Warning, this is going to be a ranty post not really related to my expertise.
There are two types of blog reader — those who use RSS feeds and those who don’t. Those who don’t, visit a few blogs each day to see what’s new. Those who use RSS feeds, use a feed reader that alerts them when there are new posts. This is great for those who would like to consume the content of many blogs. I’m one of those and I use Google Reader to do it. According to the stats, I subscribe to 318 feeds, and in the last month, I have ‘read’ 19,524 items, clicked on 163, starred 9, and emailed 3. Of course, most of those I have just breezed past. But it is an efficient way of keeping up.
Now there are plenty of ways to read RSS feeds. Safari has a feed reader built into the browser but it isn’t easily transportable across devices. These days you can read feeds in magazine format using Flipboard or something similar for the iPad. But here is why I settled on Google Reader years ago: (i) it is the same across all devices; (ii) when I move past something, it considers it read and so I don’t see it again on any device; (iii) it was easy to click through and represented the items in a reasonable format and (iv) it was really designed for ‘large variety readers’ such as myself.
Interestingly, it hasn’t always been this way. The first version of Google Reader had a very slick look but was hard to use and so I didn’t. The redesign, maybe 5 years ago now, brought forward the current version and that has worked very well. It wasn’t pretty but it was functional for the task at hand; managing information overload.
Thanks to Google+, Google have now moved to push on a common minimalist style across all their things. Of course, they pioneered this with their web page but never really took it everywhere. But now Google has gone for white, no borders, big buttons etc. Yesterday, it rolled out this for Gmail but those changes I can cope with. But for Google Reader, the design is critical because you need the lines in order to be able to skim through quickly. In that world, you don’t want minimalism, you want efficient packing. And I’m not the only one to lament the new change.
Now this is a free service so Google can do what they want. Moreover, you can use other apps to access Google Reader information so there is choice. But one has to wonder what is going on here. When it comes down to it, who said that minimalism works? Apple, for instance, doesn’t go this way. There are no big white spaces and they are very careful to use textures when there are. The Google design can be called clean but it isn’t beautiful or functional. The Google Reader logo even looks blurry. Your eye isn’t drawn correctly to the right information and there is a hint that something is wrong.
The sad part about this is that Google — in keeping these products all separate — is missing an opportunity to provide a common interface. I can image a common dashboard to quickly process information. After all, Google are in the business of helping with information overload. All of these moves seem like a step in the wrong direction.
Anyhow, I guess I’ll just get used to it.
End of rant.