Google Reader Redesign Upsets A Lot Of People

    November 1, 2011
    Chris Crum

Google announced a couple weeks ago that it would be Google+ifying Google Reader, and now it has officially happened. The product has received a big redesign.

What do you think of the Google Reader redesign? Let us know in the comments.

Believe it or not, a lot of people are unhappy with the new design. This is fairly commonplace for redesigns in general, but users of Google products would probably do well to get used to it, if they’re not already, because I have a feeling we’ll be seeing plenty more Google+-related design changes for various products in the near future.

Google has committed to Google+. This isn’t Google Wave or Google Buzz. I think I can say with confidence that Google+ will not be gone next year. It’s changes like this Google Reader design and integration into other Google products that shows that Google+ is really just an extension of the Google account in general. It’s about the Google profile and the relationships that are connected to that (see things like Circle counts appearing in search results), and of course it’s about your identity.

So, taking it as Google being in it for the long haul with Google+, it’s understandable that Google+ get heavy integration with the social network. That said, there are plenty of justified complaints as well, and there is probably no better example of this than those from someone who actually used to work on the product.

Google Reader Redesign

Google Reader Redesign

Brian Shih, a former product manager for Google Reader, who left Google in July, wrote a rather scathing post about the redesign. He calls it a “disaster,” and says:

In the name of visual consistency, Google has updated the visual style to match Gmail, Calendar and Docs. I have nothing against visual consistency (and in fact, this something that Google should be doing), but it’s as if whoever made the update did so without ever actually using the product to, you know, read something.

Reader is a product built to consume information, quickly. We designed it to be very good at that one thing. G+ is an experience built around browsing (similar to Facebook) and socializing. Taking the UI paradigm for G+ and mashing it onto Reader without any apparent regard for the underlying function is awful and it shows.

Reader is a product built to consume information, quickly. We designed it to be very good at that one thing. G+ is an experience built around browsing (similar to Facebook) and socializing. Taking the UI paradigm for G+ and mashing it onto Reader without any apparent regard for the underlying function is awful and it shows.

He also criticizes the color scheme and the new sharing functionality, saying that it’s harder to share now.

In my opinion, sharing is still pretty easy. If you don’t want to share to Google+ (which is the easiest way to share, there are options for email and other social networks right next to it. Just go to “send to” from any post.

Still, Shih makes a great point about consuming information. To be honest, I can’t really put my finger on what it is about the design that makes it harder to do this, but it is harder – particularly when you’re browsing through feeds in list view. I think it might be a combination of the font and spacing. Whatever it is, I don’t see it as an improvement. Again, that’s just my opinion, but the redesign has been met with quite a bit of backlash. Here is some reaction from the Twitterverse:

The Google Reader re-design has broken my Internet usage habits. I can’t have the next item button where my Tweetdeck messages appear. 1 minute ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

I really do not enjoy the new Google Reader. 1 minute ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

New Google Reader crashed the first time I opened it. I’ll never make that mistake again. 3 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

You know how hitting the space bar in Google Reader would show you the next item? Now it marks that whole label as read. #broken 6 minutes ago via Twitter for Mac · powered by @socialditto

I do not like it on a train. I do not like it on a plane. I do not like the new Google Reader. I do not like it, Sam I Am! 12 minutes ago via web · powered by @socialditto

I think the new Google Reader interface might be enough to make me abandon the remaining feeds I follow… 15 minutes ago via Twitter for Mac · powered by @socialditto

Google Reader errors a lot too, even with chrome. Doesn’t load feeds and keeps taking me back to the top of the page. Ho hum. 16 minutes ago via Mehdoh · powered by @socialditto

new google reader seems bare.. difficult to read and unresponsive. 16 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

There’s a petition that already has nearly 10,000 signatures to “save Google Reader”. That’s not too hard to believe, but people are even protesting with signs outside of Google’s D.C. headquarters:

Google Reader Protest

Image credited to Leah Libresco

More on this (and more pictures) at dcist.

Not everyone hates the changes. When we asked our Facebook fans what they thought about the changes, we got responses like:

“Yes! I like it a lot. I think it’s aesthetically better and I like how all of your subscriptions come up on the home page/news feed.”

“ i use G Reader probably more than anyone in my day. The difference isn’t as drastic as many are saying it is. Didnt notice much but the colors and the new G Plus button. Didnt slow down my day any.”


Yeah it’s a massive improvement :)

There is plenty of defense of the changes on Twitter as well:

If u can’t embrace change u should’nt be on the internet: 10k Users Petition 2 Save Old Google Reader 2 minutes ago via HootSuite · powered by @socialditto

Alright…I’ll say it. I like the new Google reader UI. Please be gentle with your stonings. 3 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Google reader now has a next item! No more scrolling!! This could help with me reading more blogs. 5 minutes ago via web · powered by @socialditto

I just got the Google Reeder new look. Clean. Mikey Likey. #googlereader 12 minutes ago via TBUZZ · powered by @socialditto

The following tweet brings up a good point:

Initial verdict on the new Google Reader? So far, digging it, but then, I’m not a G+ fan so not seeing all the changes 7 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Not all Google Reader users are Google+ users, so some of the new functionality is lost on them. But at the same time, Google is obviously trying to convert more non-Google+ users into Google+ users. Google Reader has been around a long time, so it’s very likely that they’ll succeed in this goal to some extent.

It’s just another Google+ gateway Google can get users to enter through, kind of like when they tied the YouTube account to the Google account, though in this case there is even less friction, because Google Reader users already have Google accounts. To sign up for Google+ is simply enabling another feature of the broader Google social network. Google could probably get a lot more Google+ users if they made this more clear (though I guess they are in some ways, by integrating it into all of their products).

I guess the real question is: should Google be integrating Google+ into all of its products? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.