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Thoughts on HEY email

July 18, 2020

Largely out of a desire to experiment and try out a different approach to email, I tried out and eventually choose to subscribe for a year to HEY. HEY is a new approach to email by Basecamp (formerly 37signals), that does a number of things differently:

  • You have to explicitly choose to receive email from new senders; all email is screened out by default.
  • They provide two “buckets” to sort your mail into beyond the inbox: a feed that organizes email messages into a temporarily ordered, scrollable list, and a repository of receipts, tracking information, etc.
  • You can mark a message as something you want to reply to later or set it aside so you can easily refer to it later.
  • They attempt to filter out tracking pixels so that you can actually look at images in your email without worrying about the privacy implications.

Overall the experience has been positive so far. Of course, it generally feels good to start somewhat fresh with email anyway: you can revisit which messages you actually get, rethink your email strategy, and clean up in your accounts in general (I used the excuse of moving some of my email subscriptions to HEY to also update a number of my passwords).

But I do like the capabilities they provide, and I chose most of the email that I moved to my HEY address to take advantage of the Feed and Paper Trail (the order repository) capabilities. After using it for a few weeks, there are a few things I’d like to see them improve:

  • Their mobile clients seem to be wrappers around web content. Basecamp generally does a good job with web content, but that choice results in noticeable latency when opening views (they’re clearly hitting their server, for example, whenever you open the Feed). I’d like to see them doing more caching on device and background information fetching to reduce that lag.
  • By default messages in the Feed are only shown partially, and you have to tap to expand them. I’d like HEY to expand where you can tap to fully display a message. Instead of tapping the See More button, I’d like to tap anywhere on the top or bottom of a message
  • I’d also like tapping at the top or bottom again to collapse a message; often after skimming an expanded message I’d like to collapse it so that it doesn’t take up as much space when I’m navigating the Feed.
  • Along a similar line, I’d like the message previews in the feed to actually be slightly smaller so it’s easier to see more of them at once.
  • HEY is big on not having notifications or badges to let you know if you have unread messages. While in general I like that approach, given that there’s some latency in opening the Feed I’d like a way to easily tell within the app whether there are new messages in the Feed or not. Now the only way to tell is to navigate in and then back. And within the Feed it’d be useful to have a marker indicating which messages are new and which you’ve seen previously. Currently it’s up to you to remember which messages you’ve seen before.

While I moved some email to HEY, I’m also still using my Gmail and iCloud email addresses as well. I’m currently planning to continue that pattern for awhile, and once I have more experience with HEY I’ll decide whether to shift more of my email to or from it.

From → Software

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