New Gmail themes

20 Nov 2008 - 5:40am
5 years ago
23 replies
2579 reads
Ryan O'Malley
2008

What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?

Personally I'm not a fan - there's a lot of extra visual noise and the
contrast is poor on many of them.

It's a shame there's no (working) option to opt out or switch to the old
version, which I find particularly strange considering it's the primary
email client for a lot of organisations.

I understand that Google are supposedly trying to shake off Gmail's "nerd"
image but all of a sudden it feels a little like... MySpace.

R

Comments

20 Nov 2008 - 10:03pm
Sharon Greenfield5
2008

I think those who are inclined to change colours around will love it.
Those of us who just get it sent to our laptop mail application and
never even open the web app, wont give a crap. :)

On Nov 20, 2008, at 2:40 AM, Ryan O'Malley wrote:

> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>
> Personally I'm not a fan - there's a lot of extra visual noise and the
> contrast is poor on many of them.
>
> It's a shame there's no (working) option to opt out or switch to the
> old
> version, which I find particularly strange considering it's the
> primary
> email client for a lot of organisations.
>
> I understand that Google are supposedly trying to shake off Gmail's
> "nerd"
> image but all of a sudden it feels a little like... MySpace.
>
> R

20 Nov 2008 - 10:19pm
Alvin Woon
2007

uhm you can go back to the old version by choosing the 'classic' theme,
instead of the 'default' one. =)

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 10:03 PM, live <human.factor.one at gmail.com> wrote:

>
> I think those who are inclined to change colours around will love it. Those
> of us who just get it sent to our laptop mail application and never even
> open the web app, wont give a crap. :)
>
>
> On Nov 20, 2008, at 2:40 AM, Ryan O'Malley wrote:
>
> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>>
>> Personally I'm not a fan - there's a lot of extra visual noise and the
>> contrast is poor on many of them.
>>
>> It's a shame there's no (working) option to opt out or switch to the old
>> version, which I find particularly strange considering it's the primary
>> email client for a lot of organisations.
>>
>> I understand that Google are supposedly trying to shake off Gmail's "nerd"
>> image but all of a sudden it feels a little like... MySpace.
>>
>> R
>>
> ________________________________________________________________
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20 Nov 2008 - 10:55pm
subimage interactive
2004

Smart move by Google.

Allowing customization and providing multiple options via CSS is
something that should be done standard on all SaaS apps. I'm shocked
more apps don't offer it.

As I've found working on my product Cashboard - everyone is a design
critic and everyone thinks they have a degree in color theory. I know
that a lot more than most, being that the majority of Cashboard's
customer base are designers.

Moreover, I believe that people get used to a certain palette on their
screen and are disoriented when presented with alternate color themes.

Think about it this way... Any programmer worth their salt has a
customized coding environment that usually includes custom syntax
highlighting. I personally find it easier to code long hours with a
dark background / light text. I get disoriented when I have to edit
code on someone else's machine with a light background / black text.

I believe often used utility programs like Gmail probably operate on
similar visual principles.

Since changing my gmail theme to a darker gutter / light content area
I find that I'm able to scan my mail much more quickly. The crap that
I don't use that often in the gutter (labels, chat) blends into the
background and allows me to focus on it only when I need it. The mail
jumps out at me more.

--------------------
seth - subimage llc
-----
http://sublog.subimage.com
-----
Cashboard - Estimates, invoices, and time tracking software - for free!
http://www.getcashboard.com
-----
Substruct - Open source RoR e-commerce software.
http://code.google.com/p/substruct/

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 2:40 AM, Ryan O'Malley <r.omalley at gmail.com> wrote:
> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>
> Personally I'm not a fan - there's a lot of extra visual noise and the
> contrast is poor on many of them.
>
> It's a shame there's no (working) option to opt out or switch to the old
> version, which I find particularly strange considering it's the primary
> email client for a lot of organisations.
>
> I understand that Google are supposedly trying to shake off Gmail's "nerd"
> image but all of a sudden it feels a little like... MySpace.
>
> R
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

20 Nov 2008 - 10:59pm
Steve Baty
2009

What *doesn't* make sense is that the haven't just provided the user with
the ability to set the three or four colours themselves and generate a
stylesheet from those settings.

Technically it isn't a big step, so why put out the half-assed version where
I get to choose from a limited set of themes that may (or probably don't)
appeal to me?

Steve

2008/11/21 seth b <subimage at gmail.com>

> Smart move by Google.
>
> Allowing customization and providing multiple options via CSS is
> something that should be done standard on all SaaS apps. I'm shocked
> more apps don't offer it.
>
>

--
Steve 'Doc' Baty | Principal Consultant | Meld Consulting | P: +61 417 061
292 | E: stevebaty at meld.com.au | Twitter: docbaty

Blog: http://docholdsfourth.blogspot.com
Contributor - UXMatters - www.uxmatters.com

20 Nov 2008 - 11:10pm
subimage interactive
2004

> What *doesn't* make sense is that the haven't just provided the user with
> the ability to set the three or four colours themselves and generate a
> stylesheet from those settings.
>
> Technically it isn't a big step, so why put out the half-assed version where
> I get to choose from a limited set of themes that may (or probably don't)
> appeal to me?

My exact thoughts. For Cashboard we offer 10 different pre-set schemes
and the ability to set all colors.

Perhaps the engineer who championed the feature on Gmail was too lazy
to code that part up ;)

--------------------
seth - subimage llc
-----
http://sublog.subimage.com
-----
Cashboard - Estimates, invoices, and time tracking software - for free!
http://www.getcashboard.com
-----
Substruct - Open source RoR e-commerce software.
http://code.google.com/p/substruct/

20 Nov 2008 - 11:21pm
Janna DeVylder
2006

Even if they revert back to the classic, how great for people to see
an instant change and realize how much of an impact visual design and
color can have on your experience with a product. And in the end, it's
just fun for people to feel like they can start to exert *some*
control over their environments, for better or worse if you're a
designer (Hello, MySpace... hello, Lotus Notes email themes like grids
and 'from the desk of').

I'm now also a fan of their gmail labs where you can rearrange and add
features under your settings.

Janna
Enjoying 'tree'... good contrast. Although when it asked where I
lived, I thought it was going to change from day to night based on
location. It's not. :)

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 5:40 AM, Ryan O'Malley <r.omalley at gmail.com> wrote:
> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>

20 Nov 2008 - 11:36pm
Andy Edmonds
2004

>From the cynical / realistic side, every time you switch themes you decrease
the effectiveness of your learned avoidance of the ads for a little while.

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 5:40 AM, Ryan O'Malley <r.omalley at gmail.com> wrote:

> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>
>

20 Nov 2008 - 11:13pm
Gaurav Mathur
2008

Just to link to the discussion on dark background colours and lighter
coloured text
... has anyone tried the 'Black Contrast' theme in gmail?

I was reminded of the Telnet window.

Gaurav

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 6:40 PM, Ryan O'Malley <r.omalley at gmail.com> wrote:

> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>
> Personally I'm not a fan - there's a lot of extra visual noise and the
> contrast is poor on many of them.
>
> It's a shame there's no (working) option to opt out or switch to the old
> version, which I find particularly strange considering it's the primary
> email client for a lot of organisations.
>
> I understand that Google are supposedly trying to shake off Gmail's "nerd"
> image but all of a sudden it feels a little like... MySpace.
>
> R
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

20 Nov 2008 - 11:15pm
Harikrishna VP
2008

I agree with Steve.
It would be an instant hit if the users are allowed to create their own
themes, along with providing few pre-set themes.

Waiting for such an option to unfold in gmail.

Warm Regards,
Harikrishna VP,
Senior User Experience Designer | Usability Engineering Team
Technology Competence and Consulting | IBS Software Services
IBS Software Services

"Steve Baty" <stevebaty at gmail.com>
Sent by: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
11/21/2008 09:29 AM

To
"seth b" <subimage at gmail.com>
cc
discuss at ixda.org
Subject
Re: [IxDA Discuss] New Gmail themes

What *doesn't* make sense is that the haven't just provided the user with
the ability to set the three or four colours themselves and generate a
stylesheet from those settings.

Technically it isn't a big step, so why put out the half-assed version
where
I get to choose from a limited set of themes that may (or probably don't)
appeal to me?

Steve

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20 Nov 2008 - 10:23pm
Robert Racadio
2008

I always get nervous when a site known for its simplicity decides to spruce
things up. The new themes are definitely in that vein. Though pretty, I
find my eyes darting to all the wrong places as some of the themes don't
seem to mesh well with the Google layout (e.g. the Ninja theme).

Robert

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 2:40 AM, Ryan O'Malley <r.omalley at gmail.com> wrote:

> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>
> Personally I'm not a fan - there's a lot of extra visual noise and the
> contrast is poor on many of them.
>
> It's a shame there's no (working) option to opt out or switch to the old
> version, which I find particularly strange considering it's the primary
> email client for a lot of organisations.
>
> I understand that Google are supposedly trying to shake off Gmail's "nerd"
> image but all of a sudden it feels a little like... MySpace.
>
> R
>
>

21 Nov 2008 - 8:51am
Dave Malouf
2005

Janna, the Beach theme definitely changed throughout the day/night.
Also, there are cute little entertaining things through out many of
the themes.

Steve, I hate the whole custom (pick this color, that color). So few
people actually create anything that I would want to represent my
brand. I also feel it is way too much work for most people to do
well. I think providing these was the right move for Google.

I'm not sure if I'll live w/ my "beach" theme very long. But I
like it for now. What I really want is for that theme to translate to
my google reader account.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35848

21 Nov 2008 - 9:18am
Ali Naqvi
2008

Google is about being simple. The themes still allow you to use the
basic theme. I see the 'new themes' as an extra option for those who
are bored of the basic theme.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35848

21 Nov 2008 - 9:27am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Nov 20, 2008, at 10:59 PM, Steve Baty wrote:

> What *doesn't* make sense is that the haven't just provided the user
> with the ability to set the three or four colours themselves and
> generate a stylesheet from those settings.

That's exactly what I was thinking. I tried the Minimalist theme, but
found some of the items had too little visual contrast for
readability. I wanted to tweak the colours a bit.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Nov 2008 - 11:40am
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Gmail is a utility with good enough visual design. I do not feel the urge
for self-expression here.
Other people might feel otherwise about utilities in general and gmail in
particular.

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is design of time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 4:40 AM, Ryan O'Malley <r.omalley at gmail.com> wrote:

> What does everyone think about the new Gmail themes?
>
> Personally I'm not a fan - there's a lot of extra visual noise and the
> contrast is poor on many of them.
>
> It's a shame there's no (working) option to opt out or switch to the old
> version, which I find particularly strange considering it's the primary
> email client for a lot of organisations.
>
> I understand that Google are supposedly trying to shake off Gmail's "nerd"
> image but all of a sudden it feels a little like... MySpace.
>
> R
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

21 Nov 2008 - 4:14pm
Christian Sosa-Lanz
2006

I agree with two points here: the a self-customizing option is too much work for users and i do not feel the need for self expression in this area.

I general though, I feel skins are not a great thing for a tool. They usually get too cutesy and yet not cutesy enough...if that makes sense. Any GUI options provided should be world class. Take for example the templates found in MS Office products. Most, if not all are quite hideous. Compare those to templates offered in iWork and iLife products. It is clear that a world class graphic designer was involved. I like doing my own designs, but it'll take me a month to come up with something better than what they offer. Circling back to the Gmail themes, they are ok, but yes if you gave me access to the CSS I could improve on them. At least find a better image than a mountain scape (come on, a mountain scape?).

21 Nov 2008 - 9:55am
Anonymous

I went back to classic. The classic theme has a blue background for old
mail and a white background for new mail. None of the new themes have such
a bright contrast difference that lets you tell new from old. I think I
tried each one to see if they would show this contrast as well as classic.
Usability game breaker for new themes imo.
On Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 9:27 AM, Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com>wrote:

>
> That's exactly what I was thinking. I tried the Minimalist theme, but found
> some of the items had too little visual contrast for readability. I wanted
> to tweak the colours a bit.
>

21 Nov 2008 - 4:10pm
subimage interactive
2004

One other thing to note is that the google personalized home page has
offered themes for about what, a year now? Perhaps this is part of a
larger rollout through their entire app line.

On Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 6:18 AM, Ali Naqvi <ali at amroha.dk> wrote:
> Google is about being simple. The themes still allow you to use the
> basic theme. I see the 'new themes' as an extra option for those who
> are bored of the basic theme.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35848
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

21 Nov 2008 - 12:40pm
Casey Edgeton
2008

On Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 6:55 AM, Navid Sadikali <navid.sadikali at gmail.com>wrote:

> I went back to classic. The classic theme has a blue background for old
> mail and a white background for new mail. None of the new themes have
> such
> a bright contrast difference that lets you tell new from old. I think I
> tried each one to see if they would show this contrast as well as classic.
> Usability game breaker for new themes imo.

That was my exact reasoning for going back as well. If I can't easily tell
what's read and what's not, it makes it much harder to check my email. Once
they fix some of those issues I might switch back, I thought some of them
were cute.

22 Nov 2008 - 4:31am
Pelin Atasoy
2008

I liked this move, since I found Gmail's standart colors very light for me
to focus on some areas. One of the never themes fit quite well to my
preferences, so I think that will be my classic setting from now on.
But I also think that some of the themes have very light contrast scheme,
which I find (again) a little hard to differentiate between some areas....
However I suppose contrast levels differ depending on screen settings, to an
extent.

Lastly, I always find optional image-based background schemes such a vain
efffort since these kind of preferences are subtle to change even with your
own mood. So if you are an 'excitement' seeker type of user it wont satisfy
you anyway. If Google aims to provide some enjoyment, they would make it
customizable by letting people to add their own pictures at the background,
(may be with some transparency added for visibility) and have a fully
personalized image background. Just think of how many people would prefer to
use default desktop images that Microsoft provided on their desktop, and
feel that they 'personalized' their computer... Providing customizable
images may put some demand on system performance, but in my opinion this is
the way it should be.

cheers..

--
Pelin ATASOY

PhD Student, Research Assistant
Middle East Technical University
Faculty of Architecture
Department of Industrial Design
www.id.metu.edu.tr

METU-BILTIR-UTEST Product Usability Unit
www.utest.metu.edu.tr

tel: +90 312 210 4220

24 Nov 2008 - 5:30am
John Keane2
2008

"Janna Enjoying 'tree'... good contrast. Although when it asked where I lived, I thought it was going to change from day to night based on location. It's not. : )"

I also expected it to change from day to night based on location and was surprised that it didn't...though I now see that it seems to change based on the weather forecast for my location. This is neat enough, but effectively useless since I'm only occasionally at that location...and unlikely to rely on my webmail background to make decisions based on the weather!

I'm actually using the tree theme because I like the colours and contrast of the UI itself the most ahead of the other themes (perhaps the classic theme included). I was also concerned about the lack of contrast in many of the other themes - regarding read v unread mail, the tree theme at least displays unread mail in bold, which gives me more than enough at a glance contrast.

John

22 Nov 2008 - 12:25pm
abhijith.rao@gm...
2008

I went back to the original setting. Some, I outright hated; with
some, I found that I took much longer to finish scanning and getting
through my unread email. I liked one, but will wait till they let me
customize themes, if not letting me create a new one.

Abhi

Abhijith Rao

On 11/22/08, Pelin Atasoy <atasoypelin at gmail.com> wrote:
> I liked this move, since I found Gmail's standart colors very light for me
> to focus on some areas. One of the never themes fit quite well to my
> preferences, so I think that will be my classic setting from now on.
> But I also think that some of the themes have very light contrast scheme,
> which I find (again) a little hard to differentiate between some areas....
> However I suppose contrast levels differ depending on screen settings, to an
> extent.
>
> Lastly, I always find optional image-based background schemes such a vain
> efffort since these kind of preferences are subtle to change even with your
> own mood. So if you are an 'excitement' seeker type of user it wont satisfy
> you anyway. If Google aims to provide some enjoyment, they would make it
> customizable by letting people to add their own pictures at the background,
> (may be with some transparency added for visibility) and have a fully
> personalized image background. Just think of how many people would prefer to
> use default desktop images that Microsoft provided on their desktop, and
> feel that they 'personalized' their computer... Providing customizable
> images may put some demand on system performance, but in my opinion this is
> the way it should be.
>
> cheers..
>
> --
> Pelin ATASOY
>
> PhD Student, Research Assistant
> Middle East Technical University
> Faculty of Architecture
> Department of Industrial Design
> www.id.metu.edu.tr
>
> METU-BILTIR-UTEST Product Usability Unit
> www.utest.metu.edu.tr
>
> tel: +90 312 210 4220
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Sent from my mobile device

Abhijith

26 Nov 2008 - 9:33am
Alkin KORKMAZ
2008

In my opinion, Gmail stepped back in its interface. I was happy with
its old default theme and it is still my preference. I find its new
default theme very unattractive. I tried minimalist for a few days,
it is nice in theory but so faded.

And its picture based backgrounds... Almost all of them are childish,
but only Pebble. Although I don't use, it serves a very stylish
image. However I don't prefer using image based backgrounds, like
Pelin Atasoy. Because fistly as she explained, user's mood changes
frequently, and second they decrease the simplicity drastically.

Regards,
Alkin
Izmir University of Economics
Design Studies

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=35848

27 Nov 2008 - 12:21pm
John Keane2
2008

Ah yes, forgot to mention one probably relevant point - I'm not that bothered about being able to customise the look (I was happy with the classic styling), but my mum loves it, so much so that she was moved to email me to comment on it and tell me which themes she was using.

Perhaps it's not about style or usability, but about play and interaction and emotional involvement.

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