Aol’s new Alto Web-based email client is beautiful and does a nice job with the presentation of organized mail. The UI is clean and the service feels modern in a way that most Web-based clients don’t. While I’ve tinkered with it, I haven’t really put it through it’s paces quite yet. That said, I noticed an odd interaction flow that seems like a significant mistake for something that has so obviously had a lot of design attention.
In the video below, you can see the issue – in order to act on one or more messages in the sidebar, you click a label titled “Actions” at the top of the screen, which then slides up and causes an action bar to appear at the bottom of the screen – about as far as possible from your current moue position. I reduced the size of my browser for the video, so the distance is much more pronounced in real world scenarios.
My gut reaction is that the action bar should drop in from the top, reducing the distance required to move the mouse, and making the relationship explicit. It is also a clearly established pattern to place controls above lists. Following an existing pattern is by no means required, but breaking it is a very explicit decision. I’m curious about the logic behind that decision.