I usually use a Gmail draft email as a tool to add some important details. Membership numbers of some websites, the process of some tasks, some user IDs, random thoughts, and so on. This draft is fairly old – been using and having it for about 10+ years now! So, the accumulated data was fairly long and important. Not critical and not impossible to find through other means, but still, this was a curated list of important things.
Yesterday, I ‘discarded’ this draft by mistake. I didn’t even realize that I had discarded it, but when I wanted to refer to it shortly after mistakenly discarding it, and went to drafts, it was missing.
The next logical step was to look at the trash folder to retrieve it. But it wasn’t in the trash! I frantically searched using some keyword I knew from that draft since I access it fairly often. No luck.
I then Googled to realize that Gmail DOES NOT move discarded draft emails to trash. They simply evaporate into thin air!
Now, I have tried all the shortcuts and options mentioned by many, many people online – no luck at all. I have lost that draft set of notes forever. I will get over it and live – not a problem.
But I’m really curious to understand the thought process behind this product decision. Even the very word for that act is ‘discard drafts’. What happens when you discard something in your home? You discard it to the trash can!
And what’s the icon that you click to discard drafts? A trash can! The same icon used to delete emails too! Both indicate, by use of the same visual icon, that they head to the trash folder. Yet, only the draft does not go to the trash can!
For comparison – I checked how Microsoft Outlook treats deleted drafts. It goes to the ‘deleted’ folder! But Yahoo works like Gmail – deleted drafts do not go to trash and simply vanish.
What prompted the Gmail team to bypass that flow and make the drafts permanently vanish? What was the logic behind this design choice?
I thought that it could be because people could store heavy attachments in drafts? But we’re not talking about drafts that remain, but drafts that are discarded! If a heavy attachment draft is discarded, and it goes to the trash, they become part of the will-be-deleted-after-30-days process like a normal email that has a heavy attachment! So, this cannot be the logic.
What else? I cannot think of anything meaningful! For a product with so much finesse and thought, this utterly baffling design choice is really, really odd.
It’s not as if people are not annoyed with this choice by Google. There are literally thousands and thousands of people online (across Google’s support forums, Quora, Reddit and you name it!) asking if there is any way to recover a deleted draft, in vain! And yet, for a seemingly simple and small incremental feature, Gmail has not done anything!
Why? What could be so complex/critical in not considering this simple feature even if it was not thought-through appropriately in the first place?
But a takeaway for you if it is not too obvious by now – do not use Gmail drafts as a note-taking tool. Use Google Keep or Docs/Word for that 🙂