Thursday, September 20, 2007

A news reader designed by folks who can find very large prime numbers

Attached below are subsequent screen grabs from a Firefox browser that is using the latest version of Google Reader.

Google had been allowing users to choose between two different versions of the Reader interface. They just forced all users (or at least me) to swich to the new interface. There are a number of problems with the new version:
  • It seems to have a major bug in html, in that the scroll bar on the right side of the page is half off-screen.
  • The shape of the screen now forces one to view pages in a wide rectangle instead of a square. This poses a problem for readability. As the designers of newspaper columns and the template on this blog hosting service understand, it is easier to read text that isn't much wider than the alphabet. Realllly long sentences which take up most of the width of the screen make reading a pain.
  • The ability to tab between articles by use of the space bar is broken. Attached below are subsequent screen grabs from the service. The problem is you never know whether you have to start reading the one article that is only showing up in the bottom quarter of the screen. Sometimes when you hit space bar, that half-off article will pop up to the top of the screen so that you can read it properly, sometimes it will merely jump to the next point in the text that hasn't been displayed yet. It makes for a miserable reading experience.
  • It also makes it very hard to tell when you've hit the last unread article-- the only change I can see is a very subtle lightening of the font color in the title when the previously-read article is at the bottom of the reader.
Google has been famous for recruiting the best minds in the planet-- they have for example made certain job applications open to only those who could find certain very large prime numbers. This Google Reader smacks of being designed by such people. When it comes to being able to design something that is usable by average humans, I guess I'd rather have someone who has some common sense in typography and is willing to test the product in Firefox.

Google, revert your Reader interface!

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