GMail Settings

Have you looked at GMail settings recently? I noticed they haven’t changed in about 20 years.

GMail Settings as of Jan 2023

Now take a look at Chrome settings.

Chrome Settings as of Jan 2023

It’s pretty clear that Google has a pattern using Material Design to make these kinds of settings. The Chrome example look just good. So why in the world haven’t they updated the settings of GMail to match?

Look at it. Yuck. 11 Tabs across. The UI is old and ugly. Its overwhelming to find anything. Search is non-existent. It’s a bad design right now.

Why does this happen?

Simple really. There are no designers or engineers looking to upgrade it. GMail probably a small skeleton team made to keep it running with minimal changes. Truthfully, GMail itself hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years. With no competition, there is no reason to innovate or keep it up to date. It does it’s job and Google has other priorities.

It’s crazy to think that a system used by hundreds of millions of people has so few innovations over the years. This is a system ripe for disruption. Google has done a masterful job of making it annoying to move. I can’t imagine throwing away my GMail account just because the settings area is ugly.

So we are stuck. Google has no incentive to make it better and we have no incentive to leave. We are in a dysfunctional relationship with our email.

Design Challenge

If you are a fledgling designer, why not redo the GMail settings in Figma using Chrome as an example spec? Make the design detailed so that the Google engineers would know exactly what to do. Maybe rewrite the microcopy to make it shorter and easier to look at.

Don’t make a case study, make a design. Make a spec.

Too many designers have too few business apps on their sites. This is a good example of something easy to design that would show well on your site. It’s good practice in Figma using a library of components and good exercise in prototyping.

If you are struggling to find work and are interested in desktop product design, then I would recommend doing this sort of thing often. Hurry up before AI can do it faster and cheaper than you!


Whatya think?