Notes on Reader Interfaces
Google killed Reader earlier this week, and in a response which is sure to raise not a single eye brow at the Googleplex, I closed my Google+ account and started transitioning my email off of Gmail. Google makes great products, but between killing Sparrow's development by buying the company and sinking them into the darkness of The Googles, and now my single most used web service, they can jump in a lake.
To close a service which could probably have run indefinitely with little or no maintainance, and which was so integral to hundreds of thousands of users' workflow, and which unlike Buzz and Wave worked for people... It's as much Google's decision to make, as it was Lucas's decision to retire the theatrical releases; but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
I've tried a handful of replacements this week, but I'm sad to say none of them get it right yet. So here are a few of my own notes about the things Google Reader did right that most of the current contenders for the throne get wrong:
- Start me on the feed list, not some 'home' or dashboard. I'm there to drink from my firehose, I don't need a welcome mat. Feed readers are power user tools.
- Show the entire article by default so I can scan headlines as I j/k through them, but dive into it if I need to. I've used Google Reader since day one, and I've never used the list view.
- Don't animate the scrolling from item to item. It looks good, but it slows down reading considerably.
- Style the active item as unread. Fading it back as if its already read makes it harder to read.
- Preload the content, don't make me wait as I'm flipping through items.
- Text should wrap at a sensible column width.
- And Digg, left-align that item column please.
- ... and show me how many items I have left to read.
- If an item is above the active item, don't load unloaded images. It pushed the rest of the stack down, and is a horrible experience on slow connections.
Currently I'm on The Old Reader, despite it looking like a cousin to Slashdot, but it's still a free-for-all.