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Email Feature War Heats up With Gmail Overhaul

Email marketers will find that Gmail users now have a stickier email system—and one that might possibly drive some engagement back to the desktop, thanks to an upgrade Google has made to the system. At the same time, it has made the Gmail interface easier to view on mobile devices.

Google has revamped Gmail with several new design features, as well as more advanced search. It joins providers such as Hotmail, which has been steadily beefing up its functionality.

New Features

Changes include a redesigned conversation view that allows users to read through email threads and view profiles pictures for contacts, making it easier to keep track of who said what. Users also have more customization options, so they can resize the labels and chat areas, or hide the chat area entirely via the chat icon in the lower left.

There is a new advanced search panel, which also gives users new filter capabilities.

Mobile Versus Desktop

Some of the features–the chat area customization, the profile pictures—are best used in a desktop environment, which may increase email engagement in this environment.

Mobile email open rates are steadily increasing, however, mostly at the expense of webmail clients, according to data from Litmus. Meanwhile, desktop open rates have stayed about the same. Opens in mobile devices experienced a 150% increase between January and July 2011, with webmail seeing a 20% decline. Email opens via desktop dropped a slight 2%.

Accommodating Mobile

Google also accommodates the mobile trend with its upgrade. Noting that users access Gmail from a variety of screen sizes and devices, Google has made the spacing between elements on the screen automatically change based on the kind of display being used. "If you prefer a denser view all the time, you can change your density manually in the Settings menu," Google says.

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