Daniel Nisbet

newsfeed: Re-Imagining Google Reader for 2023

A staple of my early-naughts web diet, Google Reader still has a place in my heart 10 years after Google closed its doors. While a number of services stepped in to take its place, I haven’t stumbled across anything that fills the footsteps that Reader once stood upon.

However, I’m a designer with a little bit of time, a lot of knowledge about UI/UX, and some unsupervised time in Figma: so why not envision what Google Reader could have been in 2023? I decided to have some fun, unleash my creativity and reimagine a modern interface while preserving the essence of the app we cherished in the past.

newsfeed: Redefining Google Reader

newsfeed: All feeds landing page in dark mode

The core challenge was to strike the perfect balance between modern aesthetics and the original simplicity that endeared Google Reader to millions. Expectations of content aggregation today are different than they were 10 years ago, and my goal with newsfeed was to create an interface that feels refreshingly familiar yet enticingly novel.

The overall layout builds on what we were familiar with while incorporating the best practices we’ve discovered in UI/UX design over the last 10 years.

The left sidebar retains a lot of the original structure, but I decided on a vertical navigation to the right for filtering content, refreshing the feed, marking articles as “read”, and a quick way to jump to user settings. A set of arrows at the bottom allow for quick access to jump from one article to the next as the reader progresses through their feed.

Typography: A Journey of Readability

newsfeed: Article page in light mode

Typography played a pivotal role in my redesign, as I sought to enhance the reading experience. I meticulously explored a variety of fonts and settled on the elegant Blacker Pro and Klein Text from Zetafonts. These choices breathe a new sense of clarity and visual appeal into the content, inviting users to indulge in a seamless reading journey, while keeping visual fatigue to a minimum as the reader consumes long-form text.

A Visual Dashboard

newsfeed: Dashboard in light mode

Perhaps the biggest change (and addition) I made was the inclusion of a home page dashboard. Inspired by the front page of a newspaper, this dashboard presents a curated selection of articles, weather updates, sports scores, and more. A snapshot of the day’s highlights whets readers’ appetites for the delightful content that awaits them.

As the reader interacts with the app, areas like What’s New could utilize AI to continue refining featured articles or even suggest new feeds that could be of interest, with a seamless option to subscribe.

While not RSS-driven, the widgets in the right column can leverage various APIs and open up a wealth of possibilities beyond weather and sports, providing more value to the end user’s experience in newsfeed.

Seamless User Experience

newsfeed: iPhone mockups in dark and light modes

I aspired to create a design that transcends platforms, embracing users across various devices and operating systems. With its minimal interface options to customize preferences, adjusting colors, fonts, and other elements can easily cater to individual reading preferences. This freedom allows readers to indulge in the pleasures of content consumption without constraints.

This freedom is the heart behind my redesign exercise and something I think Google Reader excelled at for its time: staying out of the reader’s way and allowing the content to be the star of the show.

Redefining Social Media Integration

While it was tempting to include our modern set of standard social media sharing buttons, I purposely left those out of this redesign. If we were to imagine newsfeed as a physical space, my intention was to curate a quiet library that allows you to escape the noises of the busy street outside—a place where you can enjoy a coffee or tea while having a break to enjoy the moment—and with that frame of reference, sharing icons would have been a distraction to the environment.

With that said, I think a platform like newsfeed could offer its own unique community experience Perhaps it could be the foundation to a new kind of content aggregation platform that doesn’t require readers to leave its ecosystem but still have the opportunity to spark conversations among readers and foster a sense of community.

Universally Accessible Design

This experimentation served as a playground for for creativity and innovation and fueled my passion for crafting exceptional user experiences. I hope this glimpse into my thought process sparks inspiration and incites provoking discussions within our vibrant community.