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iOS 13 Causing Users to Accidentally Delete Emails

Apple moved the trash icon in the iOS 13 Mail app. The new design is causing users to accidentally delete emails.

By Chand Bellur

October 25, 2019 at 4:56 p.m. PDT

Apple Moved the Trash Icon Where the Reply Icon Used to Be

Usability is often a tricky subject matter. Humans respond to user interfaces in different ways. For this, and other reasons, tech companies invest heavily in usability. They design elaborate usability labs with two way mirrors and cameras, to capture how users interact with software.

Unfortunately, usability is often short-circuited. Perhaps some over-caffeinated, ambitious product manager wants to make his or her mark on the product. Instead of usability testing, they shoot from the hip, injuring their users.

Apple’s latest iOS release features a rearranged Mail app. The Trash icon is now located where the Reply icon used to be. This is causing many users to accidentally delete emails, while trying to respond to them.

We’ll likely never know how or why this poor decision was made. It probably did not come out of usability testing or proper engineering process. These decisions are usually the result of side-stepping engineering process, which rarely happens at large corporations.

How to Recover Deleted Emails

If you’ve accidentally deleted emails, don’t worry. As with many digital documents, they’re not really deleted, but just inserted into the trash bin.

Within the Mail app, tap on Mailboxes. A list of all of your mailboxes appears. Tap on Trash to open the mailbox with deleted emails. From here, you can browse or search for your recently deleted email. You can display the search field by swiping your finger down on the screen. Once you’ve found the accidentally deleted email, it can be restored by swiping left on the email. An inline menu of options appears. Select “Move Message…” from the menu and then tap on the folder you’d like to move the email to.

Will Apple Fix This Issue?

Apple’s design decision was wrong, but they may decide not to fix it. People are tapping on delete due to muscle memory. They reflexively tap on the location where Reply once was, without looking at the UI. In a sense, the user is somewhat at fault, as the controls are clearly labelled.

In time, users will learn not to tap on the delete button. Muscle memory will eventually realign with the correct behavior. If Apple were to move the delete button again, it may actually be detrimental to usability.

Overall, Apple products offer excellent usability and user experience. They also make mistakes, and iOS 13 has been a particularly troubled release. For now, just be aware of the delete button’s new location and you will eventually adapt to the new behavior.


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