[Product Talk] Why should you NOT use Gmail (vs. Superhuman, Hey, Apple Mail, Outlook)

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

For first-time readers, each week we pick up one product and discuss the best ways to use it along with possible alternative products. For past discussions, you can check out the Zoom and Slack threads.

This week, I want to kick off a discussion around email clients. We've been using Gsuite for 4 years now and have stuck with the Gmail client. I use the browser version itself.

But there are some really powerful alternatives available - 

1. Mail client on Mac - Free. I tried my hand at this a couple of times, but never had the time to put in the effort to switch.

2. Superhuman - Paid, $29/mo. I really dug into the product early this year when I got to read about the startup's valuation. I was impressed by the speed it promises to offer, but I didn't think the price point was justified. Although if you look at it from the perspective of paying to be in an elite club, then it might be worth it.

3. Hey - Paid, $99/yr. Launched recently and gained immense popularity. I only saw the explainer video by Jason Fried but never got a chance to dig deeper.

4. Outlook - Paid. Mostly used by big companies or enterprises. I used it between 2012-2015 and from what I recollect, it isn't something I would switch to, from Gmail.

Here's a few problems I face with Gmail right now - 

1. The search is slow and not so great without filters.

2. Unneeded widgets in the interface, e.g. Meet, Hangouts etc.

3. The app has become slower over the years and if you've add-ons sitting on top of it, the performance is even worse.

4. No easy or intuitive way (out of the box) for things like email templates, achieving inbox zero or powerful keyboard shortcuts. You are on your own to figure out and execute the best way to achieve efficiency or set up workflows.

What's you experience with email clients or Gmail in particular? Have you used any of the alternatives I mentioned above?

Here's what our users had to say:

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "@kevinsimons-476, @nicofromtomo: Noticed the 'Sent via Superhuman' signature in your emails πŸ˜‰ How's your experience been with Superhuman? Any change of thought after the launch of Hey?"

  • Kevin Simons said "I've been super happy with Superhuman. It's a ridiculous cost ($29/month) but we at Kitemaker take a lot of inspiration from it in our own product, so I live with it. Has it made me more efficient overall? I don't know, but it's great and getting better all the time. They just started rolling it out calendar functionality, so they clearly have their sites set on expanding their offering. Using SuperHuman and Kitemaker all the time, I get annoyed with products that don't have great keyboard shortcuts :-)  TBH, I wasn't super excited about Hey. It kind of starts from the premise that email is broken and we need to do all this stuff to fix it. But honestly, email works kind of find for me, I just need a great client (which superhuman is). I also don't want a hey.com mail when I've had my gmail one forever (and yeah, I know I could forward it but still). And stuff like naming it the Imbox is just pretentious sillyness."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "And stuff like naming it the Imbox is just pretentious sillyness haha, totally agree. But as much as I get irritated with the pretentiousness of it all, I think for a lot of people, that seems to work. Even in Superhuman, the aspect of being part of an exclusive group is surely a big sell. The "Sent via Superhuman" does give a good feeling to many. So, as a consumer, it sort of irritates me, but as an entrepreneur, I just think there is something to learn here."

  • Kevin Simons said "Definitely. There's a velvet rope around Superhuman and they're using it very well. Another thing to learn from those guys is their test for product market fit: https://firstround.com/review/how-superhuman-built-an-engine-to-find-product-market-fit/ We send this questionnaire out to our users at Kitemaker too. According to the survey results we have product market fit, but we don't actually believe we're quite there yet."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "That's really nice. I read through the article some time back and I liked the rationale of having an objective metric around product-market fit. I am curious to know more about Kitemaker's results. Are you open to sharing the results/ responses publicly or do you already have an article around it?"

  • Kevin Simons said "We were just above the magical 40% with a lot of other respondants choosing "somewhat disappointed". Can't remember the exact percentages. I guess we ought to do it again soon because the product has gotten a lot better since then and there are more users to ask ;-)"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "That's great! I was also keen to know more about the other responses like the audience for the product and what's the most loved feature. But I will hold on to my curiosity till you maybe do a full-fledged article around this :-)"

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Absolutely, that 40% benchmark level does seem like a very solid indicator. So big congrats to you if Kitemaker is getting that kind of acceptance from people! πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰ I think the product-market fit question is very subjective. So, to get a conclusive answer is always going to be very difficult, if not impossible. Add to that your role as a founder, you are always going to think that there is room to improve :) The way I see it, a startup goes through various stages of product-market fit. The idea is to not get too lost in product building nor try to look too far ahead. Each time, you expand your market gradually and ensure that they love your product. So then building a startup becomes a series of product-market fit achievements. In that way, we don't complicate the problem of getting user feedback too much."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Great to hear that Kevin. Oh yes, I saw a lot of people talking about the new Calendar functionality. I get annoyed with products that don't have great keyboard shortcuts. Haha, that's true. I still have 'Try out Kitemaker' on my todo - will surely do so this week and share my thoughts :-) But honestly, email works kind of fine for me, I just need a great client (which superhuman is). I also don't want a hey.com mail when I've had my gmail one forever. And stuff like naming it the Imbox is just pretentious sillyness. Well said! I would myself not pay a premium just for these things."

  • Mark Walter said "Hey provided a rationale behind naming it as ‘Imbox’ by stating that it is for Important mails but I feel its sole purpose is to distinguish from other email clients. Never knew people would dislike it so much that a plugin was created just to reverse it back to ‘Inbox’ :P"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Haha, I didn't know this existed πŸ˜…"

  • Brendan said "I've been turned off by the price AND by the fact that it seems to be really complicated... in that you need to significantly change behavior and be rigorous with certain rules and codes. Is that the case? (I'm on Android and won't go to Apple because I don't want to go through the retraining process just to use a different phone.)   B."

  • Kevin Simons said "I personally don't find it complicated. I love hotkeys, so it feels great to me. And before Superhuman I used Google Inbox and Mailbox, both of which encourage similar behavior (snooze and archive things, get to inbox zero). Totally hear where you're coming from on the price. It's crazy. I normally wouldn't pay for it but for us it's a reasonable business expense. I would assume Apple-only is a temporary situation. If you're curious, you can always email the CEO. He's insanely responsive."

  • Brendan said "Thanks for this. Not a power user in that sense, so you've confirmed that my resistance is well-placed!"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Yes, absolutely. It does require a significant change of behaviour and there's a learning curve to getting used to the hotkeys as well. That's also part of the reason why they have a popular concierge onboarding. But the argument there is that you form the right habits. Although there's truly no counter to the price argument. It just is really premium pricing."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "@adontai-392: We spoke about Hey a month or two back when it was just launched. How's your experience with Hey so far?"

  • Justin said "Big G Suite fan, but totally agree with one of your comments 2. Unneeded widgets in the interface, e.g. Meet, Hangouts etc. I also use/prefer the browser version vs. a mail client and the forced presence of the widgets really slows down the speed and impacts the user experience. Having said this, I don't know what I'd use as an alterantive. We tried ZOHO but we couldn't break the Google Drive dependency, which makes Gmail kind of a default 🀷"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Oh yes, I am guessing it would cause a problem with all of Google products - Sheets, Docs, Drive, Meet etc. I actually never even tried Zoho mail. But does it give you the option of just an email client connecting to your Gsuite account? On a different note, we don't have such a great experience with Zoho CRM. Nothing terribly wrong but doesn't compare with the likes of AirTable. And we have a huge DB sitting in Zoho CRM, so we have to fire up multiple Zaps to make use of AirTable and connect with Zoho πŸ˜• So I am not so hopeful about Zoho Mail being a better alternative to Gmail 😐Although if I remember correctly, Zohomail allows you a free email account on a custom domain (unlike Gmail)?"

  • Lindsay King said "100% agree with everything you mentioned, Justin. From a nonprofit side, Google Drive is the easiest way to work with volunteers, board members, and interns, and that basically makes Gmail the default. I do love Gmail for most everything except the widget issue and the blasted search function."

  • Justin said "Yea, "free email account on a custom domain" was the major reason for us giving it a try πŸ˜‚ (you may recall, gmail used to do that as well actually) To be honest, it wasn't even that bad an experience - decent UI/UX. But it was mainly due to our comfort with Google Drive & Docs. I also once tried the ZOHO bookkeeping app but it didn't really offer much region specific support so ended up switching to Xero."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Haha, makes sense πŸ˜€ Oh yes. Plus the support is also just alright, in my experience, but not as extraordinary as AirTable. Folks at AirTable even helped us figure errors in custom script blocks (🀩) which sets a really high bar. It almost took me ages to get something rectified when I was using Zoho Camaigns for our newsletters."

  • Brendan said "You can have a custom domain with Google mail. I used Zoho Mail and it's actually quite good. And cheap/free. Plus they aren't snooping your email content. But it doesn't integrate well with G Drive or calendar apps like Calendy. We use Freshsales CRM and I send a lot of my emails through that. Like it a lot, and the API is pretty robust."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Oh yes, we tried Freshsales for a bit and loved it. But we were only using their mail marketing functionality, so didn't make sense to pay for the entire CRM. If I remember correctly, they don't have an independent email marketing service (outside of the CRM that is)?"

  • Brendan said "They do have a email marketing capability now, but when I tried it a few months ago it was very unreliable and didn't have some fundamental features...and no real integration into Freshsales. That is a headscratcher, and the enticement for using it."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Oh alright, I will give it a try again sometime then. We are anyway planning to move away from Mailchimp and also evaluating alternatives for email sequences."

  • Brendan said "I'm using ConvertKit and like it. If you're going high-volume, look at Twilio(SendGrid). They have a great deal for start-ups."

  • Lauren Cooney said "Superhuman is what Gmail should be. It automated things that are simple & repetitive tasks & made things drop dead simple like following up with clients, colleagues, customers. It also kind of puts you on that cutting edge of cool, too.  The price point should really be more like $19 & they need to integrate calendar better, but it's getting there. A huge challenge will be if they can make it into enterprise; many big orgs don't allow for this."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Very interesting points Lauren! I think the high price is very intentional as that itself becomes a user-selection measure - only the super-interested individuals subscribe. It also makes it very exclusive and gives it the premium product tag (à la Apple feel). The enterprise angle is a real thinker. I somehow think that's never going to be their target market, as that would need a very different thought process in terms of both product building and sales (I can be extremely wrong here). It seems to me that they are trying to build a brand for individuals only for now. But for all we know, they might sell the company to LinkedIn in a few years (like the founder's previous startup) and Microsoft might take that route with the company :P."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Superhuman is what Gmail should be. Wow, that's really a statement now 😎 I think by trying to offer everything in their suite of products, Google just bloated Gmail and made way for Superhuman. Also, this line caught my attention πŸ‘‡ It also kind of puts you on that cutting edge of cool, too.  Just trying to understand what part of Superhuman actually makes it look cool. Is it a feature (like hotkeys for every action) or just the exclusivity around the product or something else entirely? Thanks for sharing your experience & thoughts, Lauren πŸ˜€"

  • Maria Jose Perea Marquez said "I am using Mail client on iPhone and iPad and MS Outlook on Mac. Honestly, I am not really happy with the selection, but it's currently the best alternative for me, when you need to run several accounts and on top being a mixture between exchange server, IMAP, where you want also to synchronize the respective calendars.  MS Outlook for Mac is like all the other office products inferior compared to the Windows versions and while the gap got smaller over years, there is still a gap between MS for Mac and Windows. Relating to Google and Gmail: I am currently exploring whether or not we'll switch to the entire GSuite. I think (and I am of course interested in other views), that it does make less sense to switch only for a specific tool rather than use the entire suite for docs, sheets, etc."