Yesterday, Google rolled out a redesign of its Reader product, which is, as the name implies, an RSS reader. The biggest changes include a new look, collapsible navigation, more visibility for your friends' shared items, and (blessedly!) the ability to hide unread counts.Each morning when I sit down to Google Reader, there are anywhere from 750 to 1,000 unread items sitting in the queue. That can be daunting. Since I need to at least scan each of those headlines to determine their relevance, it takes a while. Once I pound through the initial set of feeds in the morning, I then stay on top of the feeds all day by returning to check in frequently. As Google suggests, the 1,000 unread posts in my Reader often "feel more like a to-do list than the random awesomeness of the Internet."
In response, Google has given Reader users the ability to hide the number of unread items in their feed. They will still see that there are unread items in each individual feed, but not how many.
Other changes include a new look and feel. Google says, "Google is all about speed, both under the hood as well as in the user experience. So, in order to make Reader act and feel more speedy and responsive, we've removed some visual clutter, simplified some features, and given everything a bit more breathing room. Out with the old rounded corners, drop shadows, and heavily saturated colors -- in with a softer palette, faster components and a fresh new look."
To be quite honest, I'm not a fan of the new design. Google increased the spacing between items in the feed. This may make them easier to read, but it also means that fewer items fit onto a single page, and I am forced to scroll more. I'm also not thrilled about the new color scheme being used. In favor of the new design, I will say that some of the buttons have been enlarged, making them easier to find and press. Many of my friends on Twitter, however, are generally pleased with the new design.
It also has collapsible navigation. According to Google, each section of the navigation pane now has its own options menu and minimize/maximize controls. You can collapse each major section of navigation down to one line and focus on only the things you choose to use.
In all, the changes are many, and it will take some time to get used to them.