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This question might be too general but its bugging me a lot.

If you look at the screenshot below:

Gmail Compose Form

Maybe J have been sending emails for too long, but I expected the 'CC' and 'BCC' fields to be visible to me. The Gmail team apparently thinks these fields need not be shown unless someone clicks on the 'to' field, as below:

Gmail CC & BCC

I found this to be distracting and irritating. When sending an email, the CC field is one of my most used and most important tools, and it's hidden by default!

I know its purely contextual, but in terms of a guiding principle, what control from a UI is it acceptable to hide by default?

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This is only in the reply view, in the compose view the Cc and Bcc links are always shown. –  Pesikar Mar 4 '13 at 7:51

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You can hide UI controls from a higher level of abstraction when

  1. the user can guess from the exposed controls what hidden controls are attached
  2. the user would only need to handle the hidden controls when working with the exposed controls, and would not look for them independently
  3. it isn't appropriate for the user to handle the hidden controls without first interacting with the exposed controls (progressive disclosure)

My guess is that Google feel that all of these conditions are true, inasmuch as

  1. You might guess that CC and BC would be found 'near' the TO field
  2. Users would probably specify their BCs and CCs at the same time as their TOs (presumably if the user has to go back to add an important recipient, they'll remember the location of the fields)
  3. Presumably Gmail doesn't let you BC/CC recipients without including a TO

Whatever the reason, Google is well known for its religious A/B testing, so it has presumably passed multiple tests with real-world users.

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I agree with 2, but as a user I look for the 'cc' field independent of the 'To' field. My mind simply doesn't imagine the cc field would magically appear when I click on the 'To' field. I think Google is siding with what data is telling them (most users don't go back to find a cc field) vs what the human behaviour tells us. UX is all about the edge cases. –  capex Mar 4 '13 at 2:26

Generally things popping in and out of visibility is bad for usability. On the one hand this does strike me as less than ideal design. Until you get used to it (which admittedly doesn't take long) you might be puzzled looking for the cc and bcc buttons.

On the other hand it's hard to believe google hasn't done extensive testing on one of their flagship products, so it's my guess there is a good reason for them doing it this way. But I can't identify that reason.

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I feel usage statistics is the best way to determine which controls to hide or which should be easily reachable. Statistis can be gathered automatically or manually based on feedback. In addition I think we should give a way to configure it as well.

When first Google hidden those fields even I felt quite odd, but once I realized that I never used cc or bcc fields on my personal ID, I think hiding them makes more sense.

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I feel annoying when I have to work on somebody else's computer, because they usually have active the option of "hiding the lest unused menu items" in MS office (I don't remember the name of the option), which at least in version 2003 was active by default.

In my work as developer, I prefer to put the more used options in places that are clearly visible, and put the rest where they don't distract users doing basic task but still accessible enough for the more advanced ones. The only change I do in the state of items in the UI is to enable/disable some items (buttons, text boxes...) when would/shouldn't be used.

I don't understand why Google did that (which I personally don't like) but I suppose that it was because more of their users don't use cc or cco too often.

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First thing, CC and BCC are essentially the 2nd and 3rd emails if you ever had to choose them. They appear when you need them and not before that.

When I had tried this new Google email UI, it had only taken me 20 seconds to familiarize myself with that. The only elements for which I had search a little were formatting, links etc but the top-portion was pretty easy to learn and use. So generally speaking, I am pretty much satisfied with this approach.

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