I am developing a system to serve the purpose of communication between specific users already registered on site. It will be part of a little social functionality. Will it be a good to have the ability to users, to use their email clients to access the messages on site?

The pros out of it in my point of view are:

  • Portability - Will help users access their messages in the ways that they are used to.
  • Proven implementation - The implementation will not require any 'reinventing of the wheel'

Cons which I can think of:

  • None?

EDIT as I see little misunderstanding in the answer from @JohnDeters

I think that I had to provide a little more information on the webapp itself. Firstly it will serve mainly students(schools, colleges, unis et al). So the 'mom test' will be a rare case, which will be acceptable loss, although the application will be able to provide access to the PMs which are sent to the user, so the configuration and usage of such functionality will be optional.

App Info:

The application is a social-like app to be used by specific communities and not by general public. The app is NOT a forum board nor anything of this kind. It is a social orientated community platform.

  • Wouldnt they have to configure their email clients to receive email?
    – Mervin
    Feb 3, 2014 at 20:51
  • Well yes, but it will not be anything more complex than adding email account to your phone. (IMAP/POP, incoming/outgoing servers, username and password). The point of this is to be able to easily reach out the mobile users and in the same time, not to make the app to have to be always open in a browser tab :) Feb 3, 2014 at 21:03

2 Answers 2


Cons: (which I can think of)

  • My mother could not set up and configure her own email client. It fails the "mom test".

  • Typical mobile phone clients have one default account, and that's all the users understand. They won't understand that posting to your forum has to be done by first picking the special "forum" account. Some people will end up sending their forum posts from their personal account. Others will send private email correspondence to the forum.

  • Your users may see privacy concerns "sharing their contacts" with the use of your forum - never mind that it doesn't work that way, there will be concern from a certain segment of paranoid people.

Managing multiple email accounts is beyond the technical capabilities of a significant percentage of typical users. It might be a good option for the techno-elites but I probably wouldn't make it the primary interface for the general public.


Cons: You have to support an email backend. (After reading your clarifying comment)

What would you do if the user tried to send an email to their mum using your server?

  • If you route the mail, you've created a full new email address, which they didn't ask for.
  • If you bounce it that could be pretty annoying: depending on their mobile client they may not easily be able to resend from a different account

And if you did route it, what would you do when she replied? The same problems apply.

Instead, why not allow them to set use an existing email account to receive messages? I've come across "reply to this email to reply to the thread" recently but I can't think where from. That would seem like a nice take on the feature.

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