Feedly: The Minimal Yet Fabulous News Reader

Apps from a lot of genres have witnessed a new lease of life with the launch of iPod Touch and the iPhone. Founder of the famous online music streaming service Pandora even admitted that the company is still alive, thanks to iOS devices.

In the same vein, the iPad is vitalising content companies. Particularly magazines, e-books, and blogs. News and feed readers of various sizes and form have popped up in the past few months and we have reviewed quite a lot of them. Feedly promises to be a news and feed reader with a twist. Let’s see how refreshing the experience actually is.

User Interface

After downloading and installing this free app, the first thing you will notice is that it works only in the portrait mode. The stubborn rigidness of Feedly to not work in the landscape mode is irritating at first, to say the least, but I chose to reserve my judgment till the very end of my review session.

Reading Featured Feeds

Reading featured feeds.

Unlike the pioneers and the hype machines of the feed reader community, Feedly is less flamboyant. And that’s exactly what works so well for the app. There aren’t any eye popping special effects or snazzy design elements. There is a refined sense of minimalism sprinkled in the overall design and user interface.

Ease of Use

As I noted earlier, the minimalistic design ensures that the app isn’t intimidating and looks intuitive to use (it indeed is very intuitive to use, but it’s also important to make the user perceive that it is). The navigation is simple enough, just swipe across the screen to move back and forth. To mark an entire page read swipe vertically from the top. And to mark it unread, swipe vertically from the bottom.

Reading Featured Feeds

Upon launch, the app displays a few pages of articles from featured blogs. Each article has a preview and is accompanied by an image – all the articles are arranged in columns. If you move away from the first page, the articles are displayed in a single column accompanied by a featured blog or a product (ads I presume). While I appreciate the need for developers to make money from their work, dedicating an entire column for ads isn’t particularly nice.

Featured Products

Featured Products.

Besides, since in all the pages there is either one or no ad block at all, the whitespace is very much noticeable. But the occasional suggested reads that show up are really useful and the developers should consider making better use of this space for more recommendations.

The progress of your reading can be determined by the slider at the top of the screen. One thing I missed was the ability to skip sections without having to scroll through the list from the left pane. Adding a small slideshow like functionality to the already existing slider at the top could make a whole lot of difference.

Reading Articles

Articles appear in their original format complete with the custom design elements of the blog (I couldn’t find the ads, but I’m not complaining).

There is always the reformatting icon at the bottom of the screen to get rid of these design elements and make the content more readable.

Article View

Article View.

A lot of sharing options are available at the far end of the screen. The app lets you like an article and even save it for future reference. Link your Twitter account to the app and you can tweet away links in just two clicks.

Reading Individual Blogs

Not a fan of reading from multiple sources or looking to read content from your favorite blog? Tap on the Feedly icon at the lower left corner of the screen to bring up the list of news sources. And to their credit, the Feedly team has compiled a fairly comprehensive list.

Category Listings

Category Listings.

From gadgets and technology, to cooking and fashion, every category under the sun is listed. The list of news sources (blogs) listed under each category is pleasantly thorough and comprehensive. But it isn’t possible for you to edit the categories or add new blogs to the listings. However, this shortcoming can be overcome by logging into your Google Reader account.

Google Reader Experience

I use Byline lite for reading from my Reader account. While it isn’t mind blowing, the app is very easy to use and let’s me flick through articles one after another (I couldn’t do this with Reeder). When I found the same feature with a better UI in Feedly I was delighted.

Google Reader View

Google Reader View.

As soon as the Reader account is integrated, the folders and the feeds take up the space earlier dedicated to the preloaded categories and content sources. Making perfect use of the empty whitespace – neat!

Final Thoughts

After playing around with the app for a few weeks, I didn’t find the portrait only mode a major deterrent to the overall experience. In fact I enjoyed reading long-form, in-depth articles (like the ones from our network) much more than before.

I have used/reviewed leading news reader apps like Pulse, Flipboard etc., and found Feedly to be a worthy competitor to them all. Google Reader integration tipped the scale in favour of this app for me. People who love to read a lot, lengthy articles in particular, will find Feedly to be a wonderful companion.

A Short Update

The Feedly team released an update while the article was in the submission queue and I’m sorry to have missed that. The update from few days ago has brought in the Landscape reading mode and it’s very impressive. I guess this should bring in those who were staying away from the app for the lack of a larger reading canvas.

The whitespaces I mentioned earlier have been fixed and there are now more suggestions showing in every category. Besides, there are a couple of UI tweaks – the Essentials menu has got a new icon and is now available on the right side too. I couldn’t comprehend why the menu is on both the sides, but doesn’t hurt usability in anyway. The Tumblr reader mode and toggle white and black backgrounds are the other notable additions.


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