Iconography is meant to be recognized without an explanation. If it can’t be identified without words attached to them, then it’s really not doing its job. That’s why I’ve always wondered why Google tied labels to all of its icons, but I do understand the need to do so from an accessibility standpoint.
However, as time passes and its users become more accustomed to what each of its “iconic” symbols mean, there’s really no reason to write under them as it takes up space and feels redundant. In its latest update to Gmail, Google has removed the labels associated with the bottom navigation.
As you can see in the image below, the “Mail”, “Chat”, “Spaces” and “Meet” icons no longer say those things below them. In addition to this change, the extra screen space has been given back to the user and the navigation height and padding have been shrunk. There’s still enough padding to give each icon space to breathe, but no more than is necessary.
If you ask me, this is a great change. I wonder if the company will make it an optional toggle in the Settings of the app though just in case certain users would prefer to identify the icons with the text that previously accompanied each visual element.
It’s a small change to be sure, but one that some users may be confused by. I’m happy for it and hope that we see this trend across other Google-owned apps and services – maybe not across every bit of the interface, but certainly across primary navigation locations since they’re so commonly, well, navigated. Let me know in the comments what you think of this change, and if you want to move about your apps with imagery or with text.
I’ve also noticed that the app’s previously announced contact chips have begun to show up on mobile, no longer being stuffed into the search bar and allowing for rapid sorting of email in bulk. Any and all updates we get to the UI and UX here are improvements, and I’m glad to say they’ve already helped me to reach inbox zero faster.