Is your email marketing ready?
No, your eyes do not deceive you. Gmail grid view is already gone.
Rumors began to swirl last week that grid view was being “deprecated,” the term Google uses for projects they no longer support. People began to tweet, asking if anyone else was having trouble finding the grid view option, and the toggle disappeared from various accounts over a period of days.
"Aww, rats, @gmail killed grid view!" – Said a bunch of email marketers, because they're the only ones who even knew it existed
— Email Snarketing (@EmailSnarketing) April 17, 2015
Gmail's Grid View seems to be gone. Look for yourself.
— Daniel Deneweth (@danielrpco) April 17, 2015
— Karen Hopper (@lalaforte) April 17, 2015
Kinda bummed Gmail made Grid view disappear. I dug it.
— Tim Barribeau (@tbarribeau) April 17, 2015
Now, we have something akin to official confirmation. There was no announcement, but Justin at FreshInbox got a response that, “It was an experiment [Google] decided not to pursue.”
Obviously, marketers know that Google has a history of pulling the plug on projects with little advance warning, the three year long Great Authorship Debacle being a prime example. But unlike the intricate authorship markup, the response to grid view seemed very positive among marketers, though there is little research on consumer thought.
So the question is, well, why?
One possible explanation is that it wouldn’t fit with the ecosystem Google hopes to create with Inbox by Gmail, the still-mysterious email alternative that doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction. What do you think? Does Google have something more up its sleeve?
Updated April 23, 2015 at 3:00 pm
As of October 2013, 24.29% of Americans use Gmail during work hours — and that number has only gone up. Over a quarter of your potential clients, customers, and consumers are looking at your expensive email campaigns via Gmail. And Gmail is about to throw you a curve ball. It looks like Pinterest. It showcases images. And it requires you to think visually. Are you ready to get graphic?
Gmail added tab functionality in June of 2013. The default setting sorts incoming emails into three categories: Primary, Social, and Promotions. This caused a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth as people predicted the end of email marketing was at hand. It wasn’t. In fact, the folks at MailChimp crunched the numbers on over 1.5 billion emails and determined that at the time, “the new Gmail inbox is bringing down open rates, but the change isn’t dramatic at this point.”
Eventually, there was a grumbling consensus that the new tabs weren’t the end of the world as long as brands were sending good content, and marketing pros got back to business. But now there’s a new change, and it requires more preparation for email marketers.
Fortunately, Google has provided marketers with advance notice of the change ahead, along with tips, code, and measurements for taking advantage of it.
According to the blog by Aaron Rothman, Product Manager at Google, all the beautiful images hidden away in marketing emails will now be front-and-center in the Promotions tab, though users can toggle back and forth between grid view and the traditional list of subject lines. The grid view includes a large image, much like a banner on a Facebook or Twitter page, but also an icon thumbnail similar to those social media services. This is not only an opportunity to showcase the images your business has put so much time and expense into creating, but to unify brand presentation by using the same icon-type image across even more of your online marketing — but you must have claimed your brand page on Google+, because that’s where grid view gets the thumbnail.
Grid view is nicely flexible in terms of image files, accepting .jpeg, .png, or .gif images. Animated gifs will be static, just as they are in the body of an Outlook email, so make sure the first frame is visually arresting. It is much less flexible when it comes to dimensions, but the Google Developers site has all the code to get those images where they ought to be and specifies that featured images must be at least 580 pixels wide by 400 pixels high.
A word of caution: subject lines will still matter! Users choose between grid and standard views, subject lines will still be visible in grid view and mobile users on some platforms might not have the option of viewing the image-heavy grid at all.
Over at Marketing Land, Ginny Marvin makes a compelling argument that most marketers aren’t ready for this new opportunity. She helpfully provides a screenshot from her own inbox demonstrating lots of white space and lots of empty icon slots. This means early adopters can really stand out as more potential buyers start to use this viewing option.
As an email marketing pro, grid view is a way for you to leap out ahead of the pack. So how do you plan to make your graphics great?