Google finally updated Google Reader this week, after a period of stagnation which hasn’t seen any changes for months. The main changes are a new design, integration with Google+ and the removal of the old social features (in favour of Google+).
The new design matches the look given to other Google products, such as Gmail and Google+, and while I’ve generally liked the new look I don’t think it works well here. There’s far too much white space which, especially on a widescreen monitor, means that the actual content area is very small (Update: As expected, there’s a Greasemonkey script to correct this). It’s also quite monochrome – all the links are the same colour as the text, which makes it look very plain and means that the links don’t stand out as much.
That’s not to say that the design should not have changed; the old design looked very dated and I’m pleased to see it updated; I just think they could have done a better job.
Integration with Google+
One of my 8 things Google+ needs to do to become popular was to do with better integration, and seeing how Google+ is clearly a major new strategy at Google it’s good to see this included. You can now +1 any item in Google Reader, and then in turn share it to your circles on Google+, thus making it easier to share interesting links with your friends. This is in lieu of Google Buzz, which Google is in the process of closing. My only comment about this is that the number of +1s on each item is shown in very small text; whereas on the old Google Reader the number of ‘likes’ was very prominent.
Removal of old social features
It’s clear that Google are using Google+ as its social platform, and therefore has removed the ability to share items with other Google Reader users and instead wants you to +1 them. On the whole, I don’t have much of a problem with this – it was something that I never really used – but others are not very happy. I’ll give Google the benefit of the doubt and assume that so few of their users actually made use of this feature that it probably wasn’t worth keeping, and was not in line with the strategy of having Google+ at the forefront of all social interactions with Google’s tools. It will mean that I can no longer have ifttt import my shared items into Delicious, although Google Reader still allows you to ‘star’ items and these can be imported, so it’s not a major loss.
So overall it’s a mixed bag. I’m glad that Google Reader is receiving some attention, and it’s on the right lines, but the design could do with more work. I’m also really looking forward to the Google+ API being opened up so that I can actually do something with all of the data that I’m putting in there.