As a web-centric company, it’s perplexing when Google’s own web-based apps are among the last to get new features or designs. That may be fine for less frequently used services like Keep, Notes, or Tasks, but Gmail, along with Search and Ads, is Google’s bread and butter. Granted, changing things in Gmail’s web form may be more difficult because it could disrupt millions of users, including businesses, but late is better than never. Google’s new Material You language is finally making its way to Gmail on the web, more than a year after it was first unveiled and debuted on Android.
Google doesn’t always give users the option to return to a classic theme, and for good reason. This would impose a maintenance burden on Google’s developers while also resulting in divergent and potentially confusing user experiences. However, in the case of Gmail’s new look, switching between Material You and Classic is not only justified, but also required, because some Gmail users do not have access to Google Meet or Google Chat.
Google made the controversial decision in January to integrate its meeting and chat services directly into Gmail. On some level, it makes sense because enterprise users and teams may want to jump right into a video call while still reading an email, but not everyone does. You could remove those shortcuts from the UI, but you’d have to go through Gmail’s settings to do so.
Material You arrives, but there’s still a Gmail-only option
That will be made easier with the upcoming redesign of Gmail on the web, which will use the Material You design language. Users who only have access to or prefer to use Gmail will see a Gmail-only layout that removes all traces of Meet and Chat from the screen (via Google Blog). Those apps, however, are available by default in a new navigation bar to the left that includes Mail, Chat, Meet, and Spaces. You can collapse this panel to save space, but doing so hides the entire list of folders and labels.
The Material You makeover alters the color scheme and shapes in addition to the layout. Instead of a pill, the compose button is now a rectangle with rounded corners, and the email list view is sharper and more pronounced. Some may appreciate that Gmail on the web will now look more like the Gmail Android app, but those who do not will still be able to change themes.
The new Gmail with a Material You refresh has begun to roll out globally and is now available to nearly all Google account holders, including those with free personal accounts. Customers of Google Workplace Essentials appear to be the only exceptions, for whatever reason Google has. Now that Gmail on Android and the web have both been updated, Google may finally have some time to ensure that iOS users aren’t left out, though no timetable has been provided.