In the name of new design layout, the new Gmail restructuring is a big letdown. This entire wait for a more "cozy" look is ridiculous. I have been a loyal Gmail user since 2002 and the interface more or less has remained same. Gmail was a breakthrough in its time due to the concept of conversations and of course the 1GB space but nothing much after that. A big overhaul is required because the way users use their mail has changed significantly over years.
All the emails we receive can be broadly classified into three categories:
1. Mails I would never look again (notifications, signups, evening plans, informatory etc etc)
2. Mails I would need in short term (for reference, to reply or read later etc)
3. Mails I would need to refer in the long term
Even with more than 10 labels and 25 filters, I have to search for any email older than a week and thanks to amazing search functionality this works quite well. Google needs to harness this capability to fullest. With the current layout, my eye concentration is something like this:
The important point to note is a lot of space is wasted in the current layout even with my gigantic screen. The whole concept of listing emails needs to be forgotten because nobody looks through them or goes to the third page to find an old email. They search. It works!
Another point to wonder is : How are the current users using email? Or What is the most important activity they can't do without emails? With all the facebooks and twitters, my conclusion is - attachments. There is no other platform currently to securely exchange documents. This needs to be highlighted and given more importance by placing a box in the front showcasing all the recently exchanged (sent/received) documents. With a little imagination, I came to a layout like below (which I am sure can be improved):
Remove pagination, remove earlier mails, if I need it, I would search it. Show me the things I would need the most after logging in. The next step would be to add the possibility to add widgets in the email interface such as calender, maps, documents and all the other google properties. (Sidenote: goolge tried it long ago with igoogle, but that concept was opposite, that needed your email to be taken out and used with widgets. Here the idea is to make email more powerful but bringing in more and more tools to make them more useful).
Priority email is a step in the right direction but it's too little too late. Some time ago, a Google engineer posted a big rant about how Google is missing on building platforms. Gmail with its millions of users could be a good starter!
I may be wrong, but I don't think I lot of Gmail users worry about the latest HD themes.