August 21, 2008 |
I can’t help but envy people who are lucky enough to get some new unannounced features from Google when browsing this or that service from the internet giant. Today the lucky one is Harry McCracken from Technologizer who has been served a totally new Google News and blogged about it to describe what we probably should expect to be rolled out in the near future. Actually the team of Google News promised that they would test the new interface by serving it to some randomly selected users.
Unfortunately even if I had been lucky (and I know from experience I’m not), I would not have seen this particular surprise since I only consume stories from Google News in my feed reader – and mainly to see how good our Profy posts are doing there because normally I see the news elsewhere before they are aggregated to Google News site and RSS feed. But since Google News is the page where quite a number of internet users get their daily dose of the most important things, I think it is worth mentioning what we should expect not that Harry has chosen to share some details.
First of all, there is now a new section for “Developing stories”. Right now the only focus for Google News are the top stories already heavily covered by media outlets. And the developing stories block is actually what I like the best about the revamped news service from Google. The reason is that as a contributing publisher to Google News I often receive notifications that this or that post of mine has made it to Google News but unless the same story gets picked by a huge number of other news sources, it will not appear on the main page anywhere (and won’t be sent to the RSS feed either). So I believe this is exactly what the “Developing stories” is intended for: it will show the latest stories gaining traction and probably some of them will receive better visibility and a chance of getting picked by other bloggers and journalists to actually make it to the top.
Other additions include a featured photo on the homepage and a section for “Interesting stories” – this one is the most puzzling because I have no idea how they are picked – by human editors or by some algorithm. Probably these are to replace what used to be “Recommended stories” where you received some stories based on Google knew about you from your search history. If so, it is quite logical: if I search for something, it may very well mean that I will find stories related to this particular topic interesting.
The major visual change is that Google News will switch to a new one-column layout instead of the traditional two-column one. Right now every news section gets half of the column with a few stories on the homepage but in the new layout every section receives the full width of the page and, thus, more space. But of course it results in more scrolling to get through all the sections.
I won’t make any conclusions on the new Google News until I actually play with it at least for a few minutes but in general the new layout seems to be a little cleaner than the current one. But even if the new design may look better organized and cleaner to some users, I am absolutely positive that the vast majority will probably grudge about absolutely anything Google could change. The reason is pretty simple: when a service has not been changed for years, users simply grow accustomed to having the service exactly as it is without any changes – no matter good or bad – simply not to teach yourself to click the links in new places from now on. So the only suggestion I myself have to Google is to let users choose if they want to get their news in the new format or to switch back to the old one if they are not happy about what they see. I am pretty certain it will not be very difficult for them to keep both versions running.