Google updates News site following complaints

Hundreds of people complained angrily about the changes rolled out two weeks ago

Nearly two weeks after rolling out a Google News redesign, Google has added a new feature to the page in hopes of placating complainers. The feature lets people opt to view news stories in two columns, unlike the initial redesign that listed all stories in a single long column.

To call the response following the June 30th release of the redesigned News site angry would be an understatement.

"Hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate, it, hate it!!!!! Get my point?" one person using the name iJustinJ wrote in a Google News forum.

"What is happening to you? Why are [you] doing this to us?" wrote another tortured user registered in the forum as asldfa sdflkh. The forum includes many hundreds of comments from people distressed about the changes.

In a blog post on Friday, Google said that some people are pleased with the redesign. "Some of you told us that you really liked it, especially how the 'News for you' section lets you see a stream of articles tailored to the interests you specify," Chris Beckmann, a Google product manager, wrote in a blog post on Thursday evening.

But finding any positive comments about the redesign in the Google News forum among the hundreds of people raging against it is nearly impossible.

At times, the forum turned into a discussion of which alternative sites to start using. Some discovered that Google's Canada site hadn't yet switched to the new format. Many suggested that Bing's News is now the next best thing to the old Google News.

About 40 people on the forum are discussing a site that an enterprising developer built to look just like the old Google News. "This is awesome!" UserDave wrote about that breaking news site.

The response to the update to the redesigned page that was rolled out late Thursday is a bit milder than the initial reaction, but still largely negative.

Some people are criticizing the move because the site retains a new right-hand column and white space on the left. Users can't customize the page to remove the right column, which lists "spotlight" news. Opting to view two columns squeezes the two columns into a narrow space to accommodate for the spotlight column and leaves the empty white space to the left.

The site also still displays the weather without letting people remove it, which some users find unnecessary. "I live here. I know whether it's snowing or sunny. Other weather sites are better for this. Don't waste the space," suvarob wrote on July 4.

It's not yet certain if the redesign resulted in a significant drop in visitors to Google News, or if the forum is a reflection of a relatively small number of particularly unhappy users. Google went into the redesign an underdog among news aggregators. In May, Yahoo News had 52 million visitors, according to comScore. That compares to 14 million for Google News and 6 million for Bing News.

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Nancy Gohring

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