Read Better With Readings

There is little innovation happening in the online news reader space. I am so jealous at the awesome apps like Google Currents, Flipboard, Pulse, and more that push the envelop for reading on a tablet. After mercilessly slaughtering the usability of the Google Reader web app, Google came up with the elegant Currents. Unbelievable.

These days lot of my reading time is spent on my iPad and with the choices out there on the web, I don’t see things changing anytime soon. That doesn’t stop me from scouting for new web apps that help consume news better. Like Readings. I took some time off to put the app to test and you can find out if is a promising contender after the break.

User Interface

User Interface

User Interface

Readings is a news reader app without any frills. When I say no frills, I mean it in every sense of the word. There isn’t even an About us or product tour page. At first glance, the app might look a lot like an older version of the Facebook stream and the effects displayed when something is in process confirm the suspicion.

That doesn’t mean the app isn’t good enough. In fact, it is easy to navigate between the various columns, and actually looks fairly nice. The size of fonts does require immediate attention though. A lot of squinting is needed even from a widescreen monitor.

Ease of Use

If there was an award for making things easier for the user (in particular the unregistered user), I would be delighted to give it to the developers of Readings. Not only can you read the feeds without registering, but can subscribe to and take advantage of all the stuff usually entitled to registered users. But, keep in mind that your preferences are saved only until you close the browser window.

Subscribing to Feeds

Browse by Authors

Browse by Authors

The interface doesn’t change even after signing in, though I must say I truly enjoyed the one click sign up using my Google Account (Facebook accounts can be used too). The top stories of the day, week and month are displayed at the top for easy access. Easy access apart, I’m not sure how they pick the top stories. Some of them were a bit obscure.

Readings facilitates a bunch of ways you can subscribe to and discover feeds. Feeds are arranged into neat little categories of their own and subscribing to them is as easy as clicking on the the Subscribe button.

Adding New Feeds

Adding New Feeds

Can’t find your favorite blog in the list? That is what the Import/Add feeds feature is for. Copy and paste the RSS or Atom feed of the news source and you can start reading it instantly. As a perk, you can integrate your Google Reader account to Readings and use a much refined interface for a change.

Reading Feeds

Reading a Feed

Reading a Feed

Articles from the feed of your choice show up in chronological order withmore article suggestions along their side. I don’t understand, why each and every story should have its own More Stories section. If these sections are actually meant for displaying similar articles, more work needs to be done. Also, having a link to the blog above every link to an article is way too annoying.

Reading an Article

Reading an Article

Reading an article at Readings is a great pleasure. The app takes all the niceties of a read it later app and makes available the entire content of an article sans the ads. Thankfully, we have the option to adjust font sizes here, but even the default font size is very much legible unlike the rest of the app. Options to print, tweet or like it on Facebook are readily available at the top.

With Readings, you don’t actually need a read it later app. Hit the Read Later button, and the articles will be saved in the Unread section of the app for reading later.

Final Thoughts

I’m no developer (not yet), but from what I read at our NetTuts blog, with HTML5 and CSS 3, richer experiences can be created in web apps that are starting to rival native apps. Readings is a cool app and has a headstart in what virtually is a competition free race. They have nailed the usability part of the equation. But, they will have to work on the privacy aspect.

Sure, the native news readers don’t have a login screen that hides all my reading choices. But an iPad is a personal device and I can’t say the same about a web browser. When you import feeds from your Google Reader, need for a closed, secure environment becomes all the more necessary.

Sure, I would love to have some snazzy effects added to the app too, but for now I don’t want to pressure them much!

Share Your Thoughts!

What is your favorite news reader on the web app? Think apps like Flipboard and Google Currents are future or do web apps still have a fighting chance?


Summary

Readings is a news reader app without any frills.

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