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The recent Android Gmail App is a perfect example of what I'm talking about (see screenshot below). When you open an email to view, Google has moved the Delete action into the sub-menu. In previous versions it was always visible in the main navigation. So they have given these 4 actions more priority:

  1. Go Back to Inbox
  2. Archive
  3. Mark as Unread
  4. Move to another Folder

To me it is obvious, that they're trying to encourage the user to Archive instead of Delete. However, almost all of the users I've spoken with have balked at the change, immediately saying they use the Delete action more than all of those.

I've seen this approach with Contact information, when a site will make the phone numbers very difficult to find or behind many layer, in order to encourage other means of support.

With the assumption that Google is trying to encourage (rather harshly in this case) the users to Archive instead of Delete, is this a best practice? Can we hide important items to encourage users to do one thing, when they want to do another?

Hopefully this question isn't ruled as too subjective, because as UXers I know we all struggle with making the users experience what they want and accept changes positively, while trying to be innovative and push new features.

enter image description here

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Sidenote: Although the default menu has been changed to feature Archive instead of delete, they do offer the users a way to reverse that. So they did have a plan for those users that would not like this change. support.google.com/mail/answer/1386450?hl=en –  smoca Jun 6 '13 at 14:00
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Also, I believe the reason for this is not to discourage deleting, but to encourage the delete gesture of swiping to delete. –  Austin French Jun 6 '13 at 16:43
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I'm pretty sure the original desktop(web) gmail interface made a similar choice. They also specifically called it out in some of their early text around gmail, saying you just archive things because with gmail's (very large at the time for popular web mail, and ever-growing) disk space limit didn't require you to ever delete. –  PeterL Jun 6 '13 at 19:41
    
@AthomSfere: In my Android Gmail app, swiping right archives the message, both in the app's inbox view and in the system notification area. –  AlexC Jun 11 '13 at 22:04
    
@AlexC I believe the swipe action is dictated by your settings. –  smoca Jun 12 '13 at 13:05

2 Answers 2

I agree with you that Google is intentionally discouraging the use of Delete over Archive. Whether there is a nefarious reason behind this is impossible to know unless you are a Google employee. However, there are enough evidence to show you that the intent is deliberate.

  1. In the Inbox list view, if you swipe left OR right, they BOTH lead to "Archive" action. In many Apps in Android, Left and Right swipes have distinct actions. So Google could've easily provided Delete action via swipe (left or right), but they didn't.

  2. They're encouraging the use of "Archive" in their web Gmail as well. Please see my screenshot below.

enter image description here

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I still have delete button on the top menu. imgur.com/xzv7k0Y and the all mail label is still visible. imgur.com/7LLVsZ1 –  rk. Jun 12 '13 at 19:21

I would challenge your assumption that google is trying to encourage a user to Archive instead of Delete. Can you prove any backing to this assumption?

I imagine it is more of an error prevention rather than error resolution.

Deleting an email, though not irreversible, is a long(ish) process. To save the user the trouble of going through that because they accidentally deleted an email can be prevented by making email deletion a more conscious decision. Adding the extra step (hopefully) ensures that the user is not absentmindedly (or in a hurry) performing the action.

Update:

Just checked the iOS Gmail app. They have made the error resolution process a single click one and the delete button is available (not hidden)

Delete button available in main navigation hierarchy:

enter image description here

Undo button reverses the deletion with single click.

enter image description here

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That is true, my assumption of why they did it maybe wrong, but I still believe that the more popular action is delete and therefore the question still holds true. –  smoca Jun 6 '13 at 13:57
    
@smoca updated answer to disprove your argument and kinda void my answer. –  rk. Jun 6 '13 at 14:10
    
I think you're going after the 'why' they did it when I want to know should we be doing this. The way I made assumptions in my question about why they did probably sent you down that path, so my fault there. But I really want to get deeper into, should we be doing this? Why we're doing it certainly plays into that, but it is not the answer. –  smoca Jun 6 '13 at 14:18
    
@smoca I have two explanations. 1) It is not a UCD and the product has it's own dark motive behind it. You do not argue about UX of e-bombs ;) 2) The functionality to undo it is not easy enough right now, so you want to add an extra step to prevent the user from committing the mistake in the first place. Google would have estimated the frustration of figuring out how to un-delete much more than that cause by adding an extra step in deletion. –  rk. Jun 6 '13 at 14:24
    
I think we can agree on 1! –  smoca Jun 6 '13 at 14:25

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