Google revamps Gmail – new look ties in with Google+

1 Jul 2011

Google has revealed a new look for Gmail that gives it a tidier, slicker appearance that draws heavily on the style of its new Google+ social networking interface. The search giant clearly intends to leverage Gmail’s almost 200m user base to develop a social networking empire.

Google Calendar is also getting a new look and users should begin to notice changes in the coming days.

Earlier this week, Google launched its Google+ social networking engine, that comprises features like Circles, which gives users greater control over their various social graphs, a group mobile messaging platform call Huddle, a content sharing stream called Sparks and a multi-user video conferencing hub called Hangouts.

Simultaneously, early users of the Google+ social networking service will have begun to notice a black bar running along the top of their Google pages that unites existing services like Gmail, Calendar and Photos with their existing Google Profile and a meter that indicates if there are new notifications on Google+.

It seems that across the board, Google is doing a major touchup with the aim of combining all of its services under one platform for people who use multiple products, like Reader, Gmail, Calendar and YouTube.

The new-look Gmail borrows many of the design features that are apparent in Google+ and indeed manages to remove a lot of the ‘furniture’ that adorns the traditional Gmail inbox.

“Over the years, adding countless features to Gmail has made it an increasingly powerful communication hub, but along the way the interface has also become more cluttered and complex,” explained Jason Cornwell, user experience designer for Gmail.

A Google-wide effort

Cornwell continued: “That’s one of the reasons we’re embarking on a series of interface updates to help strip out unnecessary clutter and make Gmail as beautiful as it is powerful. This is part of a Google-wide effort to bring you an experience that’s more focused, elastic and effortless across all of our products. The changes are not going to happen all at once.

“We’re kicking things off with two new themes for you to try out as a sort of sneak peek at what we’re up to. Starting today, you’ll see the ‘Preview’ and ‘Preview (Dense)’ themes in the Themes tab in Gmail Settings. Why two themes? Our new interface will eventually expand dynamically to accommodate different screen sizes and user preferences, but until then you can pick the information density that you prefer.

“If you poke around, you’ll hopefully find a lot to like and a much cleaner, modern look, but also few rough edges. In particular, some Labs features may look a little strange in the new themes. We plan to fix these issues as we roll out changes in the coming months.

“You can also expect some updated themes that embody the same design principles but are better suited to working in a dark environment, use a different colour palette, or include the illustrations that we know many of you love to see around your inbox,” Cornwell added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years