About three years ago, Google changed their logo from a serifed font to a much more lighthearted and “bubbly” sans-serif design. Given that the serifed font had been a part of Google’s logo for the past fifteen-some years, this was a pretty drastic change in design. Here’s a comparison image for review.
And, about three years later (present day), this rounded design has, in some ways, begun to creep its way into many of Google’s products, Google Chrome and Gmail being two of the latest subjects (victims?) of this design change. Earlier this year, Google began to phase in the new Gmail design, which sported a much rounder, more bubbly design. And, to their credit, they did a fairly good job of phasing this new interface in, presenting the changes to a small group and, as of late, the general user base of Gmail. While I don’t consider the new design of Gmail to be particularly bad — I actually like some of its new features — there are a few problems I have with its user interface.
Aesthetically, at least, I’d have to say I prefer the old interface, something about it just felt a bit sleeker than this new design. Of the features kept, though, it’s good to see that the user still has the option to display how dense they’d like their inbox to appear from “comfortable” to “compact” as it’s great to be able to choose how many emails you see at one time. Of the features added, however, the sidebar (located to the right) is probably one of the biggest changes. Clicking one of the small icons on the sidebar opens up an additional, even larger, sidebar to be used for calendars, notes, and other purposes depending on the extensions the user has chosen to add.
Although this new “toolbar design” is certainly convenient, allowing you to perform more tasks from within your inbox than before, it’s a bit too cluttered. Giving the user the ability to have a calendar (or notes, tasks, etc.) open within their inbox almost feels like a bit too much for a single web page. It would make a bit more sense to just open these applications in a separate tab by default than have them crammed into your inbox. It’s also important to note that the user can download additional extensions to be placed on the toolbar (notice the plus sign), so the default three icons can certainly increase from three. While I have yet to download more extensions for my toolbar, it’s not a stretch to say imagine that one could overload their toolbar with a myriad of extensions, leading to an even more cluttered inbox. And, I can appreciate why they would make it possible to open so much within one space, as it could definitely be efficient at times, but that efficiency would come at the cost of some disorganization. Interestingly, the “round” aesthetic the new design seems to be embracing implies simplicity, but this isn’t exactly the case.
I think a better solution would be to continue incorporating a toolbar of some sort, yes, but only have it lead to external pages, rather than placing additional content within an already disorganized inbox. In this redesign, I would place the toolbar somewhere near the top of the screen (above, or maybe even below) the search bar, giving the user the ability to quickly access their calendar — or task list, or etc. — from their inbox, but opening said calendar in another tab. A toolbar that allows the user to efficiently access peripheral information, albeit in another tab, would make for a much more organized experience.