Minor Yet Major

Album Cover: The Doors

"Before you slip into unconsciousness, I'd like to have another kiss. Another flashing chance at bliss."
The Doors / The Crystal Ship

Posted on September 29, 2006 8:52 PM in Web Design
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

This will be quick 'cause I've got a pizza on the way, but I had to write about some feature addtions the Bloglines team made to their news reader service this week, especially since I know I've got a few readers who also use the service.

As noted at their blog, they've made it so the left-hand pane with the list of feeds no longer refreshes (and subsequently scrolls back to the top) when you mark items as unread or use the "keep as new" feature. In addition, they've made some very minor aesthetic changes that somehow make a world of difference in terms of how the design feels. When you click on a feed title, it gets highlighted in a pleasant but unobtrusive grey so it's easy to see what you're currently reading as you scroll down the right-hand reading pane.

In addition to, and somewhat tied-in with their minor aesthetic tweaks, they've integrated some Ajax to make the category unread counts update on-the-fly and flash yellow so you notice the change as it occurs. They've also shortened the interval between checks for new posts across all your subscriptions, and even flash a little indicator at the bottom-left of the screen to let you know how many new items were picked up. This is a sexy little feature addition that goes a long way in terms of the feel of their application overall. I'll ignore the fact that it's a tad stressful to see new items being added as you're trying to bring the total unread count down ;)

I've had my qualms with Bloglines in the past, but the minor changes they made this week have gone a long way in getting them back on my good side. Maybe I'm just a sucker for good design and enhanced usability, but whatever the reason, I have to tip my hat.


Chu Yeow on October 01, 2006 at 6:34 AM:

I agree on the cosmetic changes as well - just a few minor tweaks but it's starting to feel like a new toy (this coming from a long-time Bloglines user). That said, I've been very tempted by Google Reader since it's latest update. Gonna take a shot at reading my imported articles in it and see if I like it better.


Bernie Zimmermann on October 01, 2006 at 9:36 AM:

Chu Yeow, definitely let me know what you think about Google Reader. I've been reading good things about it on other peoples' blogs. I'm not quite sure what it would take to pull me away from Bloglines, but stranger things have happened.


Chu Yeow on October 02, 2006 at 5:19 AM:

Well, I tried it today after clearing my Bloglines backlog in Bloglines, and I have to say I am very impressed. One feature I especially liked was the 'mark items as read when you scroll past them' preference that only marks those items you have scrolled across as read. I hated it in Bloglines where clicking on a feed would mark all it's articles as read, especially for those prolific ones or those for which I have a backlog (200 entries is usually a little too much for one sitting for good blogs). I have to say, this is almost the killer functionality for me. I've been bitten by interruptions and crashed browsers once too many times.

Google Reader can get a little slow though, but then I only have 512MB of RAM right now so it probably isn't indicative of anything (the new Bloglines is slow as well I noticed).

Other than that, Google Reader seems faster to respond too (which I'm not surprised at, considering that it's Google (and their distribution channels)), and it's prettier. I think I'm gonna switch Bernie :/

Now two thumbs crossed for Gmail integration (like RSSFWD).


Bernie Zimmermann on October 08, 2006 at 10:53 PM:

Chu Yeow, that marked read as you scroll feature sounds pretty cool. I just read a pretty good comparison article over at Lifehacker (via Digg) and it's making me think I need to at least give Google Reader a try. I actually feel kinda guilty saying that ;)


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