KanMail: Email for Freelancers

KanMail liberates freelancers from traditional email by combining chat-style messaging with the organization of a Kanban board.

Project Brief

The modern online entrepreneur needs an email client that is fast, efficient and a little less formal. Busy people would rather text than email and the user needs features that automate her emails to help her spend less time on email.

In the past 6 years more and more teams are moving away from email and towards team communications platforms like slack and discord. Many freelancers are also making the move, but it’s hard to constantly invite new people to a slack channel for a limited engagement.

Project Type
Product Design Project
Project Timeline
1 Month
Skills & Tools

Problem Severity & Risks: Users will keep using tools that were never meant for freelancers and online entrepreneurs. They will waste precious hours in the day sending clunky, formal email because they feel they have to.

We expect online entrepreneurs will start adopting the tool and that it will reclaim hours of their days, weeks and years. A successful metric would be increased productivity for users.

Project Goals:

  • Aim for conversational simplicity—a messaging style more like text messaging or instant chat.
  • Focus on productivity—helping the user to get to inbox zero in a day, or at least know what the status of any given messages is by the end of the day.
  • Help the user know the status of messages—which ones still need a response so they are not forgotten.
  • Canned or templated responses.

The User Experience Design Cycle

I relied on the cyclical UX design process to guide my efforts on producing this app:

ux design process diagram
The UX design process


Research included working with user personas, user interviews, and drawing inspiration from existing solutions.

User Persona

The target user persona is a photographer who is attempting to reduce time spent on email.

user persona details card
KanMail user persona

User Interviews

I conducted four user interviews to collect information on how people currently use email today, what their goals are, and what pain points they experience.

user research interview questions


I pulled together various renditions of email inboxes, and considered different rich text editor environments.

Examples were found for inspiration

Sketches & Wireframes

Sketches allowed me to quickly work out ideas around chat-style messaging. As I got into the wireframing I played more with the idea of mixing Kanban boards into the UX, and how a user might use them to classify messages.

The sketchbook’s right page has some of my initial concepts
A user flow of how a user might send a canned message
A user flow of how a user might use a Kanban board to update the messages' status

Final Product Design

These demos show how a user would send a canned email message, and how they might reassign the status of a message on the Kanban board.

Templated Message Flow

In this flow the user navigates to a new message. The sender is asking about photography packages. Rather than having to write out a response the user is able to pull up a message template, review it for edits, and respond.

KanMail message inbox screen
KanMail templated messages modal

Kanban Message Status Update

In this flow the user navigates to their inbox. The user wants to re-classify a message, that was previously viewed, as new so they can return to it later. The user engages the Triage mode, drags the message card over to the "New" column, and now sees the inbox reflect this change.

KanMail dashboard screen
KanMail message Kanban board screen

Analysis & Conclusion

If I were to continue this project I would need to answer some of the following questions with user testing:

  • Will the user prefer to use the quick actions UI over the Kanban board?
  • Does the user feel limited by the mobile-like messaging box? Are rich-text formatting features necessary?
  • Do the different message statuses make sense to the user? Would they prefer different terminology?

View Inkdoc Template Case Studies

These case studies include details and design work from the implementation.
Portrait of Jacob McAdam
Project by Jacob McAdam

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