Yesterday I was greeted by an icon in Gmail to try their new look. I clicked, played with the new look for a while and ran right back to the old look. Alas, Google seems determined to push the new Gmail look on users, whether they like it or not, so the classic look may not last much longer.
I had two immediate negative reactions to the new design. The style is plain ugly and it also stinks of social networking. There are no clear cut delineations between the email area, the navigation, the ads, and the buttons. Elements seem to have been randomly placed on the page with very little contrast to differentiate the various areas.
Google will probably deny this but the new design is like Google+ crammed into Gmail. Everything has profile pictures in it and email threads look like wall posting timelines now. You can try the compact mode to squeeze everything together but that doesn’t help much. The elements never quite collapse like the classic version.
When will companies learn? You can't force people to like a product. This is the case of Gmail trying to push Google+ on the users and it doesn't work. The Gmail help forums are already rife with critical messages from disgruntled users. If Gmail wants to give its users new look and feel options, that's fine, but not allowing users to have the classic look is just heavy-handed.
Users can revolt and threaten to leave Gmail and hope Google pulls a BoA in the end. But if Google decides to push forward with the new look, it may be time to ditch Gmail for other services. This may be a golden opportunity for Facebook to beef up its pitiful email platform and steal users away.