Record High: How We Made Attaching Images in myMail for iOS Real Easy

According to myMail internal statistics, 80% of files sent via email are images. We, too, send dozens of templates, prototypes, and screenshots every day. Naturally, we wanted to make such a common use case more convenient, — so we did. As a result, sending photos and videos via our iOS app is much quicker and more convenient than via our competitors’ apps. For example, you only need to make five taps in myMail to attach three photos to a message. This is 10 taps less than in Gmail and as much as 13 less than in Apple Mail. Let us tell you where this idea came from, and how we brought it to life.

Identifying a use case

Work on new features passes through several stages. The first one: we identify how people use our app. What can be improved? In the search for an answer, we collect feedback and the App Store reviews, survey beta testers, and analyze the statistics. This is how we found out that 80.5% of all messages sent by our users contains image files.

We have been continuously and systematically simplifying the process of writing messages and attaching files to them for a long time now. We added:

  • a list of frequently used contacts that is synced to the web
  • the option to select files from Dropbox and other file hosting services
  • the option to compress images before sending

And now we were going to streamline the process of attaching images.

The old way

Before our improvements, attaching one photo required 5 taps:

  1. tap the paper clip icon.
  2. select the option Photo and Video.
  3. select the album.
  4. select the photo
  5. tap Ready.

Better than in Apple Mail, but still far from perfect.

The first improvements

We surveyed users and reviewed the statistics for beta versions. Almost all photos are sent from users’ Camera Roll albums, and many users do not have any other albums at all. The logical change here was to remove the album selection step. Now Camera Roll opens immediately; to select another album, the user taps Albums.

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Then we made selecting several photos at once more convenient by adding a multiselect by swipe feature. Now you don’t have to tap each photo or video: just swipe.

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Design

Attaching a photograph to an email still required four actions. We set a goal for ourselves to reduce this number to three without impeding other use cases, such as attaching files from other apps. Thus, we developed several versions. Below we will demonstrate them using the layout of our myMail app.

Version1

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Version 2

2

Version 3

3

 

We discarded Version 1 immediately: two icons next to each other are confusing and make the selection harder. Moreover, it does not actually reduce the number of actions. The other designs had both upsides and downsides. For example, in Version 2, users sometimes were forced to tediously scroll through thumbnails before finding the photo they wanted. The upside was that the user did not get confused because they were still in the same context, on the message writing screen. To select the best version, we tested both.

Prototyping and testing

It is useful to show design versions to people from other departments to get initial feedback. We showed our two versions to our colleagues and analyzed their reactions. Based on the results of the survey, we selected Version 2 with thumbnails in a dialog.

The next stage of working on a new feature is prototyping. The prototype allows testing the feature in action without wasting time on development. We use a variety of tools for prototyping, and in this case the prototype was assembled in the POP app and
then handed over to the UX lab. For testing, we invited users of our app who are not designers or developers. They were asked to attach both a single photo and several photos. We used an eye tracker, which records eye movement while using a mobile device, for control purposes. The test showed that this way of attaching photos is simple and user-friendly. Shortcomings were also revealed:

  1. People did not always notice that after the files were selected, one of the options below turned into an Attach button.
  2. Users wanted to see the number of selected files.

With all of their comments and observations in mind, we developed the new design: the button was made more visible and now showed the number of photographs.

image-08-08-16-07-18-1 image-08-08-16-07-18

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So, the bottom line is that now myMail allows users attach photos faster than other email apps for iOS. Let’s just compare the number of taps required to attach three photos in popular email apps.

myMail 5.2.1 5
Apple Mail, iOS 9.3.2 18
Inbox 1.3.2.9 6
Yahoo 4.6 6
Gmail 4.4.0 15

The difference between myMail, Inbox, and Yahoo is insignificant, but we are still one tap faster. And by comparison with the native client (Apple Mail) any alternative one looks great.