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Google testing what could be 'dramatic' Gmail redesign

Company testing new navigation, moves Hangouts and adds mobility functions

May 12, 2014 03:51 PM ET

Computerworld - Google appears to be testing a dramatic Gmail redesign that could surprise users.

Screen grabs of the redesign on sites including Geek.com show big changes to Gmail's look and functionality. Geek.com, which appears to be testing the changes, notes that Google is trying out new features such as the ability to "snooze" an email, setting it to return to the top of the user's in-box at a later time.

Google declined to comment on the screen shots or to confirm whether it's working on a redesign of its free cloud-based email service.

The company frequently tests redesigns and changes to various products, including Gmail. But just because Google tests a new feature, that doesn't necessarily mean the feature will be launched.

While Google is testing what analysts describe as "dramatic" changes, the final product may not include all of the modifications nor be as dramatic.

"Wow, this is a dramatic change," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "This strikes me as an uber simplification, or dumbing down of the interface. I believe they are getting feedback that their dual navigation UI -- one that goes vertical and one that lies horizontally -- was confusing. Gone are the tabs, replaced by navigation along the right rail."

Hangouts, Google's text, voice and video chat service, also is being promoted in the redesign. The service has been raised from the lower left corner of the Gmail page to the upper right-hand corner.

"They want more integration with Google+, and this is one aggressive way to do it," Moorhead said. "Google is constantly looking at changes to their site to change user behavior. Some of these are small changes, but some, like this, are major changes."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, noted that a lot of the potential changes appear to be focused on mobility, in that they seem to be designed to make email easier to read, manage and respond to on the run.

"There are a number of new features that improved the mobile experience," he said. "Particularly enabling users to jump from email to other areas like travel, purchases and news without needing to switch between apps because they can do it all from inside Gmail."

This article, "Google Testing What Could be 'Dramatic' Gmail Redesign," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

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

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