Gmail for web getting navigation redesign

A key part of Google’s integrated vision for productivity is routing everything through the Gmail apps. As part of Workspace becoming available “for everyone,” Gmail is getting streamlined navigation on the web, while Google Chat’s “Rooms” will soon be called “Spaces.”

This streamlined navigation, which will be available later this summer, comes as “Gmail” is now home to Google Chat messaging and Meet video calling. Currently, expanding the Gmail navigation drawer reveals Mail (folders & labels), Chat (one-to-one & group conversations), Rooms (larger conversations), and Meet (start or join) sections that you can expand/collapse.

Web Gmail is moving to a navigation rail (like in Google Photos) with round buttons for Mail, Chat, Spaces (more on that below), and Meet. Once you tap into a view, another drawer appears to the right with familiar navigation. For example, you get the standard list of folders and labels for Gmail and a list of recent conversations for Chat and Spaces.

That said, the top-left corner, underneath the hamburger button, shows an email compose FAB, while avatars of people you’ve just talked to can appear at the bottom. Otherwise, the app bar that features the search field, active status, and other settings, as well as the right rail with add-ons for Calendar, Drive, and more, are unchanged.

Google imagines this as being an easier way to switch between different apps while staying on one page. You can think of it as the bottom bar on Gmail for Android and iOS coming to the web. Meanwhile, the main app you’re interacting with is at the center inside a sheet that features rounded corners at the top.

Google’s key announcement today is how Chat “Rooms” — their Slack and Teams competitor — in Gmail are being rebranded to “Spaces” — a name that might sound familiar. It’s meant to be “a dedicated place for organizing people, topics, and projects in Google Workspace,” if not your “new home,” for work. You can have a chat window — with tabs for Files and Tasks — appear on the left side of your screen while a document takes up the rest of it.

Over the summer, we’ll evolve Rooms to become Spaces and launch a streamlined and flexible user interface that helps teams and individuals stay on top of everything that’s important.

The company sees them as being useful for the times when an email or chat needs to get bigger. It includes features like in-line topic threading, custom emoji/GIFs and other expressive reactions, message pinning, and presence indicators and custom statuses from Calendar while fully integrating with files and Tasks. You can also run polls and integrate workflows with third-party bots.

Google is aiming this redesign to be a gradual rollout, so users can expect to see incremental changes in their Gmail experience as the months wear on.

For starters, you’ll see the new iteration of Google’s design language, Material Design. It’s all part of an effort by Google to enforce uniform branding across all of its web properties. Designers should take note — effective design is rooted in clearly communicating to users that they’ll get the same great UX from all products.

As Jeroen Jillissen, Gmail’s UX design lead, points out:

“Gmail is the first G Suite product to roll out with the new version of Material Design, called the Google Material Theme. This new approach helps us to align the look and feel across the company, making it all feel distinctively Google.”

If you’re like many of us, you rely on Gmail as your primary email service, both for work and personal use. In the 14 years since its launch, Gmail has taken a lot of market share from the once-popular Yahoos and Hotmails of the last decade. According to business-stats resource DMR, Gmail’s share of the worldwide email-client market is about 20 percent today. To say that it’s quite popular would be an understatement.

Gmail has now redesigned certain parts of its user interface, with new features cropping up in unexpected places. It’s all part of an ambitious and broad redesign project that Google will roll out in the coming months to its premier email service.

Here’s are some of the user experience (UX) design considerations that went into these new changes.

The biggest design changes and their effects on the UX

Google is aiming this redesign to be a gradual rollout, so users can expect to see incremental changes in their Gmail experience as the months wear on.

For starters, you’ll see the new iteration of Google’s design language, Material Design. It’s all part of an effort by Google to enforce uniform branding across all of its web properties. Designers should take note — effective design is rooted in clearly communicating to users that they’ll get the same great UX from all products.

As Jeroen Jillissen, Gmail’s UX design lead, points out:

“Gmail is the first G Suite product to roll out with the new version of Material Design, called the Google Material Theme. This new approach helps us to align the look and feel across the company, making it all feel distinctively Google.”

GIF showing Google’s Material Design elements in action.

Besides the visual refresh, they have also introduced the following new features:

New density settings that show attachments right in the inbox.

Snooze.

Collapsible left navigation and right-side panel.

Improved security banners.

Gmail confidential mode.

AI-powered features like “Smart Compose” and “Smart Reply.”

The company’s new features seem geared toward making things more convenient and productive for users as they go about their usual tasks within Gmail. For example, collapsible navigation empowers users to only interact with screen elements when they’re actually using them, and Smart Compose intelligently suggests sentence completers while you’re typing.

Reminds me a little of Google Wave :rofl: