There are 118 blogs that I’m at least somewhat interested in. Rather than keep track of them all by visiting each one every day(!), I use an RSS reader to let me know when something interesting has been posted.
Until today, I have been using Google Reader, which had a pretty high It Just Works quotient. But when I logged on this morning I found the user interface grotesquely degraded:
Really, Google, really? It takes less than a month after Steve Jobs dies for you to forget everything you ever learned about design?
* Apple’s frequent use of monochrome elements in designs does not mean BLACK AND WHITE IS ALWAYS GOOD. Monochrome simplifies a layout and de-emphasises scaffolding so that colour, when used, is more powerful. You’ve just thrown the colour out. It’s like using late-model Commodore PET.
* Yes, designers sometimes like to add whitespace. Engineers sometimes like to remove whitespace to fit in more content. You have brilliantly decided to satisfy neither by (A) forcing content off-screen with acres of new whitespace, and (B) badgering up any chance of a clean look by infesting the layout with a hundred extraneous lines. What is this, 1995?
* Legibility! Light grey on slightly lighter light grey does not cut it!
And so on.
It’s not just me — a quick trawl of today’s comments shows that everyone — I mean everyone — hates the new Google Reader. This Google Support Forums page for example shows an astonishing degree of unanimity: “It’s awful. Really amateur use of screen estate”, “This is now horrible”, “harder to read and wastes screen space”, “I’ve opened a bloglines account, exported my google feeds and switched”, “i really don’t like the new interface”, “the new design you are rolling out across your products is BAD. FACT.” And so it goes on — comment after comment. Similar story over at Hacker News.
And now, the serious part
So Google made some bad design decisions in their new look. (Also some horrible functionality decisions, apparently, but they relate to social functions that I don’t use so I won’t comment on them.) What’s the big deal?
Here’s the big deal. There is no option to go back. Google have recently changed the UIs of Gmail and Apps as well, but they were careful to make sure there was an easy way to get the old UI, and that this way was explained straight away as you first logged in to the new version. That was polite and helpful.
This change in Reader? Just dumped in our laps. This tells me that Google no longer cares about being polite and helpful.
And the response to the torrent of unhappiness on Google’s own Reader forum? So far as I can make out, silence. They used to care, or at least project a very convincing facsimile of caring. Looks like they can’t be bothered now.
So the “don’t be evil” company is now on its way to being exactly the same as all the others that it originally set itself up as a contrast to. Very sad.
In the mean time, I am off to find a different and better RSS reader.