Product Case Study: HEY

A radical new take on email


Back when I was an aimless college student, in a stroke of incredible dumb luck, I stumbled upon a book called Getting Real that was written by the founders of Basecamp. 

Before I read it, I had no idea what it meant to run an internet business. After I read it, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

So you can imagine how it might feel for me to hear, ten years later, that Basecamp is building a new email service. Mostly, I’m excited! But also there’s a tiny amount of... dread? It’s like when your favorite band from high school releases a new album. You want to love it. But the odds aren’t good :(

This pretty accurately captures my reaction to HEY: it has a lot of cool ideas, and I want to love it...

...but I just don’t.

The worst part, to me, is the design. The sizing and spacing of the interface is borderline geriatric. I want information density, and speed! But the worst is the names. 

Words can’t express how much I don’t like the cute names HEY has for everything. The worst by far is “Imbox” (not a typo™!) which they use to mean “important inbox.” But that’s not the only thing. They also have “The Feed” and “Paper Trail” where newsletters and receipts go, respectively. There’s also a thing called the “Speakeasy Key” (Ahhh! 😧) which is basically a password you can tell people to put in their subject lines which guarantees you won’t miss their email.

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