As of January 2024, Google is discontinuing the option to display Gmail on your browser in the Basic HTML view. A new post in Google's Help Center says Gmail will automatically change to Standard view. Standard view is a richer version of the program, and Basic HTML is a simple version useful for slow connections and outdated browsers.
In an email, a Google representative acknowledged that the Basic HTML view will be disabled beginning in January, saying those views "were replaced by their modern successors 10+ years ago and do not include full Gmail feature functionality."
The representative said users on older browsers may need to update their browsers to use the Standard view and added that in the coming weeks, users will be notified about the change and how to switch to the Standard view before the Basic view is disabled.
It's possible you don't even know about the Basic HTML view, because it isn't easy to access these days. You can use this link, but before switching, the program will ask if you "really want to use HTML Gmail."
"You're about to use a version of Gmail designed for slower connections and legacy browsers," the alert reads. "To get all of Gmail's features, including inbox categories, images, and quick actions, please use the latest version of Gmail (recommended)."
When I insisted that I did want to switch, I was shown a very basic, cramped looking layout that reminded me of the early days of browser email. But I'm not the target audience for the Basic HTML view -- my connection is fast, my browser is up to date, and I'm not visually impaired.
The upcoming change "is also a loss for some blind and visually impaired users, as Gmail's Standard view isn't fully compatible with third-party screen readers and other tools," reports Andrew Heinzman at How-To Geek.
The Google representative told CNET that the company is committed to giving users leading accessibility options.
"Gmail standard view supports best-in-class accessibility features," the representative said. "Today, the Standard Gmail view is screen-reader compatible in all languages supported by Gmail. The basic HTML view is only screen-reader compatible for users who have Gmail set to US-English."
Pratik Patel, an executive leadership coach who is blind, said in an email that many blind and visually impaired people found Gmail's Standard view difficult to use "due to complex usage patterns, inaccessible design elements, and inefficient navigation."
"The HTML view has been used by many blind and partially sighted people to accomplish tasks quickly and efficiently," he said. "People often find it quicker to accomplish tasks via the HTML interface as opposed to the standard one."
According to Patel, Google's Standard view is less usable due to inconsistencies and design decisions that go against established user interaction patterns, such as issues surrounding message selection.
"These kinds of usability challenges seriously impact how efficiently blind people can manage email with the standard interface, prompting them to turn to the HTML interface where things are at least consistent," he said. "I'd like to see Google engage with its users to resolve these issues."