Gmail New Look: Trying not to be a hater…


The Gmail new look was rolled out while I was on the road, so it’s taken until now for me to really take a good look at it. Let me start by saying I’m not a total hater, but there are some things that do not seem like an improvement to me.

  • The contrast is very poor on the default theme. On a good screen (MacBook Pro or iPad) this is not so big an issue, but on my screen at home it does look very washed out, leading me to squint a little. I’m trying out some of the other themes, but not found anything I like yet.
  • The dynamic menu on the left and dynamic toolbar on the top are a little distracting. When I’m moving my mouse around, things change position, which feels like a design flaw to me. If you are not using labels, you may not see an issue with the side bar, but it freaks me out. I think I preferred the more static nature of the old interface. With a few pulls and tweaks I can reduce the annoyance a little.
  • I was previously using the “Preview Dense” theme, as the “Preview” theme was too bloated with white space. When I switched to the new look it had similar spacing issues as the “Preview” theme. I looked for an equivalent of the “Dense” theme and couldn’t find it. This made viewing on my 13″ MacBook Pro and iPad a little annoying. As soon as I got back home I had a proper look at the interface I noticed the “Settings” cog near the top-right of the screen that gives the Comfortable, Cozy and Compact options for display density. This solved the spacing issue immediately. So the default spacing is definitely a problem for me, but the adjustment using the display density option makes it better than the old interface for me.
  • The top toolbar, as well as dynamically changing mentioned previously, has switched from buttons with words to buttons with icons. I find this a little annoying as I am still having to hover over them to decide which one I should click. In a couple more days I will get used to this, but I think many users (like my mom) will struggle for a lot longer. Although I hate the Microsoft Ribbon interface, for the non-power-user, words make a lot more sense than icons.

If I had taken the time to read this post some of my issues would never have been issues in the first place. 🙂

So the change is not the total disaster for me that some people have suggested it is for them, but it’s not all perfect out of the box either. I’ve posted my feedback to Google.



Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

3 thoughts on “Gmail New Look: Trying not to be a hater…”

  1. Didn’t I say the same that the new interface didn’t go well with me. And when I look at Google Reader, its even worse! I guess, Google is trying to follow Apple’s “it just works” but its not working so nicely for them or may be-for us.

  2. I would have to agree with the icons comments. One of the things that first put me off Toad was the insane amount of icons.

    I think perhaps because I have an (outdated) custom/gallery scheme I haven’t seen the new format for gmail yet. But based on the video, it doesn’t look too bad.

    (and from a developer’s perspective – shit hot)

    You *have* to be able to make it compact!

    I like what they’ve done to things like the search, where you can almost mash your hand on a touchscreen to select letters, the look for something like Reader (which is now crap for it) is often inappropriate if you have a smaller screen.

    Same new features, but gotta have the option to shrink.
    I don’t actually see that option anymore.


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