After seeing the nifty little trends tool for Google Reader, I decided (again) to export all my Bloglines subs and make the switch. And while I know that the oft-maligned Reader has been the subject of numerous critiques and suggestions, I thought I’d add my two cents on things I’d like to see improved.
Overall, I think it’s a great tool that’s come a long way. And even though I plan to stick with Reader for the time being, I believe Bloglines still has a simpler and better interface. Bloglines doesn’t do as much as Google Reader, but it does the important things very well.
Anywho, my notes are below. If I’ve accidentally overlooked a simple workaround or instruction for any of these suggestions, please let me know in the comments. Congrats to the Reader team for continuing to improve the product.
1. Lag time — the most oft-noted and most unfortunate characteristic of Google Reader is that it takes too long to load feeds after you select them. This needs to change before the product leaves Labs.
2. the nomenclature — tags, labels and folders — makes Google Reader difficult to understand at a glance. When I first used the new design, it took me 10 minutes (seriously) to figure out how to add a folder. Why? Because that function is hidden at the bottom of a dropdown menu called “change folder” under the subscriptions tab. Shouldn’t that command be on the top of the page somewhere? And why can’t I simply add a folder from the feeds page itself?
When I finally did add a new folder, that folder then appears in a list of tags under the tags tab. Why isn’t there an explanation in the Reader itself (not the FAQs) about how a tag is different from a folder? Why isn’t there a “manage folders” tab?
3. the design — Way too much text on the homepage that is the same font and weight. A dramatic improvement from the first GUI, but I think Google overcompensated. I love that you can switch back and forth between the two versions.
4. You can’t expand the feed list pane. A lot of my feed titles get cut off, especially the ones that belong to newspapers and magazines. A workaround is to change the feed name under the “subscriptions” tab, but why not also make the feed pane expandable?
5. Under settings > subscriptions, the “change folders” pulldown is mislabeled. It should read “add folder,” because it only adds a folder, it doesn’t remove the existing folder. For example, I have the blog 3quarksdaily organized under the folder “critical thinking.” If I want to actually change the folder, I don’t use the “change folder” dropdown, because that would only add 3quarksdaily to a new folder without removing it from the original one. Instead, I would use the universal “more actions” dropdown box at the top of the page.
6. You should be able to edit the feed, folder and tag names on the feed page itself. Why? Because when you navigate to “manage subscriptions,” the feeds are listed in alpha order without the visual benefit of hierarchical folder organization. This change makes it more difficult, for me at least, to conceptualize how my folder tree will be set up. Thus I’m constantly navigating back and forth. (Personally, I think it’s extremely difficult to combine both folders and tags, since both are competing organization metaphors.)
7. Where’s the search box? Why can’t I search my feeds?