Step 4: Qualitative User Study

To get insights into the email usage by industry people and those in academia, we set out for our qualitative user study through semi-structured interviews. We went out into our campus, visiting professors, calling up people working in the industry, hanging out on Google with people in different parts of the country. Here are a few insights we gathered from those interviews.

Aditya Ponnada, UX researcher, Samsung, India

An alumnus of our department, Aditya Ponnada works at Samsung; an organisation with a global reach and one of the largest markets. He currently has multiple accounts and operates from them separately. He uses one of the accounts for public subscriptions, one for personal communications and one for professional reasons. Though he uses the “Priority Inbox” feature in Gmail, he doesn’t find it effective and has hence created multiple accounts to segregate his overflowing mail. He uses his corporate alias with a third party client that provides meeting management, event management and task management. He is annoyed by the long process and the need of having the manager’s approval at every step. Also, though he knew about Google calendar and how to use it, he preferred to use Google Keep instead.


Prof. Sougata Karmakar, Professor of Ergonomics and Human Factors; Department of Design, IIT Guwahati

Professor Sougata is supplied with a webmail account; one that is supplied by the college to all students and professors. Though he likes Gmail and uses it extensively for personal purposes,he is mostly on webmail as his job forces him to be. He copies all his important data like contact details and shifts them to a word file that is present on his desktop. Similarly, he makes a note of all the deadlines on his white board; though he admittedly knew about google calendar and google contacts.

Prof. Ravi Mokashi Punekar, Professor of Design, Department of Design

Professor Ravi Mokashi is a well know personality in this corner of the world and used to be the head of the department of DoD. Since then, he has been in constant touch with e-Mails and still receives a ton of them. Though he doesn’t send many, his inbox tends to overflow every now and then. He feels that e-mail should be used to reflect and fine-tune your thoughts rather than to engage in an active conversation. Being a man of organisation, he hates clutter and sometimes deletes important mails just to get his inbox empty. He feels he is more used to the webmail; first person to do so.

K V Ketan Kain, User Experience Designer, Clarice Technologies

Ketan is a young professional who graduated from college recently. In his final year, he was also served as the placement secretary for the department of design, IIT Guwahati. Being a technology enthusiast, he keeps on exploring new things that come up in the tech-world. He generally uses gmail as his email client.  He classifies his emails extensively into approx. 42 folders! Some mails he directly skips from the inbox while he prefers to have some others in his inbox as well as the separate folders.   He also uses custom inboxes in gmail. Despite all the efforts put into the classification, he still sometimes feels that his inbox is cluttered. He uses google keep for reminders and is an active user of other google products like drive, hangout, youtube and blogger. He is looking for an intelligent system that automatically recognizes an email’s priority, its classification and presents itself accordingly. He strongly believes that in future social networks might totally take over the email and email might become extinct.

Yogesh Gupta, UX Associate at Cognizant Technology Solutions

Yogesh Gupta is another young professional who is very technologically sound. He uses Outlook in the office and uses gmail for his personal conversations. He categorizes his mails into different folders, uses color codes and marks mails he wants to get back to as “unread”. He uses google calendar to set reminders and uses outlook to manage appointments in the office. He wants information like coupon expiry dates, travel ticket dates to automatically get synced with google calendar. He visualizes a future in which everything is synced together and you can access your information ubiquitously. 

Based on these interviews, we concluded the following –

  • There is a dire need for an intelligent system that can clean your mailbox, sort it and organize it. Users want a system which has everything synchronized together; be it meetings, appointments or tasks. The system should prioritize the mail automatically based on the user.
  • Another insight was into the ways people currently organize their e-mails. They “mark mail as unread” after reading them, color code them, classify mails into folders.
  • They also seek confirmation about their message being conveyed – like the “seen” functionality of Facebook messaging.
Based on these basic insights we are aiming to build up on our qualitative study and literature study.
Lets see how it goes about!
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