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Gmail New Interface (Dense)


With the field test release of Google+ – the search engine giant’s new attempt to combat Facebook in the social website wars – there are a number of design updates taking place at various Google services. The above user interface design is a testing version of the new look for Gmail. The above is actually the “Dense” variant of two new Preview Designs that are available in Gmail’s Themes tab.

If you are interested in testing the new Preview Designs, you can easily switch to the Dense variant, or try out the “regular” Preview Design by starting out in regular Gmail, and following these steps:

  1. Gmail Settings – Click on the “Gear” icon at upper right of the Gmail screen, and select “Mail Settings”
  2.  Select the Themes tab. If you are not familiar with Themes, these have been available in Gmail for some time now. I’m a fan of the Tree theme, which is interesting in that it shows a background to your Gmail page that corresponds to the weather in your area. Helpful if you have an office without windows I suppose.
  3. Select either “Preview (Dense)” or “Preview” and you’re off and running. You can easily switch back by repeating these steps and selecting your previous Theme, or try out another.

I rather like the new design. It closely matches the user interface of the Google+ service, in that there is more white space, and it feels cleaner. I happen to think that the original Gmail user interface design was pretty good, so I’m torn between trying something new, and finding it “better” than previous designs, or am I just liking it because it is new? One thing I do not like all that much is that you will see fewer emails in any given window size, regardless of whether you are using the Dense or regular Preview Theme.

Gmail User Interface (Current) with Tree Theme Active


Note the regular Gmail user interface, above, shown with the Tree Theme active. Now check out the “regular” Preview design below, and note how much space is taken up vertically between messages, by comparison to the original design above.

Gmail User Interface (Preview) at Regular Size
It is important to keep in mind that this new Gmail user interface is definitely just a Preview of things to come. I am betting that the final version will include – or third party user interface hacks will provide – options to make at least the email list a bit tighter. The Preview design is very readable, but provides too much white space in my opinion.

As Google+ rolls out, and more Google online properties undergo design changes, I am sure there will be major changes to other websites as well.

What are your thoughts on the new Preview Themes?

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