Thoughts on HEY

The launch of HEY has been pretty divisive. That might be expected given the founders have created such an opinionated product for a fundamental internet function.

I’m coming to the end of my trial and it’s been a positive experience. It’s not a perfect product, but it’s already improving my email workflow and I’m interested to see what happens next.

Background

Like many people, I use email as a to-do list, and not a particularly functional one. Unread messages needed to be actioned, and I’d be hoping not to accidentally leave a message ‘read’ or archive it.

For years, I used the native Gmail app. This worked ok, but switching between email services was a bit of a hassle, especially as I had six email accounts to check:

Things improved when I started using Spark. I particularly liked the calendar integration and how pinned emails displayed, but some ongoing sync issues forced me to rely on backup email apps.

Using HEY

A few things stood out to me as attractive HEY features:

A couple of years ago, I looked into the possibility of blocking all incoming emails except for specific senders. This is possible with Boomerrang, but only on their $15/month plan.

Though HEY doesn’t offer this exact functionality, I thought the combination of services might help to achieve the same effect: reducing day-to-day email clutter and everything that brings.

Email workflow improvements

Here are the benefits I’ve found:

  1. Screening emails forces me to make a decision about a sender. That might mean accepting but unsubscribing, sending all emails to The Feed or something else.
  2. Bunching emails from a single sender is incredibly useful for some clients who might send several emails a day.
  3. Reply Later, and specifically the Focus & Reply mode, is a great productivity hack. Previously, I’d have replied to things immediately, but I now bunch up emails that might take a few minutes and crank through them in a much more efficient manner.
  4. The Feed is a neat way to browse newsletters and other promotional stuff. As the emails are already open, I actually look at the content: something I never did in Gmail’s Promotions/Updates/Forums folders.
  5. As someone who uses email as a to-do list, Set Aside (pinning) is a useful separation from Reply Later.

The combined effect has been a much calmer email experience. Even though I usually have emails to respond to, the Imbox is regularly empty: something that almost never happened before.

Improvements

A few things I’d like to see:

Custom domains will rollout soon. That will be another good thing as “business” accounts/custom domains will bolt-on to personal accounts: no account switching.

It’s been encouraging to see how the founders have responded to feedback, so it will be interesting to see where they take the product next.

Summing up

One of the main attractions about this product is that it’s privacy-focused. For me, that alone justifies the price (as it does with services like ProtonMail).

There’s no doubt competitors will copy features that prove useful. But the privacy aspect is something HEY will always have over much of the free competition.

It’s true that HEY might not be completely revolutionary: I could have replicated some of the features and sorted out a much better email system with filters and blocklists. But even after all these years, I hadn’t done this.

For me, that’s where such an opinionated service is handy. I don’t want to have to make decisions about how to sort out my email: for now, I’m quite happy to use HEY’s system.

That won’t be the case for everyone. If you’ve got a good system in place and like how your email works, HEY might not be an improvement for you.

For me, the UI and email workflow has forced me to change the way I manage email. So far, that’s been a good thing.