Red alert, people! Gmail is being redesigned. Google sent out an email to G Suite administrators warning them a “fresh, clean look” would be coming to Gmail.com soon. Shortly after the email went out, leaked pictures of the design were posted to Android Authority and The Verge, so we have a ton of pictures to obsess over. So let’s dive in.
The existing Gmail for Web design is one of Google’s oldest, dating all the way back to 2011. While some Google services seem to get a redesign every year or two (like YouTube) the lack of a redesign for Gmail always felt more like it stemmed from a “fear of screwing it up” than anything else. Some people who live inside Gmail will be very vocal if Google breaks anything. Even the 2011 redesign did not go over well.
Thankfully, one of Google’s most popular productivity apps is not turning into a whitespace-infused nightmare hellscape (like say, Google Inbox). The layout is mostly the same as the existing Gmail.com, and, just like today, there are three information density settings to choose from. The new Gmail really does seem fine on the whitespace front.
What we are getting is a lot of new functionality. Gmail is pulling in a few features from its sibling, Google Inbox. First there’s a new “snooze” feature, which lets you remove an email from your inbox for a set amount of time. Second, Gmail.com is getting Smart Replies, which offer up machine-learning-generated replies to your emails that you can send with a single click.
Next, it looks like Google is finally building some plugins for the “Gmail Add-ons” feature that was launched last October. Add-ons live in Gmail as a vertical strip of icons on the right side of the window, offering pop-up panes that can pull in information from other apps. While the existing add-ons are all third-party services like Trello or Asana, with the redesign Google is adding Google Keep, Google Calendar, and Google Tasks integration.
Bringing your calendar information up right inside Gmail sounds amazing for scheduling events and meetings, and hopefully the calendar will be smart enough to automatically show any relevant dates mentioned in the email. Google Keep looks like it will just be the regular stream of Keep notes, which will be nice for updating any to-do lists you have stored on there.
Google Tasks exists today as a panel inside of Gmail and as an absolutely ancient website, but it seems like the neglected service is getting a revamp along with the Gmail redesign. The standalone website looks like it will be getting updated, too, as a new logo and some other changes were spotted by Android Police last month. The problem with Tasks is that it is just a checklist, which seems a bit redundant with Google Keep. It typically has never communicated with any other Google service (reminders and calendar integration would be nice!) and lacks a smartphone app, which makes Tasks really tough to use. We’ll have to see just how thorough this revamp is.
Besides the new features, there are a lot of small design changes, many of which seemingly conform with the theorized “Material Design 2” changes seen in Android P. The font for the interface is changing from Arial to Product Sans—the same font used in the Google and Alphabet logos—while messages are using Google’s Roboto font. Just like Android P, there are lots of round or pill-shaped UI elements. The compose button is a pill, along with the pink inbox selection highlight. I would have expected the search bar to change to a pill shape just like every search bar in Android P, but for now it is still a rectangle.
There’s a hamburger button in the top left, which will probably open and close the navigation panel, just like on Google Inbox. The logo is also back to “Gmail” now; currently it just says “Google.”
The next important question to be answered will be the number of options and settings that survive the redesign change. Will “labs” features be removed? Google does constantly warn that Labs features “may change, break or disappear at any time.” Will all the settings still be there? Will there still be dark themes? In its letter to G Suite admins, Google already warned some Gmail-focused Chrome extensions may break. Thankfully, the design rollout will be opt-in for some time, so hopefully everyone can get their ducks in a row before the mandatory launch.
Google says the new design will arrive “in the coming weeks.” I’d pencil it in for a Google I/O launch.