I’ve been using Bloglines as my RSS reader for a long time now. While searching for something totally unrelated on the big, wild, intarw3b, I found this LifeHacker article singing the praises of Google Reader. Intrigued, I decided to take a look. First, let me point out that the LifeHacker article, so full of praise for Google Reader, doesn’t even include a friggin’ link to Google’s reader offering. So after studying the proselytizing for Google Reader, I can’t even go straight to the tool and check it out. I have to spend extra effort to find and hit Google Reader myself. Yes, it’s a triviality in the grand scheme, but if you are trying to sell folks on a new idea, you have to make it as easy as possible.
Kinda like Woot.com‘s Stupidly Big Button (sign up at Woot and buy something sometime to see – it’s a stupidly big button to complete the purchase process), you want to make getting your final point across as clearly as possible. This Keep it Simple, Stupid philosophy is why I *TRY* to make the first link in every article I post or the last link before a blockquote the link of relevance/intent for my stories. When I want you to check something out, I try to make it easy by putting it the first link you see in the article or the link immediately before the quote I’m pulling from the article. I’m not successful every time (this article being a prime example of failing to simplify what link is the most relevant for the story – the LifeHacker link and the Google Reader link are to main two I will focus on here).
That said, let me now lay in to my interface gripe about Google Reader, which ultimately is what I wanted to write about. After finding and visiting Google Reader, I see a nice, Googlishly simple front page (resized here).
Hey, it’s simple. That’s the Google style. Since I want to try this out right away, I hit that stupidly big button labeled “Get started by adding subscriptions.” Now, we get this screen for adding a subscription.
What’s missing here? The stupidly big box labeled “Feed URL” Here’s what Bloglines gives you when you say “Add Feeds”
But Google, in a bafflingly non-Google manner, has chosen to not give you a simple screen like this for entering the address. In an apparent attempt to dumb down the interface, Google has made it harder for a knowledgeable user to user the tool. No, to get my feed in there when I already know what feed I want, I’m forced to click another button labeled, bizarrely, “Add Subscription.” But, um, isn’t that already what I’m trying to do? Didn’t I already hit a button to add subscriptions? Why should I have to tell the reader again that I really want to add a subscription? This is, for lack of a better term, Microsoftian interface design. So, if I click the not-stupidly-obvious Add subscriptions link, do I get the current page refreshed? Do I go to another screen where I can put my feed address? No, I get a little AJAX pop-open box.
Now I can finally add my feed and get the news I want. But why do I have to click add subscriptions from the add subscriptions page? Shouldn’t there be a stupidly big box the first time I say add subscriptions? Has Google decided to forget smart interface design after years of leading the industry with easy access interfaces?
I’ve been on a big interface annoyance fling after reading a lot of Joel’s commentary on software lately. I highly recommend the two books of his I have read, if you want to learn a little about good software and interface design.
I may end up trying out Google’s RSS reader offerings some time, but for now, I’ll stick with the stupidly easy interface that I find at Bloglines. I’ll let all you really smart folks use Google Reader. Maybe in the future, I’ll be smart enough to catch up. Also in the future, look for a brief annoyance based post about Windows Live Writer, since that is the tool I now use for writing to the Blahg. And maybe the Amazon affiliates program link builder, since it’s annoying to try to get Amazon links, in my not so humble opinion. In fact, I enjoy criticizing the works of others enough, I may just do it for other programs and web sites I deal with.
[tags]RSS, Google Reader, Bloglines, Google, Interface criticism, Interface annoyances[/tags]