A new update on GMail’s official blog titled ‘How real users helped us develop Gmail’s new look’ goes into detail how the new interface design came to fruition. Actual usability studies have been conducted, and those studies included observing the users as they went through their daily dose of GMail. A test setup:
A quote of the post on the study, and looking at long term look besides first impressions:
As we continued to develop the new look, we evaluated our progress through additional usability studies with even more people. Much of what we captured from these studies was users’ first reactions to the new look. But Gmail is something people use repeatedly, not just once. So in addition to first impressions, we were also interested in seeing how people adjusted to the new look as they used it repeatedly in their daily lives.
At the end of the post the GMail team offers the option to become part of the User Experience Study. The link is google.com/usability which even includes the option to let a Google researcher come over to your home and observe you (field study). Cool, I wonder if they use camo tents to blend into the environment?