I will be using the six different types of email users that Gmail identified in their research (unofficially), according to a blog that aggregated findings from multiple sources:
- Unorganized – These users just have email to get emails. They aren’t labeling, they don’t delete, and they certainly don’t read everything. Their inbox is a jumbled mess of unread emails from all kinds of different senders. They most likely use it as a form of additional contact with other people and they absolutely hate email from anything else. Unorganized users may not even regularly sign in unless they are expecting an email from someone.
- Skimmer – This group of people regularly goes through their inboxes looking over from addresses and subject lines. Anything that catches their eye will be read, but if it doesn’t get read then its ok. They really don’t mind if they have hundreds or even thousands of unread emails listed in their inbox. If they need to find an email that they missed, they simply search for it. They regularly keep an eye on their email, but don’t need to spend much time with it since they don’t read everything.
- Reader – These email users typically read every email by simply opening it. They don’t necessarily read the email or do anything after that, but they might mark it as unread to signify its importance. Readers simply open emails to remove that little number beside their inbox. They regularly check their email to avoid falling behind as it stresses them out to have too many unread emails in their inbox.
- Deleter – These users actively go through their inbox and delete junk mail and anything else they don’t want to read. Anything left not deleted signifies its importance or sense of being incomplete. Emails are deleted as they are addressed or as tasks are accomplished. Deleters are similar to readers in that they get overwhelmed if there are too many emails in their inbox.
- Organized – These email users are the ones that read an email and might take the time to sort each one out into labels and folders. They might take the time to go through the email if they need to discover more about whom it is from and what it is about. Email is checked regularly and they might even have multiple email addresses for different purposes.
- Super User – These users have it all figured out. Email is a number one priority. Each email is marked with labels and sorted in folders and archived. Filters keep primary emails front and center, while other folders house emails from predefined lists or senders. They might know all the keyboard shortcuts to do this efficiently, and they consistently keep up inbox zero. Super Users know exactly what they have subscribed to and desire to read emails from these newsletters at some point but not necessarily right away.
The tricky part about email is that everyone uses it differently and it’s virtually impossible to please everybody with an email product. However, I do feel like email products have the responsibility of considering the large majority of behaviors if they want to be relevant at a large scale. My goals is to design a product that focuses on every archetype I’ve listed except Unorganized. The Unorganized archetype chooses not to participate in the email space for the most part and I believe designing for them is futile unless the product is specifically targeted towards them. That basically leaves me with the Skimmer archetype and 4 variations of Inbox Zero users (Reader, Deleter, Organized and Super User).
The key for me in my research is to see how a user remains constant or shifts their archetype when the moving from desktop to mobile and vice versa. From the research I’ve already conducted, the behavior I recorded the most for mobile is the Skimmer even from people that operate under Inbox Zero while on desktop.