Posted May 27, 2014 5:40 pm by with 0 comments

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Gmail is testing a new format that turns your promotions tab into a photo gallery. When the user toggles to the grid view, Gmail features a photo from the email along with a brand icon and the subject of the message.

Gmail Grid

Grid view looks like a combination of Pinterest and Facebook and new Twitter – guess the whole internet is moving toward this style. It certainly makes for more compelling viewing but then Gmail created a lovely demo page that works perfectly. What are the chances of the average box looking this good. What if a promotional email doesn’t have a photo or it only has a small photo. Where is that brand logo coming from?

If you want to make sure your emails will look their best, you can use the provided markup, but you don’t have to. Given that more than 500 million people use Gmail, it’s probably wise to follow the new rules. I’m not a big fan of the grid, but I have to admit, it makes skimming my email more interesting. The downside for me is that I’m so focused on the image, I don’t notice the text. Which means marketers now have to invest more time in getting the image right over getting the subject right. In the above example, my eye goes to the white-space heavy Etsy block and the neatly lined up Uber box. Watch ESPN is too dark, Good Eggs is too fussy – plus, is that a household cleaner on the table with all that food? Aribnb confuses me – looks like a Hobbit house and Gilt. . . well, sorry, I’m not attracted to the image of a headless woman.

Photo cropping is likely to be the biggest issue with this new grid option. Like I said, I doubt my Gmail list is going to look this neat and nice.

If you want to be a part of the beta test, you can sign up here but Google says it’s a very limited trial so don’t get your hopes up.

I think this has the potential to push certain brands ahead of the pack but will users actually use it? Visually, it’s appealing but the message is getting buried. To me, a clear subject like “B1G1 Meal Deal at Olive Garden” is much more effective than an image of a plate of pasta.