Update April 2015. Gmail have started shutting down the grid view trial, they clearly decided against a full rollout.
It’s been just a few days since Gmail announced the promotions tab visual view trial. The grid view has been turned on for some people who signed up for the trial and now we know more.
Read on for a roundup of the current capabilities that the Email community has found from testing the grid. It fills in some of the gaps in the official summary information provided by Google.
- Once an email has been read the image in the grid is given 50% transparency to drop its prominence. The same is true for Ads in the promotions tab.
- If you explicitly reference an image to use in the grid within your HTML, rather than let Gmail picked one, it doesn’t need to be an image used in the email. You can reference any image.
- The grid view is on by default. Well at least for the Gmail users accepted into the trial. That doesn’t mean it’s on by default should Gmail make a full rollout. However, should the grid improve Gmail Ad revenue Google will have strong reason to make it on by default.
- The image is only retrieved once regardless of the number of recipients who receive the email. Adding a unique identifier to the image should make it load once per recipient.
- As an image is loaded when the grid is shown it opens the theoretical possibility of measuring presence in the inbox before an email is opened. This is potentially a whole new way to detect and measure inactives.
- The image is only first loaded by Gmail when the grid is shown to the user. So if a user doesn’t go to the promotions tab or has the grid turned off its never loaded.
- Animation is not possible. If the image is a gif with animation only the first frame is shown.
- Setting the image attribute to “no-cache” with header “Cache-Control: no-cache, max-age=0” causes Gmail to fetch the image each time the grid view is rendered (ie. each time the user visits the tab or returns to the tab upon reading an email)
Remember it’s a trial and quite possible Google will tweak the way it works before any full rollout.
My thanks to Anna Yeaman from Style Campaign and Justin Khoo (check his blog http://freshinbox.com/blog/), who confirmed some of the above details to me.
Jeanne Jennings has also put together at ClickZ a great primer with tips on what you need to consider in design terms for the Gmail grid view.