Sunday, October 09, 2005

Slightly Off-topic: Google Reader

This is pretty nifty, Google has released their entry into the RSS/ATOM feed reading software realm, and... it's okay. However underwhelmed the blogosphere was initially to the GReader, I bet in the next few months, we'll start to see it shape up nicely.

Oddly enough, this is one of the first applications Google has released in awhile that definitely requires them to label it Beta, and it might have hurt them a little bit. There are a few angles here that I see:

  • AJAX: They're using some AJAX in a way that is drastically different from any previous RSS/News reading software, but it's hard to judge yet whether it actually improves the user experience. This is going to cause a good deal of deserved backlash amongst the tech savvy users who already use a similar service. Gmail was a revelation in terms of user experience for webmail. Heck, it was relevation for email in general. I've yet to see a viable replacement for it. The reader, while well executed in some manners, seems like more of a pet project within the Google engineer crowd with a distinct lack of user experience design tied into it.
  • I consider myself fairly tech savvy, and yet after two days of using the GReader, and importing most of my subscriptions, I'm still not comfortable with the idea of trying to describe to someone how it works. While it introduces a good amount of new ideas, and the AJAX makes it just feel sexy, they really need to think about giving the user a bit more control of the sorting of posts etc. I don't understand why, after I subscribe to a feed, it continues to show up as a New Subscription. This is even after I click through the subscription, and ask it allow me to view all older posts within the subscription. The mind boggles
I understand the model they're trying to use, they want you to see the latest posts in your default(or Home) view. However, I wish an option was available to change your default view. In some ways, I think the view you have when clicking on the Subscription navigational button gives you a more useful view. And with just few changes, I think it(the subscription view) could become even more useful. Off the top of my head:

  1. Remove the grey XML link and replace it with more useful information. I would much rather see the number of unread posts, and perhaps the number of Starred posts with a link to a view containining all starred posts.
  2. Infact, just get rid of the Home view all together. I understand it might be a more friendly screen to introduce those uninitiated with the idea of feeds, but really, you already have the all label in the 'Your Subscription' view, so just get rid of the Home view. If users dislike the use of added screen space, offer them a simple -/+ button to minimize the subscriptions.
That's all I can think of right now. Despite all the criticisms, I do believe the GReader is a great tool. It's too early to tell if it's going to mature into a killer app, but I think it's going to replace my use of Bloglines for now, at least until I can test and compare it against the yet to be released FeedLounge.

Oh, I'm enjoying the Google Account/Blogger integration, something which never crossed my mind until the GReader. I hope they find an elegant way to tie the app into my Google Personalized homepage.

Cheers

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