NewsBlur vs. Fever From Where I Sit

NewsBlur Main Feed

Fever Main Feed

I wanted to like NewsBlur, I really did. It's fast and complete and reminded me of the old Google Reader. I wanted to like it so much I bought a pro account just to make sure that wasn't the reason I didn't like it. But in the end it just didn't hold up.

The decision to stick with Fever was based on design alone. NewsBlur has a ton of great features, and is incredibly fast. But it's ugly as hell. It looks like a Reading Rainbow nightmare. There is no consistant color pallet, NewsBlur borrowed it's icons from Dropbox and the interface is cluttered and distracting. And that's the most important part; it's cluttered and distracting.

When I have NewsBlur opened on my 13" MacBook Pro, I need to close out sections of the interface to make it more useable. The "River of News" at the bottom needs to be collapsed along with the list of feeds to the left. It's not terrible, but it's not ideal either. The portion of the layout that displays the content does it's job well. It has a fixed width for the text and renders media, such as embedded videos, within the area. But in the end this just plays into the cluttered, overwhelming feel of the app.

On the other end of the design spectrum, there's Fever, with the bare essentials. Instead of showing every option available, they are hidden behind pop out menues and keyboard shortcuts. The interface lends itself to a power user that only needs the content on the screen, no added fluff. When something comes up that I'd like to read, I can read it from Fever, not having to Instapaper the link or jump to the site. 

Then there are the mobile app. Fever's included mobile web app is ugly, slow and inconsistent. But Reeder, a third party native app, is fantastic, snappy(ish) and beautiful. It displays content accurately, cache's it for offline viewing and allows you to fly through articles, if that's the type of mood you're in.

NewsBlur's app, at the moment, is abismal. It's the ugliest I've seen in some time. The app is missing key features like Instapaper integration and offline sync. You can't even save the articles for later. In their defense, this was a one man job for over a year, and they just recently hired their first employee, who's been tasked with better designs of both the web app and the iOS app.

I have no doubt that NewsBlur, with Y Combinator backing, can be much, much better. But right now I just can't use it day-to-day. The most important aspect of any news reader is actually reading the content. If the interface is too distracting, everyone looses.