Gmail’s New Look: How Do You Like it?

Earlier yesterday, I updated my Gmail to the new look. I personally like it because those new functions actually show the sincerity of Gmail group’s efforts of making more clean user interface and more fluent user experience. You probably have seen this video when you update the account, but it does no harm to review it again to remind yourself of all these well-designed features:

To summarize, we have these NEW FEATURES IN GMAIL:

  • Enable customization of the sidebar
  • Redesign the conversation (with profile pictures)
  • Set high-resolution background image
  • Advanced Search
  • Control the display density (comfortable, cozy, and compact)

Among all these features, I could see one common trend — returning more control back to the users in a smooth way. For example, you could now customize the left-hand side bar according to your preferences, which allows me to accomplish more tasks within the first screen by hiding those rarely used tags and moving chatting window up:

New Sidebar Design                 Old Sidebar Design

A wise bonus gained through these kind of “customization” designs might be the enhancement of users’ sense of control and sense of identity, which then leads to a good impression and experience towards Gmail.

If you are about to say “cheers!” to Gmail group, save it for a little bit longer.

Since I want to compare the two versions, I switched my Gmail back and forth between the two (before the old version is totally shut down!) to play with it. Below are some comments I wanted to make.

1. Design of Grouping and Hierarchy

Compared the basic themes under both versions:

See the arrows pointing to the headings called “Starred” and “Everything else”? I really appreciate the old version providing me darker blue color with bold fonts to make them stand out. However, in the new version, these headings are being put quietly in the background color (white), it took me a while to realize there are still different sections. This task will be even harder if you are scrolling the window up and down quickly and trying to scan through items.

2. Visibility of System Status

Now look at the circled “Inbox”. In the old version, they gave it a strip like background to indicate its activation. In the new version, strategy is changed to adapt to the new visual design style, thus it is highlighted through bolding. I would say the old version is more “eye-catchy” because it is more distinguished from other inactivated options. If you think it looks still Ok in the new version, try other themes like this one:

New Gmail

Isn’t it much challenged to find bolded “Inbox” (and also all other texts) in this theme under the new version? But the old version is performing reliable, with not that fancy design. I was using this theme under the old version, after switching, I had to change it to the basic theme in order to ease my eyes.

3. Duplicated Functions

As the carrier of most of the new features, the new setting option is really helpful:

However, with two identical function logos in the upper right corner, it is a little bit confusing and annoying. Since the upper one is inherited from the old version, it carries some functions that overlapped with the new setting button. That means you could get things done (e.g., change email signatures, change themes, and add filters) through either way — then don’t make users think which one they should choose! I would definitely say the newly added one is better, since it pulls out frequently used functions.

Overall, brilliant design of the new Gmail! Very thoughtful new features to fulfill the needs that users even didn’t see. Also very interesting to compare between different versions when they are both available. Play with it and tell me how do you like the new one?:)


4 thoughts on “Gmail’s New Look: How Do You Like it?

  1. Quincy Clark

    Hi Emma,

    Thanks for the post about Google’s new email design. Although, I can’t state with certainly if this new design is a good design as I am still testing. I can say that I don’t find this design effective for Google docs. This could be beacuse I am dissatisfied with Google docs overall design. Anyway, Google email new look is refreshing and uncluttered.

    1. Emma (Zhihua) Post author

      Quincy, thank you for your reply. I am not sure what you don’t like about new Google docs. I personally like that they move those display options integrated with search box, which makes the interface much clean and less cluttered. One thing I don’t like is they removed the section grouping by modified date. So now basically everything is listed, without any chunks to distinctive clearly which are the documents I am working on recently.
      I guess we all need to have time to adapt with these new designs?

  2. Mihaela

    Excellent design evaluation. I think I, too, will miss the highlighting. And the 3D effects. Everything is flat and 2d in the redesign. It seems the new brick-orange is the big new thing, but everything else is too grayed-out…

    1. Emma (Zhihua) Post author

      Thank you Dr. V., for pointing out the difference in terms of 3D and 2D. I guess that is the very first impression that users get from these two interfaces. The problem of the “greyed out” thing is that you seem to have everything there without any clutter, but you actually see nothing especially when you scan through it. I really need that highlighted header back to locate my eyes more easily…


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