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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: Reinventing Email

Researchers: Dan Gruen, Paul Moody, Steve Rohall, Bernard Kerr, Robert Armes, Martin Wattenberg, Bob Stachel, Kushal Dave, Mia Stern, Eric Wilcox
Contact: Daniel_Gruen@us.ibm.com

A Collaborative User Experience Project:

To read more about the Reinventing Email as well as the history of the project, go to http://www.research.ibm.com/remail/

Not only has email become one of the most pervasive and successful collaborative tools available, it has also become a key component of IBM's Lotus Software offerings. In many ways, email can be seen as a victim of its own success - users increasingly suffer from overload and interruptions as well as use email in a manner for which it was not intended.

The Collaborative User Experience (CUE) research group has taken a multifaceted approach to understanding and designing solutions to the problem. This approach combines lessons from a variety of sources, ranging from formal lab tests to feedback from customers gathered in informal settings. Our observational and market studies, conducted primarily through focus groups and interviews, identified a number of key areas in which to make user-focused improvements to email tools. Three themes that repeatedly arose were that users feel pressure to respond quickly, lose track of emai, and are overwhelmed by large volumes of email they receive.

To solve some of the problems of email overload, we created a prototype email client that closely integrateEmail, Calendaring, and Chat.

screenshot
This prototype offers the following features:

Email Features We are providing new and innovative uses of threads, collections of messages, sources of information, and visualizations to help users cope with their email.

Calendaring Features We have found that email contains a great deal of time and date information. In response, we have added fast and simple methods to help people move information out of email directly into their calendars.

Chat Features We enable users to respond to email "on the fly." Recognizing that important information is often communicated through chat, we also allow people save their chats along with their email messages for archiving and retrieval.

References:

  • TR 04-16: Daniel Guren, Steven L. Rohall, Suzanne Minassian, Bernard Kerr, Paul Moody, Bob Stachel, Martin Wattenberg, Eric Wilcox, "Lessons from the ReMail Prototypes."