Umuse: The Power of One
Today is an exciting day for us here at Umuse. After 18 months of development, Umuse is moving into an early beta. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of alpha users, we’re now ready to make Umuse available to a wider range of users. You can read more about today’s news in Scott’s blog post here.
We built Umuse to help knowledge workers manage the growing volume of digital communication in the workplace. Between email, chat and text messages – we get a never ending stream of messages, notifications and distractions. Our mission? To tame this chaos and give you back control over your day. We know we have a ways to go but we think we’re onto something and I’m excited to share our progress so far.
So what is this new animal we’ve created? In a nutshell, we’ve built a personal communication platform for the enterprise. Umuse is designed to give you the power and flexibility of email, with the speed and intimacy of chat, prioritized into one integrated Facebook-like feed. Today, we support Gmail and Slack and have plans to add more channels in the future. In short, we’re trying to come up with a way to reduce the amount of notification distraction you receive each day at work to help you manage your communications more efficiently.
Here’s what we’ve developed to get us there.
One App. All of Your Messages.
Early on, we had this crazy idea to create one stream for all of your email and chat messages. Hey, 2 billion Facebook users can’t be wrong. And so, the Umuse Feed was born. Optimized for volume and designed for speed, our goal with the Feed was to give you all of the communication that mattered most, quickly and efficiently. Umuse gives you the option to manage multiple email and chat accounts within the Feed so you can stay on top of all your communications. We had four main objectives with the Feed:
- Scan: Umuse gives you the ability to quickly see all of your email and chat conversations together in one message stream. Scroll through the feed to see what’s important and bypass past what’s not.
- Zoom: With Umuse, you can quickly spot which messages are critical and who they came from. Scroll through and focus on what’s automatically opened so you never miss what matters.
- Reply: With one view of all of your messages, conversations become simple. Umuse helps you reply inline without switching from app to app, keeping you in the flow of the conversation.
- Search: Umuse allows for global, cross channel search eliminating the need to “hunt and peck” for information across disparate applications.
Modern Email, Manageable Chat
Integrating email and chat, two disparate messaging streams, into one integrated feed was a lot harder than we anticipated. We had to reconcile two completely different UIs, two varied back end infrastructures, different messaging semantics and some heavy behavioral baggage. And once we brought the two together, the differences between them became increasingly noticeable and impossible to overlook. Chat had all of these cool, expressive, features that encouraged quick, informal, real-time conversations. Email just seemed to stick out like a sore thumb – it felt formal, “heavy”, slow and outdated. If we were going to make them work seamlessly together, we knew we had to modernize email and bring some structure to chat.
We took several approaches to help email fit into the modern world:
- Smart formatting gives email a more compact and efficient chat-like presentation. For example, we hide replies, signatures, and forwards that are known to make email feel a bit heavier and cumbersome.
- Emojis, reactions, and animated GIFs you know and love in chat are now available in email. As a result, conversations in Umuse become more expressive and fun.
- Inline replies let you respond to messages in-context right in the flow of the conversation. This encourages quick, informal, and interactive conversations – letting you get more done faster.
In our approach to modernizing email, we made some key updates to how we integrate chat in order to bring a bit more structure to real-time messaging to create a more cohesive experience.
- Reduced notification distraction so you can keep your focus. Umuse displays your most important chat messages within your Feed so can stay focused on what matters and not get distracted by what doesn’t.
- Search across all of your chat messages so you can easily find and reference information in a conversation when you need to.
Focus on Your Inner Circle
With one place to manage all of your messages and hopefully a more productive way in which to do it, we knew there was an opportunity to take things one step further and develop a way to zoom in on important conversations. Enter, Inner Circle.
We know not all messages are created equal. That email from your boss is probably more important than that cat-gif from your coworker. Our Inner Circle technology uses machine learning to build a social graph of your personal communication, which adapts and learns over time. The technology can analyze your communication habits and creates a sender score for prioritizing your messages. We use that sender score to automatically open those messages in your Feed so they clearly stand out from all the rest. And to top it all off, we made it easy for you to control – you can add or remove people from your Inner Circle with just one click.
I’m very proud of what the team’s been able to accomplish since we started on this path over a year and a half ago. Are we done? Absolutely not. We know we have a long way to go. There are bugs to fix, feed semantics to dial in on, and a never ending list of features that you’ve been asking for, like an address book and a calendar integration.
That said, we’re really excited to take things to the next level. We’ve got some cool ideas coming like Topic Following, adding text msgs to your feed, and more to help simplify communication in the workplace. You can learn more about our future product plans here.
Finally, to our more than 5,000 users – thank you. We couldn’t have gotten this far without your feedback, honesty and patience. To all of our new users, welcome! We’re happy to have you and hope you like what you see. Please share any and all feedback with us – it’s nothing but helpful and it will be increasingly critical to our progress throughout this next phase. Join us on the adventure!