Actionable Email: This is an extension of the idea used by Dertouzos (in yesterday’s Tech Talk). First, allow for the easy inclusion in email of forms, which allow for action. Second, create standard email templates which can be used for specific actions (e.g. scheduling meetings, participating in opinion polls, placing orders, etc.) One company, Zaplet, is doing just that. An extract from Forbes:
Zaplets–simply put, interactive e-mails– combine the Web, instant messaging and e-mail, You also get a fistful of nifty features–from live chats and instant polls to real-time snapshots of your stock portfolio (or of the progress of long-term projects or of B2B deals) and a personal database of, say, restaurant and movie referrals or family photographs. You can custom build Zaplets and send them to friends; you can even time them to self-destruct after a certain period.
My 3D Searchable Communications Portal: Messaging can do with a better UI than the multi-frame, flat UI we are so used to. Perhaps, it is possible to borrow some ideas from Gaming, so I am in a “messaging space”. Messages can be placed in my virtual home, office (based on themes), etc. All of these can be combined into a communication portal, which I can navigate using some of the technology used for games. This can be especially useful when I am searching for specific messages – I am more likely to remember messages on a spatial map, than by folder!
Auto-Fetch: It should be possible to go fetch pages from key sites (for example, the news websites) and put them in my mailbox. This becomes especially useful when one is travelling. For example, I like to go to news.com, wsj.com’s Tech Center, and redherring.com everyday to search for stories of interest. It would be nice to have these top pages (and not the selection done in their email newsletters) emailed once a day, so that I do not miss out on any stories. Searching for archives or every back-issues of a single page is especially hard on most websites (unlike a newspaper, they are not static and not archived).
Display Multiple Emails on 1 Page: This applies to the web mail services, so I do not need to click and answer one by one (on slow links, this can be especially time-consuming). Each message can have a small action window below it,. This way, I can bulk process emails without having to view multiple pages.
Elapsed Time since email was sent: Many times, what is important is when the message was sent or more importantly, how long has it been since the message was sent (do exception handling: flag messages which have taken more than 15 minutes to reach me). No one seems to show this! What is typically shown is the time when the message was received by our message server. So if a message has been delayed in the network getting to me, I never even realise it.
These have been just a few ideas. I am sure you also have ideas which can make email usage better and make us more productive. Do write in your ideas!