Face it, Google: Everyone hates the new Google Reader

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:

Google's crappy new Reader

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.

37 responses to “Face it, Google: Everyone hates the new Google Reader

  1. Oliver Townshend

    Everyone? Well it does suck, but there’s been no outrage on Facebook, or anywhere else so far. Parliament was quiet on the subject.

  2. yes, it looks absolutely awful… it is probably the page I spend most time on, and now it’s confusing and ugly…

    Suggestions for feed readers will be appreciated

  3. It sucks, that’s for sure :(

  4. Actually, I like it better. I think it’s cleaner and prettier, and I’m not missing any functionality.

  5. Mine has changed, but looks different from yours (feed icons are smaller and light blue). I wonder if I’m using a different theme – but I can no longer work out how to change the theme.

    More worrying are the changes to the APIs, because I mainly use Google Reader as a sync for NetNewsWire between my various computers, phone, etc. Which was pushed on me by them moving away from Newsgator.

    Time for someone to build something that let’s me use a cloud service of my choosing to store the sync files, rather than being built on top of free services that can be pulled at any moment.

  6. I like the Google+ integration, so far.

    Design-wise, I think it just takes a little getting used to. I agree that the grey-on-grey isn’t a terrific choice, but if they get rid of some of that white-space up the top it’ll be fine.

  7. Hmm, mine hasn’t changed at all.

  8. Try http://www.newsblur.com. It’s the reader I use. For my tastes its pretty usable.

  9. Mac/iOS only, but brilliant: http://reederapp.com/

  10. I *LOVE* the new design. It is now consistent across all Google pages (mail, calendar, maps, and Google+ are the ones I have open 90% of the time) and the improved sharing functionality and Google+ integration makes it wonderfully simple to share a news post with the circles that I think will find it interesting.

    In response to Google not responding to the criticisms – give them a minute to catch their breath. This feature has been live for less than 24 hours.

  11. “In response to Google not responding to the criticisms – give them a minute to catch their breath. This feature has been live for less than 24 hours.” That might — might be acceptable if we were talking about the three-man startup. But we’re talking about one of the biggest companies in the world, with years of experience of how to roll out changes like this. At the very least, they should have been prepared with staff ready to explain what’s happening and why; but really, of course, that would have been a band-aid solution. All they really needed to do was keep the ability to stay with the old UI, as they did with their office apps. It can only be because they just don’t care any more. They think they’re too big to fail. You know, like IBM and Microsoft.

  12. I also hate the new Google Reader interface, and I’m not even a designer. Just a regular user who’ve been login into Google Reader every day for the past… five years?

    It’s really not user-friendly anymore and legibility-wise, it’s awful. And this is not a case of “it’s new so I hate it”.

    I don’t give a damn about Google +. I just want to be able to read my feed.

  13. Just saw this after posting my own rant about this on my blog (and I also have issue of accessed gReader at work and stuck with IE7 at work which doesn’t play well with any of ‘new’ google stuff.So sadly I do have to now try and find a replacement webbased reader that works in IE7

  14. In addition to the aforementioned recommendations, I love Feedly:

    http://www.feedly.com

    There are iOS, Android, Chrome Application, Firefox Extension, and standard web interface versions. It allows you to use your existing Google Reader (via Google login), but gives you much better control and appearance.

  15. Already quite some time ago I tried Tiny Tiny RSS (http://tt-rss.org/) and never looked back.

  16. I am on a mission to convert more people to reading RSS via email. It works better than you think. http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/HOWTOReadFeedsInEmacsViaEmail

  17. Add me to the hate it side. My personal gripe: with all this new whitespace they’ve manage to make the navigation pane narrower as lots of my feeds now have their names shortened and the dreaded (for me) “…” appended.

    In the old UI, I even took the time to rename feeds with long names to avoid the “…”. Reinvigorated Programmer fit in the old UI, now it’s Reinvirogated Prog…

    Also, does the Subscribe button deserve to be so big and hold so much real estate? How often does anyone use it? A few times a week, maybe?

    Clearly, they’ve turned it (the ui, at least) from a power user’s tool (if that) to an ‘app’ a novice might use.

  18. I don’t use Google Reader, but I use Google Docs. For the Google Docs window itself (not the separate app window for each document or spreadsheet you might open) yeah, the new interface pretty much sucks. I think the part I hate most is all the white space. I dunno for sure though–my reaction was so intensely negative I wasn’t able to sit down and analyze, I just immediately switched back to the not-new look.

    For the spreadsheet and document windows, the “new look” is ok. I don’t feel it really improves or hurts things particularly. Probably this is because in those instances the interface is forced to remain at the top whereas in the Google Docs window or in Google Reader, the new interface is really everywhere with all that lost- in- (white) space .

    I like Google, I’m a big fan. But, for some reason, when they fail at something they fail pretty epic-ly. (Remember Google Buzz? How about Wave?)

    Also, when their users have a criticism about something, it takes Google for-ev-er to do anything about it. In Google Calendar, users had been complaining for years (literally) that they wanted to be able to color code events because Google’s boilerplate, one-size-fits-all answer of “just create multiple calendars” doesn’t work in the rather common case where you want to have many color codes and where you anticipate the need to share the calendar with several folks.

    Google finally addressed the concern about four months back now. Even so, I feel it’s a bit inadequate as they only gave the option for maybe eight colors.

    Basically, I get the sense that Google’s mega-dominant position in the search market combined with the fact that all these apps are free, free, free means that general user support is at about the bottom of their list of concerns. Sad. But then, I’ve received much the same treatment with software I pay for.

    Anyone that’s irritated by the change in Google Reader, I would encourage them to do what several folks on this page have already done: switch. Competition is a Good Thing.


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  19. The reason that Google haven’t rushed to roll back these changes they’ve been working on for months after being shouted at in their very own support forums might indeed be that they’ve finally donned the metaphorical vader mask. Or, they might be taking a leaf out of Facebook’s book and, understanding that every change in a long-running service leads to a certain amount of vocal minority whining and people switching away from that service, taking a longer view.
    It’s worth noting, when trying to interpret what they’re doing that they have their traffic stats and we don’t.

    Google are notorious for their appalling customer support even for their actual paying customers. Why is their lack of response here surprising, or a sign of any kind of change?

    On a personal note, it hasn’t interfered at all with the way I use Reader, I don’t find the new layout / colourscheme bothersome in any way, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have known anyone was outraged at all were it not for this post.

  20. I’m very pleased with the changes. I like the G+ integration better than the siloed reader-only features. There needs to be a keyboard shortcut for +1, but that’s the only feature I’m missing.

  21. Hey it’s a free service.

  22. I think the new design is a step back, but not a huge one. The amount of superfluous whitespace *is* rather wasteful and, although I’m not certain of this, it feels like the header of the page is bigger.

    That said, I never really paid any attention to the UI around the content in reader anyway. It only switched over today and I’ve *already forgotten* what it used to look like for the most part. There was blue, er, somewhere in it? To be fair, I have hit ‘u’ to completely disable the left sidebar for the first time in a while, so it definitely feels more cramped.

    Really, all I want in the new one is what I wanted from the old one: a way to get rid of the top and left UI so there’s more room for actual content. I suppose I’ll just have to find/make a user script like last time. *shrug*

  23. Interestingly, their “Preview” design for GMail is [slightly] better than their actual live design for GMail, which is going to look exactly the same as Google Reader. I actually struggle to read with the new design. I don’t have perfect eyesight, and the lack of good contrast is severely obvious with their new designs, and is very taxing.

    This is e-mail/articles; being able to read comfortably should be their highest priority when designing these web-apps. Instead, social networking, promoting Google+ and all those latest fads seem to be their highest priority — it’s sad.

  24. I have to say all the new google looks docs, reader and gmail is pretty bad.

    To me everything seems to be one flat things no easy to see separation between topics.

    And it maybe free but google main way of making money is advertisement so if i stop using google reader (as i am planning) then i will not click there ads.

  25. For now, RSSOwl (http://www.rssowl.org/) is the best alternative to Google Reader that suits my RSS reading needs. Two missing features: a ‘share’ system like GReader used to have and the ability to share stuff directly to G+ (Facebook and Twitter are there). I’m also looking forward to HiveMined: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/10/sharebros-are-building-google-reader-replacement/44307/

  26. Thanks, Gregory, that’s at least interesting and maybe useful.

  27. I loved Reader because it weas slick and I could use it on all my machines but I hate the new look. MAybe I need to revisit Safari…

  28. I found satisfaction in the greasemonkey script posted on the google forums by tflive along with instructions how to use it, reproduced here for convenience:

    Eliminate the White Space solution for Firefox only
    1) Install GreaseMonkey – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/greasemonkey/
    2) Restart Firefox (just in case)
    3) Install Google Reader Absolutely Customizable – http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/58577
    4) Restart Firefox (just in case)
    5) Next to the “Subscription” folder (the one all your RSS subscribe folders/feeds are listed), click the “Options” triangle thingie.
    6) At the bottom of the list, click “Customize”
    7) Checkmark “Condense White Space”
    8) Click “Save”
    9) Google Reader page should reload with much of the white space removed.

  29. No, it doesn´t… I LOVE IT… http://goo.gl/aB1mZ, yall just don´t know how to make it work…

  30. My biggest complaint is, where’s the Like button? Where are my Liked posts? Oh, I have to export them now and use the public G+ Like system from now? Not the same thing. I didn’t necessarily Like my articles because I wanted everyone to know what I like. Forcing people to parse the exported files just to see what they used to Like is hardly kind – esp. when the data AND functionality IS still there – I can like and unlike articles on my Droid still..

  31. Not quite the same topic, but related: a song entitled I Hate the Google Everything Sidebar:
    http://www.thefump.com/fump.php?id=1335
    at the end, he pauses his rant to give instructions on how one can disable it.


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  32. It is horrible. I plan to use a separate client to use my gmail account and will never login to google web again. It dislike it enough to shell out for Microsoft Office to get Outlook (yes and I do have a use for Word and Excel — but this moved me from I want Office eventually to I want Office today).

  33. Breaks Kindle support too.

  34. “””That might — might be acceptable if we were talking about the three-man startup. But we’re talking about one of the biggest companies in the world, with years of experience of how to roll out changes like this. At the very least, they should have been prepared with staff ready to explain what’s happening and why; but really, of course, that would have been a band-aid solution.”””

    Oh Mike, it is much, much worse than that. When gmail rolled out internally, about 85% of the company hated it. The gmail engineers wrote “oh, we’ve learned so much about listening to feedback, and, most importantly offering the user an opt-out”. Well, they did implement the opt-out, but they completely ignored *any* feedback. Apparently gmail’s lessons were completely lost when walking across the campus to Reader’s offices.

    I don’t understand why Google can’t hire someone who gets UI.

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