Jul 022010

Change…  Sometimes good… Sometimes bad…

I’m usually Google’s biggest fan I’ve even forgiven some “Buzzworthy” changes/errors in the past.  This time I need to put my foot down,   “GOOGLE KEEP YOUR DARN HANDS OFFA’ MY NEWS PAPER!!!!”  (err I mean Google News site)

In case some of you haven’t seen the new design

Now before I start I should say that I’m sure there are some really talented people at Google who have spent lots of effort and hard work on this re-design and out of respect for Google I just have to say… couldn’t you have sent THESE people over to Facebook or Linkedin?

All kidding aside, I can tell Google is trying to improve the personalization of their news offering and yes there are some exciting features in there.  I’m worried from a user design standpoint that this was too drastic and quick of a change.

Some thoughts:

  1. Having a NEWS site design forced on you after reading it every day is traumatic.  Imagine if a cultural icon like the NY Times just decided to change its format overnight subscribers would cancel.  There would be riots in the streets!  While Google News doesn’t have “subscribers” the new design doesn’t work for some people and they are now looking else ware for news.  Maybe give these people a way to keep the old design or parts of it to help ease them into the transition.

  1. The right sidebar is soooo  1999…  Having locked elements on the right are a step back from the amazing fluid design of the old page.  On the old site I could just block the sports category and I wouldn’t have to ever see useless stats populate my page again.  I’m concerned about technology and politics, that’s it.  Everything else is a distraction I don’t have time for.  What the heck is a world cup?  With a few more “click here to remove” buttons or the option to remove the right bar altogether you could give people the best of both worlds.

  1. I could read the old page in 1 minute.  No lie.  The old page gave me a quick glimpse of the headlines, letting me know what was going on and giving me the opportunity to see all of the categories in almost one page.  People like to skim the headlines.  Having to scroll “past the break” takes effort and time.  If I have to scroll down to see the whole front page you’ve already lost me.  Give the option to keep it brief people value their time over all other assets.

  1. The new design looks WAY too much like Google’s new search engine design.  While the new search design is a revolution it feels clunky for a news site.  This layout gives me the urge to just go search for the news myself (or perhaps on another site).  Let’s bring back the wide format (as an option) it works great for news.

I’m a little scared that the forced change with the news site and the homepage backgrounds are a bit of a look into how Google plans on doing things in the future.  Sort of a “let’s shock them, cause a PR debacle then scale it back” strategy.  I think there are some merits to doing it this way but if those merits come at the cost of lost users and TRUE fans of your product it’s not worth it.

For better or worse the developers over at Google are working hard.  I still respect Google as a company and think they do some of the world’s finest work.

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