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I am working on a startup and one of the features we thought we would implement is the ability to send email to other users/groups who use the application. Email isn't a core piece of what we do, we just thought it would be nice to have that ability.

At first I didn't question it, but now I am starting to think it's not a good idea. Personally I prefer to use my own email whenever emailing someone. People already have so many different apps and things they need to sign into or navigate to. Why would they send an email from my app? It seems like a feature we just don't need.

I'm asking this question here because to me this is a UX question. Which user experience is preferable - emailing from your day to day email client, or doing it in some random application that you have to log into?

One thought I did have is that email is often hard to track conversations...so if we had something where the email conversation could be tracked in our app (through replies etc) then we could provide some sort of useful conversation repository. It wouldn't be cluttered up by emails not related to this application.

Thoughts?

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    "Which user experience is preferable - emailing from your day to day email client, or doing it in some random application that you have to log into?" -- seems an intentionally loaded question designed to solicit a particular response. You could have loaded it the other way: "which UX is preferable, sending a message to another user immediately, or somehow finding their email address and firing up a separate email client?" – Steve Jessop Sep 1 '14 at 11:57
  • @SteveJessop Yes I have my opinion...so I'm looking for other opinions. – richard Sep 1 '14 at 12:17
  • Yes, in-app stuff is good. If you do it right and don't force it on them as the only way of performing a function then it's good. – jay_t55 Sep 3 '14 at 9:31
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    @baeltazor I think that's the key. Allow them to communicate with email outside the app too. – richard Sep 3 '14 at 16:50
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It depends on the app. You need to establish whether messaging is an integral part of the workflow for your users.

Social platforms and collaboration apps often include an internal messaging mechanism. Other types of apps - not so much.

But don't get hung up on the term "email" itself, because it will restrict your thinking to the conventional email - with a subject, body, possibly CC/BCC functionality, rich text, attachments etc. etc. Rather, find out what kind of messaging is most appropriate for your users in your specific context. It may be instant messaging. It may be a finite set of icons / objects. It may be a canvas for free sketching. It may be a forum or a chat room. It may be any form of communication. Or it may not be appropriate at all.

  • But it most probably doesn't need to be SMTP, unless you're going to notify users of pending messages, like SE or FB does. Most of the time, simple in-app messaging would do. – phyrfox Sep 2 '14 at 1:07
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This is an example of Letts Law (Variously Zawinski's Law):

"Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can." Email is vital always.

The question is this: Do users of your App expect to communicate with other users of your app?

If the answer is no, then why would you include that.

If the answer is yes then clearly the ability to reach my target from within the software that connects us is a reasonable and fair expectation.

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My conclusion is this:

The value-add isn't email or even the ability to communicate with people in the same organization. Obviously users have access to email clients already and could easily use those for communication.

What I have concluded IS of value are these things:

  1. Ability to view communications without extra noise from other communications of people not in the organization.
  2. Ability to organize communications in ways traditional email can't or doesn't (viewing an email thread in a forum format, for example)
  3. Ability to consolidate communications of various types into one cohesive view (combining SMS, email, and forum posts for example).
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Email is different from in-app messaging. People may not want to provide their email address or make it appear as a link within your app so others can email them either through your app or using an email client.

An in-app messaging is where as long as the user is registered within the app, he/she can freely communicate with others within the app and not worry about sharing their email address and probably receive spam (not from you but from the users of your app) in future.

An in-app messaging can also deliver the message directly to the user's inbox if the user wishes to.

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