It seems like just about the time you figure out all the changes with Gmail, Google goes and changes it again. As a user, the added functionality is cool, and often makes life easier. But as a marketer, it's just one more thing to test against when creating your email campaigns. At Tech Marketing 360 in February, CMO of Mashable Stacy Martinet said, "Live in the stream." Gmail is definitely jumping on that boat.
Gmail is testing out a new image-heavy view, making it look, well, like almost everything else online (e.g. Mashable, Etsy, eBay, etc.) Gmail is letting users sign up to be part of the testing phase. But if you don't like the new view, just switch back to the old one. Users have the ability to toggle between the new visual grid view and the standard list view by clicking a button at the top of the tab.
Two words: User Experience. According to Google Product Manager Aaron Rothman, Google is testing this view, "To help you find what you're looking for faster." The change is also supposed to provide you the opportunity as a marketer to give customers "more to go on than just subject lines." The new layout allows for infinite scrolling, which also simplifies the user experience (Tweet This).
Before you run off and change your whole email strategy, remember that we still need to design "mobile first." According to MarketingSherpa's "2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report," 24% of B2B customers open work-related emails on their mobile devices (Tweet This).
Additionally, Litmus' "Email Analytics" published in December states, "68% of Gmail and Yahoo! users' opens occur on a smartphone or tablet." So while it may be important to design with Gmail's new tiled display in mind, many of these readers will be viewing your email on a mobile device, which will not have the new grid view (Tweet This).
Know the details
An email in the new grid view has 4 elements:
Featured Image - A 580px x 400px (or larger) image that shows up as the top, main image in the tile view. If your image is larger, Gmail will scale it down to fit within the provided dimensions.
Sender Image - This is essentially your Google+ profile image. This is yet another attempt to encourage business participation in Google+. Just play along; it will help your email campaigns in the end.
Sender Name - same as before, 20 characters or less to avoid truncation.
Subject Line - same as before, 75 characters or less to avoid truncation.
If you're an email marketer, you NEED to sign up for the field trial to test out the new design (Tweet This). If you are selected, you'll be able to experiment with the new grid view, as long as you have the Promotions tab enabled.
Developers and designers can also get more details on working with the new design on the Gmail Developers site.