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Gmail gets a Google+-like makeover

Google, rolls out tweaks over next few months, going for consistent look

July 1, 2011 12:38 PM ET

Computerworld - Google is giving Gmail users a glimpse of design updates that will roll out over the next few months.

Those updates will make the email service look a whole lot like the company's just-launched social network, Google+ .

In a blog post Thursday, Jason Cornwell, a user experience designer at Google, noted that the company is aiming to give Gmail a cleaner look and make it easier to use.

Gmail isn't the only Google application that's getting a makeover this summer. According to Cornwell, Google Calendar will also get a new look that will be revealed in the next few days.

"This is part of a Google-wide effort to bring you an experience that's more focused, elastic, and effortless across all of our products," Cornwell wrote. "The changes are not going to happen all at once. We know that you love and care about Gmail as much as we do, and we'll be working on these upgrades gradually over the next few months to allow plenty of time to understand and incorporate your feedback into the evolving design."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said it makes sense that Google wants to create a consistent look for all of its services.

"A consistent look is essential for branding," he said. "People should know they're on a Google property. Even someone glancing at someone else's screen should know they're on a Google property. It may be that Google+ was just the first view of the new look."

As of Thursday, users could try out two new combinations of colors and graphics for their Gmail interfaces. The new design options, which Google calls "themes," are known as Preview and Preview Dense; they pick up on the look of Google+ and make Gmail pages more airy with a lot more white space. With the new themes, Gmail messages look quite a bit like status updates on the page.

The new themes can be found under the Themes tab in Gmail Settings.

"These are not major changes. I think [Google] implied that the coming changes would be incremental, which is a good approach," said Gottheil. "They want their look to be current. And a consistent look makes everything easier to use. To the extent that there's overlapping functionality -- and there is -- you want the same functions to look the same and, to the extent possible, be in the same place."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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