Posted November 4, 2011 9:33 am by with 29 comments

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Earlier this week Google redesigned the user interface of Google Reader.

I hated it.

Still, no one likes change, so I gave it a few days to see if I would get used to it.

I still hate it.

Apparently, I am not the only one. Google News is full of reports of user backlash, a Huffington Post poll suggests 66% of users hate it, and even an ex-Google, who worked on the Google Reader team, hates it!

The way I see it, this is not an improved UI for Google Reader. I don’t think it was intended to be. Google Reader has not had any new features in years and for all intents and purposes had been abandoned by Google. With the across the board UI change for all of Google’s products, Google Reader needed to fall in line–even if Google really didn’t want to touch it. And so, we end up with a tool that looks like Gmail, but looks like no actual effort went in to determining how to improve the UI.

I mean really, just look at how barren the results look and how hard they are to read in their monochrome state:


So, here’s what we’re going to do. I want each of you to leave a comment and tell us what you hate about the new design. I’m then going to forward your feedback to Google and let your voices be heard. So, be constructive and don’t be vulgar–I know that will be hard considering just how bad the design is! 😉

  • I forgot to add what I hate about the new Google Reader! 🙂

    Aside from the hard to read design, it feels slower than the old version. Also, I can no longer “Share” and item and have that pushed to a Google Reader RSS feed for my Shared items. This was vital to me as it was how I shared interesting stories on Marketing Pilgrim’s Link Blog and Twitter. 🙁

  • I got used to it a little bit. It can use a “compact view” that the new Gmail design has (that fits more e-mails on my screen). That would make me happy. I subscribe to a lot of feeds, so I mostly scan headlines. No I don’t read every single post. The more headlines on the screen at a time the better–for me.

  • Overall my biggest problem with the new Google Reader is — it’s more difficult and slower to read it now. Why make it more difficult to read, Google?

    It’s also less intuitive now.

    I’ve tried to be fair and give it a few days but it’s not grown on me one bit.

    Why gray out the number of items remaining to read in smaller print?

    It’s definitely not “scan-friendly”. It was easier to read and scan through the content when there was a line dividing each news item. Now the news items tend to blur together.

    There’s not enough distinction between what’s been read in a previous session and what’s new. Previously the new stuff was obvious because it was using a darker font.

    I like Google, but they really messed up this redesign!

  • There’s a lot I hate about it! The absolute worst is the stripping of the social and sharing features – I used those *all* the time, and they were my favorite part of Reader. I can’t just switch to Google+ instead — it’s not the same experience, and besides, my Google Reader community doesn’t all use Google+. Hell, I don’t use Google+, and don’t particularly want to.

    There’s also less space to read, the scrollbars are tiny and harder to find w/ your cursor, the contrasts seem starker (which makes my eyes hurt) … I could go on.

    By the way, Andy, I quoted you in my lastest blog post at WordStream, with updates on both Occupy Google Reader and Occupy Google Analytics!

  • Yes! I don’t like it either! There is so much whitespace and weird font sizing for the titles. I don’t like that the blog folder font is tiny and the blog titles are big. I love the old google reader, change it back google!

  • This is a simple one, but I hate that the button to go to the next article in the feed is at the top of the page instead of the bottom. If I’m finished reading an article, I’m likely at the bottom of the screen and don’t want to have to look up again to get to the next piece!

    • You should try out the keyboard shortcuts. “j” will take you to the next item, and “k” will take you to the previous item (in the current tag/label).

      Shift + ? will show you a popover of the available keyboard shortcuts. They can make navigating so much quicker.

  • There are obvious problems with the look of the new Reader.

    Most annoying though is the loss of the sharing component. I made my shared items available to hundreds of people a few times a week via an email link, or subscription or an RSS feed. I can no longer do that without using Google+ which is not as flexible.

    I do not want to bombard my contacts with individual links but rather offer them the opportunity to read what they want, when they want …

    So i have still kept by subscriptions in Reader (for the moment) but I share the stuff I put together using a “stack” on … but it’s added a few steps … still looking for a comprehensive replacement to Reader.

  • In normal view, the separation between the left nav pane and the reading pane was so much more easy on the eyes. Lack of sharing is also a big negative. I’m all for a minimilast design but this just took it to a whole “harder to use” level

  • MrAndrewJ

    Like any new system, it was a little annoying to adjust to the new Google Reader. There seem to be a lot of features I never used, but there was one simple one I rely on.

    I use the left side navigation pane. The one that lets me organize feeds into folders for different purposes. Now it seems I can’t scroll up or down in that pane without finding the narrow, silver thread of a scrollbar that blends right into the background.

    Mine isn’t a power user request. I just want the page to go up and down.

  • I didn’t use the sharing features that have apparently been zapped, but the new design is a step backwards.

    I mean the new colour scheme is pretty darn horrible. It looks incredibly washed out and barren. The interface isn’t quite as easy to use either. It’s not a disastrous change and I’ll still continue to use it as my rss reader, but it’s not a change for the better as yet.

  • Hate it. I don’t really care about the Google+ changes, for me – Google Reader is now harder to read .. and like someone mentioned above – especially for “scanners”. This new design causes my eyes to jump around the screen too much where the design should ensure that the supporting elements (sidebar, subscribe button, etc) are taken into the background and do not fight with the core content like they do now. I really prefer using Reeder on my iPad now due to these changes.

  • Liz

    Very hard to read and so slow.. Totally hate the new color scheme and no share? VERY DISSAPOINTING

  • Bill Clark

    It’s stark,
    The “Next Item”, “Previous Item” buttons were good; now they’re gone.
    The ability to control the width and text size of the column displaying the subscription list has been lost; that makes it much less attractive to use

  • Jeremy

    I for one like Google’s unified UI. The thing I hate is that the changes to reader are only skin deep. I hate their useless “explore” and “recommended” feeds. Those are redundant and should be made optional. I don’t want reader shoving stories down my throat with no way to remove. I hate “kept unread.” Why constantly remind me about things I don’t want to read? Why no way clear history if you want? First reader starts you out with stories you didn’t ask for. Then scrolling to read is the default so it marks things read you didn’t want. Then you can’t even clear that from reader so that 5 years later home and trends is reminding you that you accidently scrolled by something. This like the time Gmail added people to your contacts when you didn’t want them and buzz shared your contacts without your permission. Now reader reads stories on its own without me and keeps an undeletable history of what it claims you read. I was hoping Google would change things in the update but the changes are only lipstick on the same old pig

  • My biggest complaint about the UI is that the headline links are grayscale and thus don’t stick out much from the content text. The links in the content are the same way.

    The excessive whitespace at the top could be done away with, though I’m on a high resolution, so it hasn’t hurt my gReader experience.

    I found a greasemonkey script that makes gReader more like Readability – let you change the font, font-size, and width of the text area. I tweaked it to bring back some color to links. The width of text area seems to be fixed at a max 650px, so that part isn’t really necessary. If anyone’s interested / has more ideas, feel free to comment here: Once I have it finalized, I will release the script so others can use it. I wish I had come across this sooner. Using gReader with a decent size Georgia font instead of Arial is fantastic.

  • Mike

    I hate how if I’m following a twitter feed or a blog that has one line posts, when I expand the post I see the first line repeated three times!

    I’m just dumbfounded that they could release a steaming pile of crap like this. I guess they won’t take over the world after all.

  • Cynthia Boris

    The only thing worse is that new design on Gmail. Yikes. I flipped the switch last night and it’s hideous. I kept saying, where are my boxes! I didn’t realize how much I like having boxes around my text until Gmail got rid of them.

    Then I tried “themes’ in order to make it better. Bad move. Much worse. Who designed these themes? Kindergartners?

    To quote LiL Abner – “put ’em back the way they was!”

  • Thank you for writing about this! I hate most the links that don’t look like links.

    I could live with the new theme if it made this more clear!

  • Personally I love the new Google interface design they recently rolled out. The new Gmail is so slick and the user experience is great.

  • I like to view all posts with the unread ones on top so I can scroll through and scan the articles. I hate that the difference in text between the viewed and unviewed posts is almost indistinguishable. It was a lot more functional before the change.

    • I see today they changed it so that unviewed articles have blue titles and viewed ones have black titles. That gets rid of my main complaint. Now if they would add just a little color around the edges and make distinguishing lines between posts it would be a lot easier on the eyes.

  • marie

    I hate the new Google Reader (big white space on the top, less intuitive, less user friendly, scrollbar on the left appears only when I click on it). I use it everyday for my work (librarian) but I’m thinking of going back to Bloglines or Netvibes…

  • That stark black and white color scheme just plain bothers my eyes. I find myself looking directly at the bottom of the screen to read through headlines so I don’t have to see the entire page. It’s almost like the black headlines pulsate off the screen, similar as too much white type on a black background.

  • JimmyJames

    Folder & subscription column too narrow and not adjustable, with the poorer light grey contrast on feeds and folders it is hard to discern. I find reading that column is very hard on my eyes now and tiring. Enlarging fonts to see them makes the titles even less obvious or making them smaller to see the entire title makes them harder to read. There is no escape!

    Feeds load VERY slowly, it is extremely annoying. I can barely tolerate the contrast issues, but if the speed issue is not fixed soon I will go back to an offline feed reader, which in someways is a step backward.

    I am pretty disappointed in Google’s choices for this ‘upgrade”. I was a staunch Reader fan for a long time.

    Thanks, Andy, for a sounding board for these complaints!

  • David Jacaré

    I, too, hate it completely.

    I hate the way it totally destroyed the social features of google reader I used everyday. I shared posts with my google reader followers and they with me. Now I’ve lost all of that. I don’t know where they are or how to interact with them. I don’t use or care about google plus, its stupid and unecessary. I have facebook. I don’t need gplus. WHY THEY SACRIFICE greader for google plus? It’s dead! It’s pointless. ):

    My shares used to be exported automaticaly to twitter and facebook and now it doesn’t work. Now i have to press +1 (which is just slower and dumber than the old like because of that stupid G+ window) and I have to share every post individually to twitter or facebook which I hate, so I mostly don’t take the time to do it.

    I hate it with all my heart. I’m always very welcoming to changes and updates so this comes as a surprise to me. I was excited to know it would have a makeover but now I’m just sad it has become unefficient and stupid – broken. I’ve been searcing for alternatives. what do you suggest?


  • rowena

    I’m with you on the new GR. What on earth were they thinking?????!

  • I HATE it so much that I have barely opened it online this week—I will now only use it on my Android or stream it through my Mobile RSS reader on my iPad. I consider myself to be a technically savvy, social media maven of sorts, and I cannot for the life of me, figure out how to share articles now…? Really, it took me some courage to even admit this publicly, but seriously, this is getting crazy I’ve been on all the forums. Why is everyone denying it’s previous existence?… Do I have to (eck) +1 my items now…? If so, I’m boycotting.

    Dana Córdova

    PS. It’s also very slow and harder to read.

  • I use google reader a lot and have the same basic complaints – color scheme is awful making it difficult to read; missing share buttons. My biggest pet peeve is the missing “manage subscriptions” link that allowed me to organize my subscriptions into folders. If you find it can you send it back please?