Reader and GMail Get Facelifts

Google dropped redesigns of both Reader and GMail this week, and the general reaction has been very negative.

So, like any good blogger, I’m going to pile on while the iron is hot, or something.

I use Reader all day, every day. It’s an essential tool for me. So, I was actually happy when Google announced it would be integrated with Google Plus. This makes a lot of sense, especially given how few people use Reader, and its history of head-scratching social features.

I’ve feared the worst for Reader, given the demise of other feed readers, and each time Google announces a cut list of products, I cringe a bit, expecting the worst.

I figured piping Reader activity into Google Plus might help it extend its life.

While this may be true, the integration needs work. The old Reader Shared Items, which I use extensively, have been replaced with +1s. This sounds fine, but my +1s don’t show up in my stream of posts. I think they’re supposed to, according to what I’ve read, but they don’t. This is a bummer.

It turns out you can post directly to your G+ stream by using the Share box in the black Google toolbar, top right-hand corner. This isn’t documented anywhere though, and the description included in the post, which is an excerpt from the page, looks like it’s your commentary.

And don’t get me started on the UI. It’s so stark and unwelcoming, not very good for scanning or sustained reading. Plus, like the GMail redesign, it’s a touch-friendly design, with lots of space for tapping. This creates a lot of whitespace and dramatically reduces the amount of content you can see above the fold. Again, bad for reading.

It’s not just me. I have yet to see any positive feedback, with Brian Shih, ex-PM for Reader, producing an appropriately scathing review that everyone is citing. I’m even more worried about the future of Reader after reading Brian’s points about how much it has departed from the original goals.

Oh, and the performance has been atrocious for me.

Unsurprisingly, I have the same issues with GMail. UI consistency is good, but Reader and GMail are so much alike that I found myself in GMail frustrated that I couldn’t find a post I’d shared in Reader. They’re that much alike.

I’m not usually a fan of installed feed readers, mostly because Reader has always been just fine. However, yesterday, I ponied up $9.99 to buy Silvio Rizzi’s (@silviorizzi) Reeder. I’ve used his iPad app for a long time now, and I liked what I saw in his OS X beta version a few months ago.

In Reeder, you can still share items, although I don’t know how long this will last. So, for now, I’m sharing items still, and they’re getting pushed to Twitter by If I feel like it, I’m also sharing them to G+. It’s a bit clunky, but I expect this will normalize soon.

By now, you’ve probably run into the new Google designs somewhere.

What do you think?

Find the comments.




  1. Honestly I think they’re fine. I totally understand the redesign and Google seems to be really hammering home the whole minimalist design philosophy…give this one a month to blow over and it will quickly be forgotten (sounds familiar…Facebook?)

  2. Fine is a funny word. I like that they’re finally getting consistency, but they’re picking and choosing what will be consistent. On the one hand, I like the way G+ feels, but they’ve applied it to fundamentally different apps in a very dictatorial way.

    Actually, these redesigns are easier than the average FB one, since stuff is really in the same place. Reader lost some stuff, but GMail just got a coat of paint. These are more facelifts than redesigns, which is kind of the problem. No usability thought went into the changes.

    I’ll quickly forget the Reader changes bc I’m using Reeder full-time now, and I can always use a client for GMail. So, not entirely like FB in that regard either. At least they are alternative UIs.

    Fundamentally, you’re right though. This stuff always blows over, and we move on to the next shiny object. 

    That’s the human way, mostly short memories.

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