I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that Google Chat, the company’s replacement for Hangouts, is quite odd in its current state. This is primarily because of its threaded conversations approach which is unusually for long-time Hangouts veterans. Sure, it can be turned off, but not on existing chats or rooms. Instead, you’ll have to start an entirely new conversation with an individual or a team in order to take advantage of a regular-looking chatbox.
You can also currently only chat with one person at a time, and can’t have the contents of multiple conversations populating the screen real estate simultaneously. Worst of all, you can’t exactly mass delete threads and only the owner of a thread can delete them…one at a time. All of this and more make it feel pretty limited compared to its predecessor.
After Google announced that it would migrate standard accounts over to the service in addition to Workspace accounts, it seems as though they may be looking to do a second pass on the user experience for Chat – well, at least its visual design, according to 9to5Google.
As you can see in the image of the redesign, there’s a Google Hangouts-style pop-up chatbox on the bottom right of the screen which separates a single chat out from the main UI and it even has the same minimize and maximize buttons. For all intents and purposes, this design is much more in-line with how Google Chat appears within the Gmail interface.
The left-hand side panel also has a redesigned approach to pinned conversations. Instead of separating out pinned chats into their own header, they now remain under the ‘Chat’ header along with non-pinned chats. Other than that, everything else seems to be identical, but these new changes are welcome, in my opinion.
This new design is only appearing for a few regular users at this time and is certainly a way off from being widely available. However, when it does roll out to everyone, I think it will be more palatable than the current approach, especially for those who have been comfortable with Hangouts for years and who currently utilize Chat via Gmail. Anything Google can do to unify the experience across the locations the service can be accessed in will increase adoption.