The New Look of Gmail and Google Reader

I always want things to stay fresh, be it groceries I buy or the apps I download. So, whenever there is an update to software I use, I dutifully grab it with both hands. When it comes to web apps, I love Google for keeping things fresh and new. They launch new services and update existing ones at breakneck pace.

Recently, Google rolled out a newer look across the board to all its apps. And two of the flagship apps – Gmail and Reader – got the brand new look rolled out universally, last week. One was welcomed with cheers, while the other wasn’t. Turns out, consistant branding and useful UIs are as easy to roll out as pressing a button and giving all of your sites the same color schemes.

Gorgeous Gmail

The new look of Gmail isn’t much of a surprise as it’s been available as a theme for a few weeks now. I’ve been using the theme since it was open to testing and I could see a lot of fine tuning when comparing with the final version. The default roll out is much more snappy and elegant. There is now more room for everything and the app is so easy on the eyes. Now, there is also a dedicated refresh button to check for new mail!

New Look Gmail

New Look Gmail

The search bar is now prominently placed and the advanced search features are tucked in neatly under a drop down. Creating filters from a search query has gotten more easier and so has the search itself with so many options to fine tune.

Conversation View

Conversation View

Conversations have been redesigned to bring the content of your messages to the forefront, and profile pictures make it easier to see who you’re talking with at a glance. I found it a bit trying to expand multiple messages from a single conversation.The Expand all feature is still in place, but it has now been relegated to a tiny icon and takes a while to expand all messages.

HD Themes

HD Themes

Despite rolling out a new gorgeous and modern look, Google hasn’t removed the themes section that helps you personalize your inbox. In fact, a bunch of new high definition themes have been added to the delight of customization lovers.

Lackluster Google Reader

The reboot of the Google Reader user interface, however, is a disaster of epic proportions. From ordinary users to the members who were part of the original Google Reader dev team, people from all over have come out against this half baked update. In a hurried move towards pushing users to share items only via Google+, the company has axed almost all sharing features. Except for sharing articles via email, the rest of the social sharing features have been dropped.

Reader View

Reader View

For me, Reader was the gateway drug to all of Google’s services. From Gmail, Google Docs to Calendar and Google Apps, I have built my online life pretty much around it. The previous version of Reader was very functional, if not good looking and all it needed were a few tweaks here and there. But in the name of bringing uniformity across the board, a largely cosmetic and unproductive user interface has been thrust upon us.

Limited Sharing Options

Limited Sharing Options

Sure, the new look is kinda cool and since there weren’t any improvements to the app in a long time, I was praying God that it not be taken down. Reader doesn’t help Google’s bottomline as they can’t plaster ads left, right and center. So, I’m happy that the app is alive and kicking, at least for now. But the stark reality is for me to find a better, on par or even a half as good feed reader, and fast. If I were a developer, I would develop a Google Reader competitor online, as there for sure is niche market waiting to be tapped!

Share Your Thoughts!

How has the changes to Gmail and Google Reader affected your browsing habits? Is there is a better alternative for Google Reader online?