What does it take to reinvent email?

How Readdle made an entirely new email experience, that is completely familiar.

We live in the era of self-driving cars, rockets flying to Mars and AI. Many of us live in our email inbox, and the experience that we have there is really out of date. That is why, 2 years ago, we decided to change that and built Spark.

Spark for iPhone was launched last year and it was named by Apple as one of the of “App Store Best of 2015” apps with over one million people downloading it. Spark for Mac came out just a few hours ago and has already elevated the Mac email experience to an entirely new level for many people across the globe.

We are not done yet and have many great things coming soon but today I want to tell you the story of how Spark came to be.

The Why

My own experience with email was bad. Hundreds of people I know felt the same. An unruly and overwhelmed inbox that takes too much time to handle, especially if you manage a few accounts. Hundreds of emails per day have to be sorted, answered or trashed. Everything was too cluttered, not robust enough and had to be changed.

After building other products — including Scanner Pro, PDF Expert and Documents — that are downloaded by 50 million people worldwide, we challenged ourselves to push the boundaries and to solve a problem as big as email. That’s why, when, in 2014, Alex Tyagulsky (our co-founder) came to us and said: “ I know how to fix email!”, we said “Finally!”

The Challenge

Without a doubt, this was the most challenging product we’ve ever worked on. But, it allowed us to grow so much at the same time.

Email is an incredibly hard problem to solve: both technologically and from the user experience perspective. There have been so many companies who tried and failed, got acquired or never shipped their product. Yet, it was this challenge that we accepted.

Me and Alex flew to San Francisco during WWDC ’14 to interview over 60 people on how they use email. We were shocked! Almost everyone worked with email in a different way. How do you create a product for such a broad audience? Moreover, when we were saying that “we want to fix email” to Bay Area “influentials” , they just laughed at us, saying “yeah right, good luck”.

That was hard to hear, but gave us even more motivation to prove that we can do it!

What problem did we solve and for who?

When we talked with people at WWDC, we tried to understand the main issues they have with email. Because, once you know what’s broken , you can come up with a solution.

The main problem we identified was massive overload with email. Moreover, people didn’t always know what was important and required immediate action, and what can be done later. That’s why we had to create a way for people to see important things first, filter out the noise and provide tools to quickly act on both.

So, if you receive 30 or more emails per day, you should know two things . First, there are more than 100 million other people who have the same problem as you and second, we made Spark to help you.

Fixing an overwhelmed inbox

Out of every 200 emails arriving in your inbox, your attention is required towards maybe 15 of those. There’s too much noise.

Spark is intelligent enough to bubble new emails from real people to the top, and the rest are sorted into “Notifications” and “Newsletters” cards. Now, just glancing at your inbox gives you a pretty good idea of what’s important. At the same time, it’s now super easy to batch archive those newsletters you never read. Then, pin or snooze a few emails to get to them when the time is right, and you have an empty inbox.

Once I showed this to a friend he was like: “ Oh wow, I just trashed 1,900 notifications in a second and finally my inbox is empty”.

Here are some other things that we took care of:

  • natural language search
  • smart notifications that only appear when you get an important email
  • customization of swipes, number of emails in each card, etc.
  • integrations with 3rd-party services
  • actionable event invites
  • and much more

Also, we spent A LOT of time figuring out how an email should look to create a slick experience and be easy to read. We transform long email conversations with quotes, forwards and other junk into clean, readable messages that you can consume in an instant. Trust me, it was really hard.

Small details like this won’t make or break your product, but they make a real difference in how people feel when they use it. Of course, in many cases you have to choose between making a product useful or pretty. I think Spark strikes a good balance between being a product that does its job and a product that is visually appealing.

Where is Spark today?

Started as a product codenamed SmartMail more than two years ago, today Spark upgrades your email experience on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac.

Hundreds of thousands people use Spark everyday. All the major technology sites said that Spark is one of the best email clients for iPhone and compared us with solutions from Google and Microsoft.

But that’s just the beginning.

The future of email

Email is not going anywhere .It’s the best way to keep in touch with people outside your company or to update colleagues on some things (sorry, Slack! :).

We believe that the future of email looks bright as it finally starts to catch up with the progress the tech industry made over the last decade. AI, collaboration and assistants are just few keywords you will hear more and more in relation to email in the coming years.

Spark 2.0 is already in the works and it should reinvent the way teams use email. I cannot tell you anymore at this time, but if our vision is right, the chances are that you will be using Spark within your team very soon.

9s5bage

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