Home > Contemplations > The Problem With Gmail’s New Look – A Lack Of Color

The Problem With Gmail’s New Look – A Lack Of Color


I know a bunch of people have written about the new look to Gmail since it was officially launched in the beginning of November (Google blogged about it here). Some people are complaining about the way it was reorganized or certain specific changes like losing text labels and turning them to graphics – most of which I agree with – but no one that I have seen has discussed the lack of color in the new Gmail and how that affects efficiency when composing an email.

What do I mean by this? Well take a look at the old Compose Email interface from Gmail previous to their change at the beginning of this month. When I am referring to the color I am not talking about the overall light blue coloring because while that’s nice and all, it seems to be a simple theme change that can still, I think, be achieved within Gmail. What I am referring to is the way that the highlight color icon has a ‘T’ with a yellow background and a small highlighter with a bright yellow tip. At a glance, I can immediately find this when I am composing an email because my eyes are immediately drawn to the bright yellow. Similarly, to the highlight option’s left is the Text Color option which has the same ‘T’ only next to it is a color palette of six different colors. Again, that makes sense logically and conveys the message of what the button does without any words AND the user’s eyes can quickly and easily find it. There is almost no learning curve or memorization required here – it just makes sense.

Now let’s look at the new Compose Email interface and look at those same exact buttons. You’ll notice that everything is in the exact same order as it used to be but the loss of color on the buttons makes a huge difference when trying to find specific options at a glance.

For some reason, someone at Gmail/Google decided that instead of having a ‘T’ on a yellow background it would make more sense to just put the T on a gray field. Next to it, is a picture of an ‘A’ which is underlined which somehow is supposed to tell me that it is the text color option. The only reason I can think of to switch the symbols themselves – never mind the lack of color – was to make it match the Microsoft Word buttons for the same option but even here Gmail’s designers did a halfway job.

Above, you can see the same buttons taken from Microsoft Word 2010 and while the Gmail Text Color option does match Word 2010’s in terms of formatting it only does so if we assume that everyone who is using Gmail/Word 2010 only sees in black and white. As well, if the point here was to copy the Microsoft buttons why did they only copy some of them and not go whole hog and copy them all? However, I must reiterate that the most important issue for me here is the complete lack of color. I am well aware that it is only taking me an extra couple of seconds per email to format things the way I want them formatted but the reasoning for just getting rid of all the colors – which are helpful visual cues – just eludes me.

Has anyone else found this to be annoying as well? Did I just bring something to your attention I shouldn’t have because now I’ve ruined it for you too? (If so sorry.) Or am I totally alone on this? Let me know!

As for Gmail – do you think you could give us the option to turn colors in the Compose Screen back on? That’d be swell!

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  1. Elizabeth
    November 17, 2011 at 3:24 am

    Wow. I had no clue about that. I’m all about hitting Reply and then Send without customizing fonts or colors.
    But for me, my biggest problem with the new Gmail is the “angular” look. This may seem trivial but it really rankles me, seeing those sharp-pointy-boxy corners….ugh.
    …I like curves.

  1. December 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

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