Tag Archives: usability

Google Books: please make better use of screen space on my netbook

The screen-shot below shows the appearance of a 15 April 1972 Billboard magazine article about Pink Floyd, in Google Books, on the screen of my Lenovo S10-S2 netbook, using my default settings. 

Screengrab, showing the top of a scanned magazine page, with a picture and then only a few lines of text showing

Although I’ve used Google Books’ “full screen” setting, this only uses the full width of the screen, not its height. Of the viewport’s 509 pixels height, virtually a fifth, 98 pixels, are taken up with navigation tools which are, while I’m reading the article, redundant:

The top of the previous screengrab, showing navigation links

It would be good if Google would let me hide that header until I need it again, and thereby reduce the amount of vertical scrolling needed as I read the multi-column content.

Google Reader's great, but it could be even better

Here’s another screenshot (linked to a larger version; thank you Flickr).

[link to large image of Google Reader screen-shot]

This one shows some of the RSS feeds I follow, in Google Reader. I only started using that service recently, and I’m finding very compelling (and time consuming!) both on my desktop PC, as shown here, and on my mobile device, using the stripped down and rather splendid mobile interface. However, I think the desktop interface — if I can call it that — could be improved and made more usable.

Firstly, I’d like a “mark as read” (or “ignore”, with the same effect) button, so that I can skip over posts which look uninteresting, without having to open and then close them to do so. It could go to the right of the “star” icon (highlighted yellow — and what’s that for? I can find no explanation, other than references to apparent side-effects of using it, in the help pages).

Also, if I select the title of a feed , such as “BBC News | News front” (a truncation of …News Front Page”; marked in orange), surely I can reasonably expect the view of that feed to open, instead of the specific post? That would be the same action as when I select the feed’s title in the left-hand column. The post’s title, to the right of the feed title, is a large-enough target to work in its own right.

Lastly, there are two “refresh” buttons (each highlighted in red). These, stupidly, have different functions. The one in the left-hand column refreshes all the feeds, while the one at the top refreshes the feed I’m viewing. If I use the latter, it clears read items from the current feed view, but annoyingly that doesn’t happen if I use the former — what’s that about? Either the two buttons should have the same effect, or they should be labelled differently.

I’d like to let Google know what I think, but — in typical Google fashion — they don’t seem to provide a mechanism for me to do so.

Postscript: The URL provided by Google for my “publicly shared items” in Google Reader, which anyone can visit, is the mind-bogglingly unmemorable, untypeable and generally unfriendly http://www.google.com/reader/shared/03499548569546420688. Why can’t I have http://www.google.com/reader/shared/pigsonthewing ?