.Mail recap

Designer Tobias van Schneider posted a really interesting post-mortem reflection on his “.Mail” email client project.

I remember seeing his concepts for the app back in 2010 or so, and they were really brilliant. You can see a lot of ideas in there that have become standard in modern email clients: swiping for actions, simplified account sidebar, avatars/social integration, and lovely minimalist type treatments. His case study/pitch was the first place I’d seen them; I can’t say for sure he invented those UI patterns, but they certainly weren’t common before. As a product it may have failed to launch, but as a piece of UI design it was really influential.

This was also shortly before Sparrow got acquired by Google and then killed, and I remember desperately hoping .Mail would take off so the world [1] would once more have a usable email client. I signed up for the email list and checked the case study occasionally, hoping to see an Available now! callout appear there.

Sadly, email protocols and APIs are a quagmire of sadness and despair and knashing of teeth, and it was not to be. But many of van Schneider’s ideas were picked up/stolen/borrowed by Dropbox, Spark, Polymail, etc., and we now have at least a few pretty great email clients, perhaps with .Mail to thank for it.

Also, Tobias van Schneider has perhaps the most amazing beard in the design industry.

  1. Okay, by “world” I mean “me.” ↩︎