Wednesday, Nov 02, 2011
Update (11/4): Google has politely declined my offer. I spoke with the director of product management who oversees Reader and, while they do plan on making repairs to the UI, they don't feel that I would be a good fit at this time. I'm fine with this, and am happy that they're putting some resources into fixing some of the UX problems.
Like many others, I was curious when Google announced that it would be revamping the Google Reader UI and refactor its social components into Google Plus. To that end, I wrote a brief blog post about what I felt would be a better alternative to stripping out Google Reader's social functionality.
Now that the Google Reader redesign has gone live, it seems clear that the stripping of social functionality is only one of many significant problems that have come from repainting the product with the broad brush of Google's new visual style guide. Affordances have gone awry, the relative implied importance of use cases (such as subscribing) have fallen out of balance, and visual grouping of related items has been whitewashed away, to name a few problems.
I believe this has happened because Google Reader was held to a mandate of refreshing Google products under a common style guide, but from what I've been told it had no full-time user experience resource to apply that guide in a way that made sense for the nuances and needs of that particular product.
This product is important to me, and for many it fulfills the need for a source-centric news consumption product that has been overshadowed by the overwhelming push of 'social stream' products such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. While those products are important, they don't meet the same needs that Google Reader was designed to, and Reader should not fall by the wayside, a victim to fashion.
And so I put my resources where my mouth is. As the former lead designer for Google Reader, I offer my services to Google, rejoining for a three month contract in order to restore and enhance the utility of Google Reader, while keeping it in line with Google's new visual standards requirements. I will put my current projects on hold to ensure that Google Reader keeps its place as the premier news reader, and raises the bar of what a social newsreader can be.
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