New Gmail app adds a touch of color -- and frustration

Default preference is archive, not delete

Google this week completed an update of its mobile Gmail app, and has adopted a color tile scheme that will look somewhat familiar to Windows 8 users.

The tiles integrate pictures of contacts and when a photo isn't available it uses letters and coloring that may -- or may not -- offer up a fast, visual clue about the sender.

But the makeover has also raised concern. Users interested in deleting emails easily will have to go into their menu settings and change how emails are disposed of. Otherwise, the default is archive, not delete.

The need to manually restore the delete function has caused some confusion, evident in forums, and illustrates why change management remains a leading challenge for IT departments. In Google's case, a user base of hundreds of millions of Gmail users ensures that just about anything it does to change its interface will provoke reactions, good and bad.

One mobile app provider and developer, Ferhan Hamid, CEO of Inadev, generally likes the redesign; when asked to rank it on a scale of one to 10, he gave it an eight.

Hamid said there is so much information coming at users that any effort to make an interface cleaner and easier is always welcome. "I think that's what this new Gmail app attempts to do, and I think they've done a good job of it," he said.

The color tiles help differentiate between emails, and including photos of the sender "is actually very helpful when you're on the go," said Hamid.

Hamid also said he'd like to see email delete process restored without requiring manual adjustments.

"Delete is going to be one of your most commonly used functions, and to not have that on your top bar menu is actually a problem," said Hamid. To make it harder to delete emails, "was a bit surprising to me."

The redesign reviews are mixed. Stephen Shankland at CNet calls the update dumb. Lifehacker says the layout is super confusing.

To restore the delete icon, tap on the three-button menu; go to general settings and select archive and delete actions. It will give three options, show archive only, show delete only and show archive and delete. If the latter is selected, the delete and archive icons will appear in the tool bar for easier access.

Updated Gmail app
Google's updated Gmail app sports more color.

This article, New Gmail app adds a touch of color -- and frustration, was originally published at

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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