So Inbox, by Google, hides checkboxes for multi-select behind a message icon:

enter image description here

I am personally not a fan of this approach, since I find it a stretch for a user to try and discover if images or icons are hiding (potentially important) interface elements, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think this is a good pattern or not, especially for a wide audience (whether web-savvy or not)?

  • It's not great but at least it is an optional app so there is bound to be experimentation, particularly from Google (whether they get it right or wrong!). I think it would become very worrisome if such features were implemented as part of Googles default mail package. In that scenario I would think of my poor mother and how flustered she would get trying to figure out and adapt to the new patterns. Commented May 17, 2016 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


This pattern is definitely not good. It increases user's cognitive load which might end up users saying: 'I don't know how to select multiple messages', and leaving your website; assuming you don't have that feature at all. Because the number of curious/tech savvy users on web is a lot less compared to the ones who just visit web to complete their tasks and go.

It is interesting to see the source of message upfront but combining it with the important checkbox is stupid.

They could have placed a checkbox and the icon side-by-side; that would have made more sense and would have been more usable.

  • 1
    Agreed - it seems like a fixation on "clean design", taken to mean as few visible elements as possible, at the expense of clarity or usability.
    – recognizer
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 20:47
  • My feeling too. Commented May 19, 2016 at 10:30

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