With over 1 billion users, Gmail is arguably the king of webmail. People love it because it gives you a ton of storage space, reliably fends off spam, and the search function—as you would expect—is second to none.
The front end—which hasn't changed much in years—is intuitive, easy to use and has become very familiar. Users can use it without thinking and that's the way they like it. So when new features and new looks come along, disruption is probable.
But Gmail is smart: it understands people are resistant to change. That's why it has carefully designed a transition to ensure users see it as a change for the better.
To start, all users will remain on the “Classic Gmail” and have the option to “Try the new Gmail” at their leisure. This avoids user alienation from an abrupt switch, and lets users discover the value of the change for themselves.
Why this is really good UX:
- Communication, to-do lists, note taking and calendars are the essential tools of productivity, but when siloed they can be a pain to manage. This means the consolidation of the G Suite with Gmail will be a welcomed change as it solves a genuine user problem.
- The page slide pattern effectively keeps the G Suite tools available on demand, while not distracting the user from the core purpose of Gmail. It forms a harmonious relationship between the productivity tools—tasks, notes and calendar—and emails. This method adds value without compromising the clean and familiar UI.
- Giving the user the power to “Try the new Gmail” and switch back lets them adapt their environment to cater to their specific needs. When the user is in control, there’s little risk of frustration.
- The gradual transition phase means Gmail can learn and optimize the experience from real life data—another smart tactic to mitigate risk. When a user does switch, Gmail capitalizes on the moment with a "tell us what is not working for you" question modal.