Has Google pulled a Facebook with Reader?

Posted on 03. Nov, 2011 by in Thoughts

Mountain View’s design might has traditionally been through minimalism – but will a warm and cosy new approach thin the herd of Reader and Gmail users?

Google must feel that competition’s heating up with Facebook in the redesign realm, as it’s rolling out big changes to both its Reader and email services. And while Google services have received their share of design tweaks over the years, the most recent wave’s causing a bit of moaning from users.

Competitors in the social sphere Facebook could offer a shoulder to cry on for Mountain View as the search stalwart endures a deluge of criticism against its changes to Reader and Gmail. If Google has maintained a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality regarding design, Zuckerberg and Co have always been ready to ruffle the feathers of users for a prettier Facebook.

Changes on Facebook usually go through phases:
- Testing on selected users, screenshots throughout media sources
- Abject fear from site users
- Full rollout
- Full rejection from users
- Obligatory “Change back to old Facebook” Facebook groups
- Gradual, grumbling acceptance from user base

Unfortunately for Google, it’s somewhere in the early stages of this path.

And the lobbies against the changes are pretty strong too – Google’s traditionally been a place to find a great deal of information in a small space, but now, through these redesigns, both Reader and Gmail display emails and news articles larger, with more white space surrounding each entry.

With Gmail, users can minimise the effects of the changes – while the default viewing mode of “comfortable” is indeed larger than the previous standard, you can switch this to “compact” for retro viewing. It seems that, beyond initial moaning, Gmail users should eventually grow into the changes a la Facebook.

Reader’s a bit trickier – and to its detriment – as the new changes actually present a user with less information in the same space. Larger type and more whitespace on the service may have their benefits, but those looking to disseminate a large amount of information quickly may be left out in the cold.

Reader remains a much-used feature when it comes to RSS feeds, but even now the backlash has driven users to seek alternatives, with some even suggesting suggesting Twitter as an alternative service.

While it remains to be seen whether users will actually head away from Reader, it further reinforces Google’s softer, more social-friendly moves, but possibly at the cost of its traditional reputation as an information haven.

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  • http://www.optilead.co.uk Optilead

    The designs do feel a lot cleaner for Google but the Facebook changes do almost feel a little knee jerk at times.  Maybe if they had some pop ups like a mini tutorial when the changes happened the backlash would be a little lesser?