Friday, April 11, 2008

Mark as what?

Google Reader is my favorite rss reader coz its easy and fun to use and of course the sharing feature. It has a a very original and smart UI which shows the feed items as a stream of stories and I can navigate through them using J & K keys. I love it. However there is a small glitch.

The interaction of the UI is such a way that a story is marked read as soon as you mouse over on it in the Expanded view and when you click on a title in the List view. And now if you want to mark a story as unread, finding the option option is not all that easy… Well let me say you will never find it.

The interaction here is a little tricky. As soon as the story is marked read it shows the status as a check box way below the story item.

Robert Scoble on Google Reader. Highlighted is the Mark as Read option

Most probably you would want to mark a story as unread when you are half way through it and so you would not scroll down to the end of the item. Now even if you find it at the end of the article, its not straight forward. It says “Mark as read” which leaves the user confused. The user wont get the check box funda right at this point. Also if you look at the other options on the same bottom bar “Add Star” and “Share” have straight forward call to action, a prominent way of displaying the status by changing colors of the icons when they toggle. The “Mark as Read” is also meant to work in the same fashion, just to keep a consistent interaction, but it doesn’t work well.

Robert Scoble on Google Reader. Highlighted is the Mark as UnRead option

I would say the best way to show the option should be way on top next to the story title and the button should toggle and the label should change according to the read status of the story.

3 comments:

Vinodh Nandakumar said...

Umesh, I think there is a problem with doing this especially in the expanded view. In the expanded view, there is no way for the system to know the status. As of now, GReader makes it read the moment you hover over it and your status changes when the mouse focus moves from one article to the next in the expanded view. In that case, you can't have the status on the top of the post as the user loses context of the status.

What do you think ?

Umesh said...

@Vinodh I didnt understand by you saying "as the user loses context of the status." Please explain

In the expanded view when you read a story most probably your mouse will hover the item and thats when the system decided whether to mark it read. The button/link which appears with the story title just enforces the status of the story item by toggling/appearing to Mark as unread the moment the story is marked as read by the system.

Once a story is marked as unread by the user the status doesnt change even if your mouse is on top of the story item. It waits for another explicit user action; which is fine.

Raj said...

Are you sure is it the hover that marks the status ? I don't think so. When you scroll over a story it is marked as read. I assume you use IE. In Safari I could not get the state of some of the screen shots you have captured.