A Miscellany on Google Design


1) The designer Khoi Vinh (right, from his site) was design director of NYTimes.com from 2006 to 2010. He actively likes Gmail's new "sea of white" look, about which I am less enthralled. Hey, I'm only a word guy, so what do you expect. Khoi Vinh says:

>>I think it looks terrific, if only because among other improvements it finally heeds my advice that the Gmail interface could be dramatically improved with just a bit of extra spacing (this is a point I made three years ago in this blog post by gently modifying the then-current Gmail interface to reflect more careful spacing). The designers of this new theme have gone even further than I suggested by adding an extremely generous amount of spacing in the theme's list view, but thankfully there's a slightly denser option available that, in my opinion, strikes just the right balance.<<

I'm still not sold, but I liked the NYT's look during his time so maybe he'll prove right. (Thanks to Geoff King.)

2) On ever-rich Google+ topic, John Tully has created a shared, mass-editable Google doc to amass tips and tricks about using the new Google+ features. His announcement says, with clickable link:

>>A lot of great G+ tips are coming through. Created the beginning of a tips and tricks doc that is editable by all who have the link below.
Welcome to Google Docs <<

3) And, back to the look of the new Gmail, after the jump we have more from Atlantic reader Mikey on whether we're learn to love the extra white space:

>>1.  One of the biggest advantages of web applications is that the application is maintained by the provider, not the user.  So upgrades, features and GUI all happen without effort or intervention.  Even though this can result in some unexpected changes, overall it is a HUGE leap forward for system management and maintenance, and a big win.

2.  Most GUI issues are user comfort/habit based, not actual functional problems.  After a certain amount of time spent working with a piece of software, we become experienced and comfortable with the way things work, even with horrific GUIs (SAP and Microsoft, I'm looking at you).  Significant changes reduce our productivity in the short run, which we perceive as a less optimal GUI, but after some usage we become well versed in using the new interface and most concerns tend to vanish.

3.  Google is a SEARCH company.  One of the truly GREAT things about their applications is the way files are indexed on their servers.  They have developed their own database and file system technologies to facilitate search.  Google Docs, Gmail and Google Music all are best navigated by search and sort, rather than browse.  People haven't learned yet learned to make optimal use of cloud-based storage, and still tend to function as if all storage is still local, but once you make the leap the advantages to productivity are tremendous.

When Google Docs went from Folders to 'Collections' it messed with my comfort in a longstanding paradigm, but ultimately I have found that, for me, most of these changes really do turn out to be improvements...<<

In general I agree, but I don't see falling in love with the new look. I'll check back later.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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