I was just trying to filter the emails I was getting from the particular site and the time when I clicked on filter messages like these and then to Create a filter to this search, it opened some options which confused me being simple .

See this

Now every option has checkbox which means a user can select multiple options.

My concern is with last two options gmail is providingsee this

So what is this?

  • Is it something google did intentionally?
  • Is there anything hidden about these checkboxes?
  • Although I can't select never when always is ticked but to check never, I have to uncheck always first and then choose. So why not a different div with radio buttons in these two?
  • It looks like there's a few more options that, while they may functionally work in order, don't really belong together like this, for example "mark it as read, star it, apply a label, then delete it", the latter action making the others irrelevant. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 1:30
  • I buy the point about the hierarchy but I don't find it relevant. It can be made better. Google must be knowing this and it is confusing for the new user and for the recurring users. Sorry @I'mLiam you might me right via your perspective but I don't think it is relevant at all. :/
    – Sanshizm
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 4:29
  • I suspect they probably decided (possibly after testing) that a simple list of check-boxes is less confusing than a complicated mix of radio/check-boxes, even if it appears that incompatible options can be selected. In the case of never/always, it's "obvious" which option should be deselected if you go for both, but for some of the other "invalid/odd" combinations, choosing what to deselect may be more confusing that making users deselect it/them manually.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 15:24

3 Answers 3


It's very likely, there is a reason behind such solution.

Let's say we develop that block and replace the checkboxes with a group of radio buttons:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

When one of them picked:


download bmml source

There is no workable way to disable a radio button, cause we we might want allow Google to determine letters' importance automatically, that should not be affected by our filter.

Thus a new option should be introduced for that:


download bmml source

It looks confusing without a title, let's add it:


download bmml source

Hmm... Perhaps, we should go back to a couple of checkboxes:


download bmml source

  • 1
    Or there could be a dropdown for each category: Mark as important: always, never, manually They used them for some of the options so this is doubly weird on their part.
    – invot
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 21:19
  • That's right,it looks not clear to me too. Though the option provided in the comment sounds less clear to me since doesn't the answer "What the filter will do?" as other controls does. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 3:31
  • Actually, that might be not only manually, since there is an option in the settings that will allow Google to predict letters' priority. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 3:37

As designers we are not typical users. Normal people don't analyse checkboxes like you just did so they probably won't be confused by the illogical aspect of it.

The use case of this page is likely that the user selects one or two options and moves on, they don't go clicking back and forth. Showing a list of checkboxes is the cleanest and simplest way to display and in general the principle applies. With a complex combination of different elements, although semantically correct, it would be harder to find the right options. I reckon they tested it and this was easiest for users.

Most people understand the difference between checkboxes and radio buttons when they use it but won't be able to give you a good answer if you ask them to explain the difference (without looking at examples).


Google has implemented the simplest thing (from the user's point of view) that meets the needs of the situation, namely:

  • provide all of the options needed to enable the user to achieve their objective
  • make it clear what each option does
  • prevent users from choosing a combination of options that cannot work together

Yes, it would be possible to do this differently (as shown by other answers here), but all (?) of the other ways I can think of are more complex for the user than what Google has implemented.

In a real-life situation, a user is very unlikely to choose one of these mutually-exclusive options and then try to choose the other as well. In nearly all cases, they will just choose the one they need and not pay attention to the other one. Google prevents them from selecting both, just in case. So, very few (if any) people will have the minor inconvenience of having to first uncheck one before being able to check the other.

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