I’ve signed up for hey.com for email and have used it for personal email for about 7 months. Here are my thoughts and review on it so far.
First, I think it’s a challenge to build a new email service and compete with something like Gmail. I think there are a lot of good parts of it, and I’m still using it, but I also find it lacking in a lot of ways.
I think that opinionated is good, and you need to be opinionated to create a reason to switch email services, however some of the opinionated design really seems more like stubbornness, and not a superior experience.
So: why am I still using it? I think there is one killer feature, which is very smart and I haven’t seen anywhere else. The feature is the screener: essentially by default people cannot email you, and you have to let them in. And if you want to screen something out, you can do that at the email app level, and not need to deal with unsubscribing in the service. That alone has changed my personal email for the better, and is alone enough of a reason to recommend hey.com. The reason is because it means that instead of a constant stream of random emails and a lot of endless work trying to unsubscribe, my personal email is now really mostly emails that people write to me. This makes it less cluttered and easier to use, and more likely to be a real email.
This would be even more valuable for my work email but hey is missing too many features for me to want to use for work email.
I think if Gmail added a screener feature, i.e. by default people cannot email me and I can let them in or easily unsubscribe within the email app, I would go fully back to Gmail. However, I don’t see Gmail adding that in the near future.
They split up into the inbox (called Imbox – my vote on that is that is a bad name), the feed, and the paper trail. The paper trail and feed are pretty good and mostly work. But that paradigm seems slightly better than the Gmail version of that, with manually categorizing.
Things that need improvements
Hey needs snooze. It seems pretty easy to build, it’s a good feature of other email apps. It lets you bring back an email for later. I use this a lot, and this workflow is missing. I understand they’ve made certain design decisions in the app, but I don’t think that allowing that feature, as a built in option, or an option you can enable ruins the core experience of it. I think it’s a key one to add back, I find it very frustrating that it is missing.
I think they should add send later, again they could by default leave it out of the interface and let you enable it.
I think filters could be added.
Compose on gmail is very fast, compose on hey is kinda clunky.
Search on hey is quite bad. I search and end up in a random email, and the search results display is hard to use. Gmail search beats hey search by a lot. Again it is hard to compete with Google here but the search is bad.
The keyboard shortcuts feel random to me, and it doesn’t feel like they have all the shortcuts to really get around.
I would like to have the ability to “star.” Maybe each email just I understand there is Set Aside and Reply Later, and I don’t think these are great features. There is a problem with email which is what do you do with things you read but aren’t going to reply to now?
* Mark unread to indicate you have to still process it
* Leave in inbox to indicate you still have to process it
* Move to a particular section (like Reply Later, or Set Aside) to indicate you still have to process it.
Basically, there is always the question of where do I put things I’m not done with yet but still want? In my personal gmail, that was my inbox. I kept it in my inbox until it was done. In hey if you open it, it goes out of the inbox. You can then set it aside or mark reply later. Or you can mark unread. I’m finding I need to mark unread, which is not a great workflow, and is the same workflow many people had in their gmail that I did not have.
The problem I’m finding with set aside and reply later is that those effectively becomes stacks of things to do later, i.e. they’ve just become a Gmail inbox for later. So the inbox is either these stacks, which isn’t great, or things I keep marking unread. Also if you don’t want something in the stack now, but you want to look at it later, or remind yourself to check back when it is relevant say in a week or two weeks, they don’t have that. This is what snooze would do. So I don’t think their implementations of Reply Later and Set Aside solve the inbox problem, I think they just move the problem. I find visually it is too easy to ignore the stacks, so if I’m actually tried to keep something to do, I just leave unread in the inbox.
I’ve found I still use google SSO in so many places I keep my gmail login. They don’t integrate with google calendar, and those invites don’t work. I’d almost rather allow my gmail email alias to send from the hey.com app.
I’ve also found that the paper trail is generally good, but has a few pitfalls. I think it’s fine to move receipt emails out of the way. But not all emails from a particular email address are the same type of email, and the system does not handle that well. So important emails could go to the feed even if 90% or newsletter. Or important notifications could go to the paper trail even if 90% are receipts.
For example, I had a credit card declined email. That went to the paper trail. I didn’t see that until a while later. I’d rather have those emails go to the inbox. If you could filter words like “urgent” or “attention required” on paper trail emails to the inbox that would be an improvement.