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Ex Google PM criticizes new Reader layout (brianshih.com)
127 points by suivix 2150 days ago | hide | past | web | 58 comments | favorite

I don't care for the new interface and I agree that it's slower, but that may just be because I'm not accustomed to the look. GUI changes are minor to me and easily fixed with a greasemonkey script anyway. The real problem is that they stripped out tons of functionality and didn't replace it with anything. Google+ is not integrated. They added a button to share in google+ . That's all. that's not integration. There is no way to get my friend's content on google+ back into google reader.

That is the entire point of sharing in google reader. It's not a 'social network' per se, it's specialization in going through RSS feeds. I find a 'friend' that looks at funny photos all day and he pics out the 10-20 good ones so I don't have to look at funny photos all day. My feeds can be focused around other topics. but this only works if sharing is super easy (like pressing shift + s) and there is some way to get shared content back into my reader.

Without that the social network is completely useless. I might as well be emailing/IMing links to my friends.

I don't mind that they are using google+, but they need to think about this for moment and actually make google+ useful in some way.

This would be roughly analogous to twitter removing hashtags and replies and replacing them with a 'post to Facebook' button. What's the point?

> There is no way to get my friend's content on google+ back into google reader.

PlusFeed is an unofficial AppEngine service that exposes Google+ posts as RSS. You can then subscribe to the PlusFeed RSS URL in Google Reader. Unfortunately, PlusFeed can only see other people's public Google+ posts (since it's not logged in as you).


I wrote this JavaScript bookmarklet to open the appropriate PlusFeed RSS URL for the Google+ user page you are looking at:


I dislike the new layout mostly because it wastes a lot of vertical space, particularly the fixed top part. Here's the user style I use to neutralise it:

    #top-bar { height: auto; }
    #search { padding: 8px 0; }
    #lhn-add-subscription-section { height: 48px; }
    #viewer-header { height: 48px; }
Adjust numbers to taste.

Thank you, that helped a lot. Here's my version if anyone is interested...

Additional changes: 1) Made the left hand navigation slightly grey to offset so much white. 2) Made the list of articles have less padding (more "compact", less "bloaty" :) ) 3) Removed the "Home", "All Items" and "Explore" links (I never use them and just wanted it clean)

CSS: https://gist.github.com/1333174

Screenshot (Before): http://cl.ly/083j2i3i0o2r1r2W3e1C

Screenshot (After): http://cl.ly/0s0g2X1r0T1U3V2q1b2Z

What is the easiest way to load these changes? Do you add them to your custom.css or use an add-on?

I added these to ~/.mozilla/firefox/random.User/chrome/userContent.css and restarted firefox. I wrapped the changes in a `@-moz-document domain("www.google.com")`, just in case.

Shame a CSS hack can't get the sharing features back!

If you're on Chrome try out the extension I made to max out the much needed vertical space : https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/gkefcmejbgglfihaae...

I have that issue with the new version of Google Docs. You get just a little more than half the screen to actually write inside the doc. The rest is all "chrome". They should at least make all that disappear and appear on demand.

If you're referring to the word processor, try View -> Compact Controls. That should remove all chrome but the toolbar and menubar.

Google should make the "Compact Controls" shortcut (Ctrl + Shift + F) universal over all Google services.

The redesign of Reader looks like it was done by a junior designer who got the memo that "white space is good" but didn't understand that little blobs of white all over the frickin place are not actually that good. Reader is now a mess of disconnected bits floating aimlessly in space. It's gone from being quite serviceable to quite disfunctional.

That is the new style for the entire Googleverse. It came straight from the top, not a rogue designer.

This should probably link directly to the blog post, so it isn't lost in the future. http://brianshih.com/78073742

Which was submitted to HN before:


I like using Reader to manage my feed subscriptions, but nothing more. I don't want to share my content on any social network. Nor do I want to view the content in an iframe. I would prefer to just click the row of the feed item and have it open in my browser like normal links.

So for me the gui updates are sort of mixed. I agree its wasting a whole lot of screen space, but overall I like that it shares the same look every other google product is moving to.

I feel like I use Google Reader incorrectly because it has so many extra features I have no use for. Anyone know of a product that does exactly what I described above?

I'm working on this concept: http://forr.st/~wnA

Key features are:

- In the browser

- Twitter like articles stream (just post titles)

- Nice UI

- Pin to read an article later

- Star to bookmark an article

- Organize in folders

So, how long until we can try it out? I'm happy to be a beta tester for you. :)

The current status is: app design and mark-up (html + less) 90% done, front end (js with backbone) 40%, back end (node.js + mongoDB) 20%, product page design and mark up 70%.

I'm so happy you feel like testing it :) you (or anybody that wants to) can contact me. My gmail is jackjackbach.

Are you aware of the keyboard shortcuts? "f" toggles fullscreen mode "2" toggles list mode "?" shows all shortcuts

Yeah, I am aware of them. The problem is I want to just click the item and have it open in my browser, rather than show me a summary or embedded view of it. That is not possible with Reader.

I usually just click the grey icon to the right, which opens the link the item points to. The expanded view is still useful though, since for example HN points to the posted link and not the comments page.

The arrow item to the right of the story title will open it in a new tab. Is that what you are after or am I missing something?

I've been using Brief (http://brief.mozdev.org/), it's something that Firefox should fold into the browser, but they won't. There's a limit to what I want to share with Google.

Brief is cool. I just tried it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

I use google reader everyday at work on Internet Explorer 7.0 ( bank-mandated browser, don't ask ). Worked fine until this new layout change. Today I login. It says "Your browser is not supported" ! Hmmm...never happened before. Now I get 3 vertical scrollbars, 1 horizontal scrollbar and lots of whitespace. 3 vertical scrollbars to scroll thru an article ? Which one do I scroll ? There are weird color artifacts - like when I click on an item in LHS, its a little bit red, then white, then red again. There's a black dropdown "View in Reader Play" what is that...click...I get a new fullscreen window with a whole lot of high contrast white on black text with large fonts...WTF...Dude gimme back my old google reader. This one is definitely broken on IE7. I'm all for ui redesign, but pls don't break what works well on older browsers.

Google phased out support for IE7 across their Apps platform in August. It shouldn't be surprising that other new versions of their products only support the newest and second newest versions of a browser.

I think painful decisions like this are one of the only ways that we will force stuck in the mud IT departments to make changes.

Install Chrome Frame. It doesn't require administrator privileges.

It's broken in IE7? Ok, so I've found one thing I like about the new Reader.

I use Google Reader a lot, and so found this critique of yesterday's UI rollout interesting. My own experience was not as full of grousing as this guy's, but I do have my own complaints.

His complaints are (1) of screen real estate having been reduced to something admittedly pretty insane, (2) increased number of clicks to share and (3) decreased privacy in doing so (he's incorrect about the last: you don't need to +1 prior to sharing; noted, he updates his post with a correction about this), and (4) lack of contrast of the grey on white of titles and links (to me titles appear black on white and links are underlined making them easily identifiable -- was this changed?).

As for complaint (2), integration of sharing in Google Reader and G+ means that there is necessarily going to be a bit of latency introduced, because you've actually got to do the work of choosing who to share with. This doesn't bother me: the precision and primacy of the circles concept in Google+ is what attracts me to it over the convolutions of exhibition on Facebook.

Lastly, as for the first complaint, regarding screen real estate: My usual daily objective in Google Reader is to be able to do triage on about 200 - 300 articles in less than 10 minutes. I am subscribed to a ton of feeds and in order to keep pace I need to consume headlines and form a general intuition about the content while doing as little reading as possible. I want to decide between (1) "this is interesting, I'll read it later" and (2) "this is not interesting, pass" on the order of milliseconds. I don't actually do any reading at all in Google Reader itself, so his screen real estate gripe doesn't really resonate with me. If I want to read an article I just re-tab (or in the case of some content, usually videos or music, star it) it and return to it later. His contrast complaint (4) would be relevant, but I'm not seeing it.

Which brings me to my own central complaint. Namely, general sluggishness. Because of the speed that I sift through articles, any delay between pressing the "j" shortcut which advances to the next unread article and actually advancing to that article is a really palpable, frustrating and significant. Such delays are frequent -- very frequent. I haven't actually looked into what the cause of this delay is computationally, but I'm fairly certain it's not a bandwidth issue, because Google Reader keeps itself loaded pretty far ahead of the current article you happen to have in focus.

In any case, as long as such delays exist, any UI issues are pretty much secondary to my use case.

I like Google's new design style for its services, but as soon as I saw the new Reader I realized something was off. I found it harder to read the headlines. Maybe it's because of too much space between them, or maybe because the lines between them are as dark as the headlines. I'm not sure, but I know I can't read through the headlines as fast as before.

I think the decision to integrate +1 is the right one and they should do it with all their services. I haven't tried it yet, but if what he says is true, then they need to lower the amount of clicks you need to share something.

Scanning all the headlines is more difficult now. Additionally, seeing what rss feed has new articles was also not very easy for me.

I couldn't find the +1 button instantly. Overall, I am not very satisfied. I am looking into alternatives now.

Overall, I like they new layout googles is rolling out on al l their products. Reader was the first were a felt something is not working here.

The Reader team must be thanking their lucky stars that their product lives on and that Reader hadn't been given the chop like other non-mainstream services, e.g. Google Notebook, Code Search. Ultimately it's a techie tool and most internet users likely aren't aware of feeds let alone Reader.

I bet they agreed to any hurried G+ shoehorning as it's a sign Reader isn't being wound down.

They ruined a really impressive web application. Thanks to a HN recommendation I've fully gone over to Tiny Tiny RSS http://tt-rss.org/redmine/ which is quite similar to the old reader in many ways and self hosted. Click Settings > Import/Export, download OPML, then import OPML. Away we go.

This user style was posted in the reddit comments: http://userstyles.org/styles/55556/google-reader-new-interfa...

Thanks. That part with the blue background burrowed from the old layout goes a long way to making all that white less jarring.

Nice. This fixes many of the worst issues with excess whitespace, lack of visual separation or contrast, highlighting the most useless button on the screen, etc. Thanks for the pointer.

Reader is remarkably slower for me now and half the keyboard shortcuts stopped working after the redesign, I finally made the switch to RSSOwl and I'm pretty happy about it.

Google does seem to be trying the "one size fits all" approach. While it may work on a grand scale, trying to standardize the look across their apps, it definitely falls short when you get into the particulars of each platform's individual needs. Beyond that, though, for their "new look" to significantly slow down my browser is unacceptable. New UI should not be so heavy that it materially affects the page's performance.

I wouldn't miss the old design too much if there were a chance to adjust the display density. So, where's the switch to change that? If this were consistent in design, I'd expect it to be around the same location as in Gmail. But it's just not there.

The layout can be tightened up a little bit. I experience no significant lag when scrolling or changing feeds. Imo, the blogosphere is overreacting. I disliked the look and feel of the old one :)

Regarding sharing, on the mobile (or, at least, iPad) interface, the only sharing option I can see is the basic +1, which, as far as I can tell, isn't seen by anyone unless the go to a user's google plus profile and click the tab. As a result, I can longer share in any meaningful way via my primary consumption device.

Edit: to add, there doesn't appear to be any way to view my +1 items on my iPad, since the google plus mobile interface apparently lacks that section.

Ok, so lets say you want to keep Google Reader as your back end, but want a new front end (ala the various apps on iOS). Is there a good alternative online front end (open source or paid) that can replace Google's front end, but still offers things like "mark unread"?

Yeah, I don't like it either. The line separation between content boxes is not clear. It reminds me of a news paper layout instead of being a web app.

I am using Reeder for now, before I can find a suitable theme.

I don't really care about the layout, I care that they destroyed my favorite social network. Google+ does not offer anything near the functionality that Reader had.

Judging by the tone and language of this critique, it sounds more like a bitter ex-employee who "didn't feel appreciated for his brilliance" than an honest effort.

Does anyone have suggestions for Mac RSS readers that sync with google reader? I'd like the sync because I use Reeder on iOS.

Then why not use its bigger brother http://reederapp.com/mac/index

Poor reviews, no ability to test it before paying $10.

Reeder for mac is an amazing piece of software; I cannot recommend it enough.

Thanks for the info.

I am in the same boat as grk. I wanted to try it, but $10 seemed to pass that 'oh its only a dollar or two, what the hell' threshold. Couple that with the poor reviews for the mac version, and I was dissuaded.

NetNewsWire is the longstanding veteran Mac rss reader. I think it's great.

I'm trying Vienna at the moment.. it's quite good so far. http://www.vienna-rss.org/ (It's free too.)

I can't read the OP because of the extremely bright yellow makes it feel like my eyes are on fire. Is it just me?

GR stopped working for me on Chrome (works on Safari). Weird

newsblur.com anyone?

Great site, interesting idea, but doesn't sync very well with Google Reader, so kind of a burn-the-boats jump.

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