over I have decided not to continue with the service, and I wanted to provide some feedback on what predominantly does not work for me.

That being said, I have just paid my first year in order to ensure I retain the email address (for security reasons).

Ultimately it comes down to UX.

Hey’s UX is too divergent from what I’m used to with email. And while it certainly has some interesting ideas I hope to see succeed, my 25+ years of using email is a large weight of experience to compete against.

To be clear, I recognise my UX issues are very “personal” to me and how I work, and not necessarily work how your majority customer base works.
I also understand that Hey is “wildly opinionated”, but for me it’s a little too opinionated for the most important service I use.

(NB: I am also a software developer with an interest in software design/UX)

Specifically, the things that work against me are.

* “Imbox”. I don’t know what it is but I find that word really annoying.
I know the meaning of the word but every time I see it, it feels “wrong”.
Perhaps it’s my dyslexia or just a peculiar mind, but my brain struggles against the word and tries to convert it to “Inbox”.
Also, it is so a prominent as a title on the page. All the major page titles feel so unnecessarily BIG on the page (high visual weight) and compete for my attention all the time.

* I live through in my emails. I read, sort, organise and categorise.
major element I use is labels/folders. And I switch through them regularly. Having access to labels through a hidden menu (click 1), then a separate page listing them (click 2) is frustrating. Basically labels in Hey are useless for me because it’s too much work to get to them.

* Having the Imbox auto-sort in “last accessed” order is disorienting. I expect to see emails in reverse chronological order by default. Sorting by last accessed is a great idea, but not by default.

* I’d like the option to switch between my sort orders, including dates, titles and sender.

* I use stars/flags a lot in visually tag and group emails and that’s sorely missed with Hey.

* Seeing sent messages mixed with received messages in the Imbox/Previously Seen list  is strange and too much clutter. I need to see my sent messages <1% of the time and I’m happy to access them via a “thread” view or separate “Sent” list. They don’t need to be in my face

* The visual weight of the colour profile circle in the message list is just too much. Same for the “Hey” menu and my own profile menu.
When I scan the page my eye goes to the most prominent feature on the page, which at the moment is the profile icon.
I want my eye to be focused on the message titles, which it probably about the 3rd highest weight on the page.
In fact, when I analyse the page there is a lot going on in the page in terms of different colours, lines and shading.
To be honest, this really feels software designed by a software developer, not a UX or UI designer (i.e. something I would design myself).

* The “previously seen” list on the “Imbox” page drives me nuts! I strive for zero inbox, so seeing that list every time I enter the page makes me immediately think I have messages to action. When I finish reading a message I want to label it and archive it from view.

* And I really don’t want my read/unread message to slip between 2 lists on the one page. It breaks my expectation of where a message should be, partly because I’ll often read a message, drop back to my inbox, then later go back and re-read or mark it as unread. But now I have to find it in a different location (and probably a different sort order).

* The Feed… is too much like a social media news feed for me.
Separating subscriptions is the primary reason for me to trial Hey (at it’s an awesome idea) but at the moment it’s a fail, unfortunately.
I just need another area similar to Imbox but dedicated to my subscriptions.
I have at any one time 30+ daily subscriptions (this is how I receive most of my news and updates).
I don’t read them in sequential order, and some subscriptions I’ll skip reading until the end of the week.
I also hate social media feeds – there’s something about their nature and scrolling that my brain and eyes can’t handle.
So, it’s a real bother to have a list of partially open messages in my Feed (that I still always have to fully open anyway – which makes a partial view useless…?) It’s too much information. I just need to see the subject and who it’s from.
Or an option to switch between the “normal” Imbox style list and seeing the open message view.
A huge issue is I can’t tell when a message is “read” vs “unread”. And I can’t archive a message (hide it from view).

* When I move a message back to Imbox, future messages from the sender still go to The Feed, but I would expect them to come to the Imbox.

* It would be nice to have an indicator on the Imbox screen of how many unread messages there are in the feed. When I check Imbox I then need to manually check The Feed as well to even know if there are new messages (which I can’t really tell anyway because everything looks new).

* I was confused about where to find my “Drafts”. I intuitively looked under my “Hey” menu but couldn’t find it. Instead, it was under my profile menu, which doesn’t really make sense.

* I tried the “Set Aside” feature with some subscription messages, which gives me yet another page with yet another layout. What’s up with the tile view?
Then when I select “Done” it puts the message back in the Imbox “Previously seen” list, which is strange.
But I’m not even sure what the purpose of Set Aside is (didn’t read the help. Maybe it’s just me not understanding).

* I tried the “Reply Later” (which, for some reason, I expected the option to be able to set a reminder) and it put a sticky version of the message at the bottom of the Imbox. Which seems strange that I want to basically push something out of view for later but then you keep it displayed in my face?
I also can’t move a message from Reply Later back to Imbox.

* There’s no contextual feature help. All I can do is send a help message.
Why can’t I quickly look up info about a feature?
For example, I’m too afraid to try the “Merge” feature because I don’t know what it is. This is the one time I’ll use a help page, but I don’t know how to get to it.

* The “Hey” menu.
It’s too slow. That slight lag when opening the menu (browser, Windows app) get’s really annoying when you do it regularly and is very noticeable when I’m having to continually open it to jump between screens. And that “thunk” (“pop” or whatever you want to call it) when it finishes opening is disconcerting.
A smooth and instant transition would be nice.
Also, options to move between Imbox, The Feed, Labels (including the label list) that are always visible would be a welcome feature. That would cut down a lot of clicks through the menu every day.

* I’m a bit concerned about this: “at the end of your trial your account will be automatically closed, and all your data will be deleted from our servers 30 days later. Then your email address will be released back into the pool so someone else can sign up and use it.”
My concern is security related. If someone tries the service with and uses it for “sensitive” subscriptions or communications, then cancels but their address continues to receive sensitive info, then if it’s claimed by another person in the future will the originally person’s subscriptions come to the new person after they claim it?
As it is I’m now going to purchase a year’s subscription to secure my address and ensure no one else can access my trialled subscriptions.

* Not an issue but something to consider: I use multiple domains for my emails. And I use a different “username@” for each subscription and service I sign up for to identify when my email is shared, and as a layer of protection in data breaches. I know domains is something that’s coming but it’s a bit of a show stopper for me at the moment.

If any of these issues are actually features available, then you should know I didn’t look up any help and will not look up help. If I can’t discovered it via the UI or context help then, again, it’s a UX fail.

As clean and “focused” as the UI is, I think you need to realise that email is still a central tool for some people – particularly “older” (almost 40) people like me. I don’t been business/corporate either.
Email isn’t just about an inbox and “read once” message. It’s also about organisation and quick access. Re-imaging email is a good idea, but breaking the UX and features people have become used to is perhaps not going to win people over.

On a positive note, the things I do love are:

* Protecting against trackers. This is the key element that drew me to Hey when I heard about it.

* Having a separate Feed for newsletters, even though I have UX issues with it. I subscribe to quite a few a newsletters and wanted to separate them from my normal Inbox. I’m happy to pay just to have a separate inbox for these.

* No push notifications. That’s possibly going to be a problem for some people, but I’m really appreciative of it.

I’m still keen to see Hey succeed and wish you all the best, but unfortunately the service is not yet there for my own needs.