Any time Google makes changes to one of its popular Web services, people pile on to complain.
Many people griped when Google added more refinements to the left-hand rail, and some just didn't like the new logo.
The whiners are out in full force again with the latest changes to Google News, which allow users to promote and demote certain news sources, but take away some of the previous customization functionality users loved.
Google News formerly employed a three-column top section with a two-column bank of stories below. Users could customize the placement of sections. Now the custom sections are gone and users must rebuild their custom content views.
Moreover, users are stuck with the columns on the right that Google wants them to see, such as recent stories and local news.
Lots of people like to discover new content, and people hate the new changes. Through 6 p.m. EDT July 4, there were 321 comments on the Google News Help Forum here, most of them overwhelmingly negative.
"I do not like this redesign at all. I check google news several times a day, and it has become my news source of choice. I have always liked the way the news section of google was designed, especially the "personalization" option; it was nice to have the option to sort of design the page to look how I wanted it to look. I have had it on my preferred setting for a couple of years now, so when I went to look at the news page tonight, I was greatly distressed to find the entire page jumbled about in some sort of digest-form news-feed. Please at least give the option to revert to the old settings."
Some people don't want to tailor what they see in their News Web pages, as Rodentsrule wrote: "Put it back the way it was. Why couldn't you leave my news alone. I'm interested in NEWS. You know, like what's on the front page of most newspapers. Not interested in 'my own interests.'"
Reader Mike Cleary told InformationWeek, "I don't want [personalization]. I browse. I want serendipity. I want stuff to catch my eye across a broad range of topics. I don't want Google to put blinders on me so I can 'find' the stuff I'm interested in. If I want it, I'll find it. But I have to know about it first, so I need the lens wide."
ReadWriteWeb addresses the serendipity element missing in the new Google News here.
My favorite is this steaming heap of constructive criticism eWEEK reader Zip provided for my news story on the Google News changes:
"Why can't I have the option of turning on the 'old' layout? Why can't I have the flexibility to edit the layout myself?Here is what I don't like about the redesign:the layout, on my screen, now leaves a ton of 'dead' white space to the right where news stories used to be- with the old layout, the news would take up the whole screen.having the old style felt more like reading a real newspaper, with stories laid out next to each other. Now it feels like I'm looking over search results for 'news'.they have added a bunch of stuff I don't care about to the page. I already spent a good amount of time customizing Google News to give me stories that I wanted. Somehow, in this effort to personalize, they added a bunch of irrelevant things.there seems to be no serious response from Google to the outrage of the users. The new layout is getting massively frowned upon and people are looking to Bing and Yahoo for mainstream news.Here is what I do like:1) they have added the ability to quickly change the 'likes' and 'dislikes' on the sources. But, as mentioned many places, this may not, in the end, be such a good thing.2) ability to 'star' and save news storied for later is cool.3) ability to quickly link news stories to social media in cool, I guess, but I'm not likely to ever use this as I have become increasingly paranoid about having any public opinion link to my real identity.Conclusion -- new layout is a big failure and the fact that you can't choose to go back to the old style is a major flaw. Really the new design should have been an 'opt in' for a few months and then once it gathered momentum, make the switch while leaving the ability to 'opt out' of the new style.As a major fan of Google, and shareholder, this has to be the biggest mistake Google has made and the one that has had the most impact on my day to day life."
Wow. You'd think Google News was a policy statement on how to prevent future Deepwater Horizon catastrophes instead of just a palette to help people read news online.
I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of the new, lighter font type, but other than that I welcome the changes, which add a newfangled social perspective to an otherwise bland reader experience.
The best thing I can conclude about this from Google's perspective is that it shows readers care and care deeply. That's a positive from a negative.
Of course, a big negative would be if readers did as Zip and some other disgruntled folks are already suggesting: leave Google News for Bing.
Wrote Bigcheese0001: "Bing news is very close to the preferred format. Check it out. I'll still give it a week, then Bing! New homepage."
"But I have found a solution, Bing.com's news section is very close to what we all want to see. If google can't understand that then guess what? it's time to move to a news site that knows how to display its news in a orderly and clean manner not in a way that visually hurts."
Ouch. Google hasn't reverted back to the previous Google search, so there's little chance it will allow users to access the former Google News.
Updated, July 6: When asked about this, a Google spokesperson told me:
"Google launches hundreds of design changes, so it would be impractical to offer multiple versions of each service. While it can take time to adjust to change, we've tested our latest Google News design thoroughly. We'll keep monitoring user feedback so we can continue improving Google News."
Should Google give the people what they want and bring back the former UX, or stick to its guns?