Usability of Google Currents

This post is about digital publishing, about its usability. I used Flipboard for some time and it is good. Not excellent because of some mess on lower nesting levels, but it is a base line for other similar apps and services. Let’s look at Google Currents, I will assess them on Google Nexus S smart phone. So we have native Google device and native Google app. What result can we expect? Of course we want excellent, best of the breed! What we have in reality? Read on.

Level 0: Home Screen

We see sexy image and some icons on the home screen. Navigation is horizontal. I.e. to move between the pages we have to flip right, then left or right. Standard think on touch screens. One big surface and moving it with the finger. From aesthetics point of view home screen of Flipboard on iPad is way better. Ok, we are at the Level 0, Home Screen. And it has horizontal navigation. Take a look below:

Level 0, Home screen with horizontal navigation

Level 1: Fast Company and TechCrunch

I like to read Fast Company stuff, so I am clicking its icon. By doing that I descend to the nesting level, let’s name it Level 1. What we see at that level? Fast Company expands its content horizontally. We can navigate it as we did on Level 0, intuitively, everything the same and it is good. Looks at the snapshots below, demonstrating horizontal navigation for Fast Company:

Level 1, Fast Company with horizontal navigation

So far everything cool and we love Google Currents as an alternative to Flipboard:) But it is time to launch TechCrunch now. I love TechCrunch too, it is on my Home Screen as well as Fast Company. So, clicking TechCrunch icon! Starting to read, donw with first screen, trying to flip right and here comes an issue:( TechCrunch does not scroll horizontally. Surprise? I would call it a flaw in Interaction Design of the Google Currents. At the same level as Fast Company – Level 1 – TechCrunch does scrol vertically. How could I know it? I used to flip horizontally on Home Screen and on Fast Company. Look below at the vertical navigation of Tech Crunch at Level 1:

Level 1, TechCrunch with vertical navigation

There is strong inconsistency with content navigation at the Level 1. It is difficult to pay special attention to some widgets that serve as a hints how to scroll. Much better way is to implement same navigation direction and show no widgets as all. I could finish this post at this point, though we can go further if you like.

Level 2: Fast Company and TechCrunch

Let’s dive deeper into the content by those providers and write what we feel. At the Level 2 Fast Company resembles TechCrunch. It has vertical navigation. Below is a snapshot:

Level 2, Fast Company with vertical navigation

What we have with TechCrunch at the Level 2? Of course something different, we have got horizontal navigation. Look below:

Level 2, TechCrunch with horizontal navigation

Seems Fast Company uses more levels to structure its content. There is whole Level 3…

Level 3: Fast Company alone

There is content at this level. There are multiple entry points to it. You can get test content, or rich video content. Navigation is horizontal for both. Look below for text content:

Level 3, Fast Company with horizontal navigation

Here is video content below:

Level 3, Fast Company with horizontal navigation

Conclusion

Google Currents on Google Nexus S has severe usability flaws. There had to be some rules for content providers to stick to. As a user I do not want to care on the structures, I want content instantly, as I had it of Flipboard on iPad. With Currents things are not so obvious, which inspired me to draw a joke. IMHO the quality of Google products degrade. They repeat Microsoft’s way with issues, bugs and … market penetration. It’s sad.

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3 thoughts on “Usability of Google Currents

  1. It is usability bug but the issue is that TechCrunch just does not have Level 1 – with thumbnails and horizontal scrolling; it immediately starts from Level 2. The same with HBR – it also starts from Level 2. I reviewed more than 10 different publishers and almost all starts from Level 1 except TC and HBR, so it is Google’s flaw they allowed different publisher start screens and not stick to one concept as in Flipdoard.

    • Vasyl Mylko says:

      Hi Viality, thanks for stopping by. TechCrunch existed before Google Currents. Hence content aggregator has to think on proper interaction design. Did Google not know that there are so many different contents and stuctures? They are just doing poor soft like Adobe. There is a feeling that Adobe produces bugs and their fixes. Shame on Google they went that way.
      On the other hand, there was a solution to provide better interaction, Flipboard did it. Hence, no mercy to Google:) They were late to the market and had a chance to do same or better. Grrrrrrrr.

  2. I agree with you Vasyl. Personally I ran Currents 3 times: two trying to start using it, as I was thinking it is similar to Flipboard, but I did not like experience so third time I had to open it after your post :). I still like Flipboard approach where you can subscribe to several content publishers (including your Facebook and twitter feeds) and just flip your pages like it is one magazine – very convenient. First time I used Flipboard on iPad – I was just impressed how content may look beautifully on tablet, so I was expecting Currents can provide something similar… unfortunately not 😦

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