Former Google Reader Developer Wants to Roll It Back

    November 3, 2011

The reaction to the “Plus-ification” of Google Reader has been heard loud and clear, at least in regards to people not being incredibly happy with the new look. While the fallout may have been disapproving, it hasn’t caused much if any reaction from Google, as the company is apparently adopting the Netflix approach when it introduces unpopular alterations.

That is, one that seems to say, “we know what’s best for our users, even better than they do,” or, perhaps, Google simply adopted a “deal with it.” Whatever the case, Google hasn’t had much in the way of reaction to the negativity surrounding the unpopular Google Reader alterations, which only supports the “deal with it” attitude, whether it’s an accurate portrayal of Google’s position or not. One person who has been following the Google Reader story closely is Kevin Fox, who was the lead designer on Google Reader 2.0.

In a post at, it’s apparent Fox is also disappointed with the updated Reader, and he also supports the belief these redesigns are simply a push for design uniformity among the various Google products:

I believe this has happened because Google Reader was held to a mandate of refreshing Google products under a common style guide, but from what I’ve been told it had no full-time user experience resource to apply that guide in a way that made sense for the nuances and needs of that particular product.

If the rumors Fury discusses are true, this means Google implemented its Reader redesign without the input of Google Reader users, including the ones who are already employed by the company. If that is indeed the case, it’s no wonder the alterations are being met with disapproval. Imagine if Facebook implemented a redesign developed by a non-Facebook using designer. Since the reaction to any Facebook change is always negative, if a non-Facebook user implemented such a sweeping redesign, the negativity would be increased to nuclear fallout levels.

But yet, apparently Google did the same thing when it redesigned Google Reader, or, well, made it match the overall look and feel the company is striving for. In light of this, Fox has once again offered his services to Google and is willing to fix what wasn’t broken before the redesign took over:

And so I put my resources where my mouth is. As the former lead designer for Google Reader, I offer my services to Google, rejoining for a three month contract in order to restore and enhance the utility of Google Reader, while keeping it in line with Google’s new visual standards requirements. I will put my current projects on hold to ensure that Google Reader keeps its place as the premier news reader, and raises the bar of what a social newsreader can be.

If Google allowed Fox to work his Reader magic, it sounds like Google would get the best of both worlds: Google Reader’s look and feel would match the overall theme Google is apparently committed to, and it would bring back the usability that made the utility so popular to begin with.

The question is, is Google willing to admit its error and allow Fox under the hood or will the company be bound by its own hubris and let the potential of Google Reader erode away?