November 2, 2011, 1:18 pm
The New and Improved Google Reader! Slightly Dingy and Now with Dark Patterns!
By Lisa Agustin
I use Facebook, but was not one of those people who grumbled about the latest changes. I accept that technology is about looking forward, convergence makes sense in many cases, and that improving the user experience means continually tweaking an information architecture and visual design to reach whatever your bigger goal may be (e.g., conversions).
But then Google released its redesign of Reader, and we went from this:
Google calls the design “cleaner, faster, and nicer to look at.” But after reading their announcement more closely, it’s really more about creating a tighter integration with Google+ by turning off Reader’s friending, following, shared items and comments in favor of similar Google+ functionality. Which is okay, since I do see the point of consolidating Reader’s social aspect with Google+. But the redesign has actually made sharing harder, not easier. Former Google Reader Product Manager Brian Shih puts it this way:
Keep in mind that on top of requiring 3-4 times as many clicks, you also now must +1 a post publicly to share it, even if it’s shared to a private circle. That bears repeating. The next time you want to share some sexy halloween costumes with your private set of friends, you first must publicly +1 the post, which means it shows up on your profile, plus wherever the hell G+ decides to use +1 data. So much for building a network around privacy controls.
But then later, an update:
It turns out there is a way to share without +1′ing first. If you click on the top right “Share…” field on the OneGoogle bar [the bar at the very top of the pane], you can bypass the +1 button. It’s just completely undiscoverable.
Sounds like a dark pattern to me.
But let’s put Google+ aside, since sharing wasn’t why I used Reader in the first place. It was about the content. How quickly can I see what’s new and get to an individual story? From an information design perspective, I’d think making the design cleaner would mean maximizing space for original content. Rather it seems they did the opposite, with a thicker/more spacious header bar that pushes content further down the page.
From a visual design standpoint, greeted by a new absence of color, I wondered if they were trying to make it look like a traditional newspaper, removing colored elements as if they were distractions? While there is such a thing as too much color, the new Reader goes overboard in the other direction. With black, white, and grey being the dominant scheme, it’s hard to tell what the priority is in the UI. Google even eliminated the use of the bright blue link color that facilitates scanning. Now nothing stands out–except for the bright red Subscribe button and the blue Search button. Maybe it’s time to revisit the pluses of eye candy.
Kvetching aside, I suppose I will get used to the new direction (assuming I don’t switch feeds first). I also guess I had better brace myself for the upcoming Gmail redesign.
I don’t like new Facebook design, but like new Gmail.
Posted by Dave from Wireless USB card on November 17, 2011 at 3:13 am
Mostly the redesign of google reader is fine, with two exceptions.
Firstly the number of posts remaining to read becomes hidden as soon as one begins to scroll down to read the feeds. Sometimes the number of posts left to read appears in the top bar of the Firefox window, but I don’t understand why the number frequently disappears from there ?
Secondly google removed the small Like button. This is mostly annoying since it was a small but helpful way of informing some bloggers that they’re posts and contents are good but not quite good enough to promote via social media. Young or inexperienced bloggers need encouragement and this Like button at the very least gave a harmless yet indicative way of click-able communication.
Posted by pcd2k on November 24, 2011 at 12:27 am