The Google Reader homepage.
“Google Reader makes it easy to find and subscribe to online feeds to help users organize and stay up-to-date on the ever-increasing amount of web information they consume on a daily basis.
The product features a clean, easy-to-use interface and includes a comprehensive feed finder, multi-media feed displays, and algorithms that can assist users with automatic content prioritization, plus easy sharing capabilities with email and “blog this” features.”
At the moment, the site is extra slow. It has been linked from Boing Boing, Slashdot, Waxy and other sources and seems to be under heavy traffic (then again, Google could have expected that, even when the call this new service “beta”). When the service is up to speed again I’m sure other online feed readers, such as Bloglines, face heavy competition.
The search result page allows you to subscribe to feeds. I searched for [google].
Here’s how Google’s feed reader works, from a first look:
The look-and-feel of Google Reader is similar to Gmail and Google Groups 2. You can add a star to topics. There are keyboard short-cuts (“j" for next, “k" for previous, “r" for refresh, to name a few). Categorization is implemented via labels, not folders. There are soft shades of blue and green, and round corners. Related ads aren’t included yet, but may certainly follow. There is a lot of DHTML, and use of Ajax/XMLHTTP. Ajax allows to update page content without a full server round-trip. Of course, this is intended to speed up things, none of which can be seen at the moment as the server is nearly down.
The main view to read your subscriptions (see larger image). Often, headlines within the left-hand pane are cut off in Firefox, making for a usability problem.
Here, a podcast feed is shown, along with Google’s nicely integrated Flash-based audio player. Google Reader supports RSS with media enclosures (like MP3s, or video formats). If you want to see this in action, try Feeeds audio for some RSS files with enclosures.
At times, Google falls prey to the “click here” syndrome; instead of linking the semantically correct part of a sentence to focus attention on what’s most relevant, they underline the “click here”. Instead of “Click here to view older items from this source”, the HTML should be “View older items from this source”.
The good-looking DHTML comes with a price; there are some accessibility problems with Google Reader. Typically the Google teams adopt a MVC (Model, View, Controller) approach to programming. This doesn’t have quite the flexibility of HTML-native mechanisms of adopting to different media (in HTML in its “strict” version, content is separated from layout and functionality; media-specific CSS is added on top).
Still, MVC does allow for later addition of mobile phone support, screen reader support, and so on. Gmail also first came out in a format inaccessible to more exotic browsers, but later on offered an alternative “stripped down” (and accessible) version.
Time will tell if people learn to love this latest Google tool, but from what I could see – speed issues (and some accessibility and usability bugs) aside – it’s off to a very good start.
[Thanks Iolaire McFadden in the forum.]
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