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Google Screws Up Reader

2011, crap, google, rant

Not content with the death of Buzz, Google seems intent on killing of one of the only two products that I use. Today, upon logging into Google Reader, I discovered that the UI has completely fallen apart. From the welcome goodbye note:

Like many of Google’s products, Reader has gained a clean new look, with more space and less clutter, making it even faster to navigate your feeds.

More space is the exact opposite of what’s required, both in Reader and in Google+. Whereas in Twitter (and the old Reader) it’s possible to see many tweets at once, now it’s possible to see even less in Google Reader.

As an example, on my Mactop I have 12 tweets showing. On Google Reader, with a window exactly the same size, I have four items showing. And each of those are two lines long, probably fitting into the size of a tweet (give or take).

Yes, it’s nice that they’re finally standardising on a single Like button (and having all those Likes in one place makes sense, rather than spread around on an app-by-app basis) but let’s face it, Google fired the wrong UI team. Google+ has become synonymous with spam notifications and whilst there are three or four people I follow who regularly write many paragraphs (and let’s face it, some of them are Googlers themselves) all that happens is I essentially ignore any updates which aren’t on the home screen. The fact of the matter is that Google+ is text-heavy and information-light, whereas Twitter is the exact reverse.

But the point of a blog reader is to be able to (a) remember which ones you have read, and which ones you haven’t; (b) display that information so you can scan headlines quickly and determine if you want to see more. The abstract is like the twitter message and the body is like the twitlongerer or whatever service you use.

There will always be people who complain because it’s different, and because it’s changed. I fully expect those three or four people who like Buzz Google+ to like the new unified look of the two. But Reader has just gone several steps backwards in usability thanks to a user interface which appears to be modelled on the East Coast’s current snowstorm whiteout, with just a few bits visible here and there.

Can anyone recommend a good Mac (or Windows) client for reading Google Reader and synchronising the read state across multiple devices? Or even a completely new reader UI from a different company? I’m not staying around for this UI disaster.