Changes, everything changes eventually – and people will instantly dislike the changes simply because they are different.
I tend to look at a new website and complain less about aesthetics, than about functionality. I don’t really care about aesthetics – whereas most other people complain about the change in colour scheme or fonts.
Today, I shall rant like mad about the aesthetics.
Overnight, while witches roamed the night sky during All Hallows Eve, demons at Google made changes to their Google Reader web tool.
As a fairly heavy web user, I tend to get about 80% of my website content via RSS feeds – so for me a tight fast RSS reader is essential. And until now, Google Reader, while lacking in some functionality I wouldn’t mind having was aesthetically very fast to use.
The text is tight and I can scan down a page of text very quickly to see what is relevant to my work (or social interests). It was fast.
Overnight, they applied a new aesthetic, which fits into the current “white space” worship that says if some white space on a screen is good, them more must be better.
The net result is two fold.
Firstly, there is about a quarter less content on the screen than before – and if I have 200 headlines to scroll through, it will take more clicks of the “page down” button to get to the end. It’s slower!
The other one is more fundamental about web font/typography, and is probably more serious. There is a lot of padding between each line of text and as a result I have already noticed some eye strain trying to scroll down the page of text.
I think I can work out what they were thinking, and they look as the RSS headlines as “headlines”, which indeed should be given a decent amount of padding, but for me (and judging by the comments on their help pages, I am not alone) this is not a really collection of disparate headlines, but a page of text I am scanning down.
Compare the two images below – one I took from my PC this morning, and the other found on “the internet” as a screenshot of the older design – which amusingly comes from Matt Cutts website.
OK, the new design might be more “modern”, but there is so much space wasted around the edges etc – but the main problem for me at least, is how much space is between each of the headlines in the main RSS feed window.
Aesthetically, I tend to dislike how the main message seems to blend in with the rest of the design instead of standing out as the old version seems to – maybe it just needs a line around the open window?
However, to design a text based tool with so much line padding between each line of text in the main RSS window is functionality wise, deeply flawed.
Sadly, there isn’t a “classic mode” option in the website that users can click to get to the older tighter text interface.
Rant over (for now), while I ponder whether it is time to change to a different RSS reader. It is too important a tool for me to have this sort of problem persist.
Update: If you use Greasemonkey (and I didn’t until this morning) and Firefox/Chrome, then this script kills most of the whitespace in the most important main reading pane. Makes things MUCH better again.