This weekend I mentioned that the "new look of Gmail" was remarkable mainly for how much more white space, and how much less info, it presented to the user on each page. As a reminder, sample shot of new-look Gmail below.
The readers respond:
- Many, many readers wrote in to say that in addition to this airy new "Preview" look, there was also a "Preview (Dense)," which shows more info.
Yes, indeed. That's what I was referring to in this part of the earlier note: "If this is anything like Google's previous offerings, users will have the option of sticking with old settings, or using a "dense" version of the new settings with more info shown." And while it would have been more sporting to call the variant "Enhanced" or "Extra" or "Super-Length" rather than "Dense," it is a step.
- One hypothesis on origins of the new look:
>>Maybe user studies showed they had a lot of misclicks when trying to open a particular message? It might be a Fitts's Law thing: make acquisition easier by increasing the size of the target area. They may also be trying to drive users toward heavier use of tags and search to locate messages rather than using their eyes to pick them out of a big pile. Priority Inbox felt like a different tactic for reducing the amount of eyeball work required to find things you were likely to be looking for, but maybe they decided it didn't work all that well and are trying to push users into solving the problem individually.
Between this and Google Plus, it's been a big month for Google pushing users to create taxonomies for their stuff.<<
- Another view. it's just the wave of the future:
>>Web 2.0 was putting rounded corners on everything. Web 3.0 seems to be less content, more fluff. I've seen the same 'extra white space, less content' redesign on several recent site redesigns. I sent in feedback on several sites, but they've all kept their 'less content' designs.<<
- Or, it's part of the endless quest for speed:
>>They're constantly trying to figure out how to get the page to load faster. I think the standard is this: how quickly can the customer start using the page?
I think that Google's access to archived mail stretches out the time needed to load full functionality, so prioritizing what loads first makes sense.
I can't remember what computer you've said you use, but the MacBook Pro laptops I use overheat, especially when actually held in my lap. (That problem is ameliorated when it's placed on a flat, hard surface, like a tray.) [JF note: Agree on the problem, and this way to lessen it.]
Heavy graphics use seem to be particularly challenging; even using a screen view that makes the file icons look like mini-views of the first page of a document can make the chips heat up faster. It's the chip in the back left quadrant of the machine that really heats up, gets the fan moving, which I'm convinced only adds to the problem. Fan operation creates heat.
I've just looked at their explanations, and they say they've "pruned our pixels", which I take to be a confirmation of what I just said. The new page also seems to make less use of colored background boxes with black outlines that have colored text knocked out. Again, less use of the graphics chip.
I also believe the cursor is a major hog of computing power. When I had less internet bandwidth, files that 'hung up' could often be kick-started by using one of the arrow keys, which makes the cursor disappear. The cursor looks simple, but if you look carefully, it's a black arrow with a white outline that has an additional gray rounded-corner outline. (I also wonder whether the angles used in the character are a particular problem.) Calculating and subtracting these pixels when you move it around dents computing capacity, and I think it must use less when it's on a white background.
That's all I know, and it may be that none of it's true.<<
More after the jump.