7Reads is a Google Chrome Extension that focuses on solving the problem of digital content hoarding.
This case study explores the origin of the project, the process, metrics of the first two weeks and some notes on a follow-up update of the extension.
7Reads started with just a tweet. In March 2020, Maxi, a friend of mine, published the following tweet:
A minute after I read the tweet, Maxi and I were hyped discussing the problem and talking about how we might collaborate to solve it.
I’m always excited to collaborate with Maxi. We are both restless makers that want to explore new systems and test our skills building side projects.
The inherent problem the project tackles is the fear of missing out. People keep bookmarking, saving for later, adding to a list, self-mailing things to actually only end up with a pile of content that maybe we will get to read one day.
Some of us are familiar with the feeling of buying too much of something (books, games, magazines…) just in case one day we need it…
This project is for users that find themselves in this situation very often:
"Minimalism has never been about deprivation. Rather, minimalism is about getting rid of life's excess in favor of the essential."
– Joshua Fields Millburn
→ Collect links of articles and sites of the reader.
→ Limit the number of available slots to save.
→ Offer a distraction-free version of the content to the reader.
→ A cross-device app
The first draft of the product included all of these functionalities, the user flow looked something like this:
As I worked on the design, I started to question the true meaning of the solution and what Maxi and I were trying to achieve with it. I started redefining the initial functionalities and effectively decided to simplify what the first version would do:
→ Collect links of articles and sites of the reader.
→ Limit the number of articles to save.
→ A Google Chrome extension
We dropped the functionality of offering a distraction-free version of the content; there are plenty of solutions providing that. Some of them even come included by default on the browser.
Instead of focusing on developing a full app, we switched focus to solely creating a Google Chrome Extension. It would allow readers to bookmark the website they were looking at to the read list.
There are only seven slots available to bookmark reads.
Seven is a number that might help readers create a habit.
The choice was made upon The Magic Number Seven as described by George A. Miller.
Seven was chosen with the intention to create the habit of going through your list and reading daily. Once a day, seven days a week.
Our brains turn daily actions and behaviors into habits so that we would do them automatically and without too much thought, thus freeing up our brainpower for other more critical challenges.
– source: the world counts
Keeping it to seven elements help readers have a quick overview of what’s available in the list and maintain the attention span.
This topic inspired the naming, the logotype and some additional assets that would be used across the project:
The user interface of the extension includes a straightforward stacked layout of elements used across the different views.
It sets the focus of the interaction on the list of articles and makes it easy to save and retrieve the content:
The user interface intends to give a good overview of the content saved and help the reader pick was next to read or remove. Maxi worked on the implementation of the extension using files from Figma that captured the overall design and the microinteractions:
Once the development reached a stage where the main functionalities and design were ready, we launched the project on ProductHunt.
The landing page contains the extension and a few sentences of copy explaining what it is and what it does:
Launching on ProductHunt gave great visibility to the project. Through reviews on Google Chrome Store and comments of ProductHunt a few important pieces of feedback surfaced:
The 7reads extension that allows you optimize the number of readings and prioritize the most important ones, without having a drawer full of articles.
Easy to save links to read later, the limit to 7 items help you to keep focused in a short list. Great job!
Just did the transition from Pocket to 7reads. I sorted through the multitude of articles and found 7 that I was truly interested in. I am excited that 7reads help me to not have the crutch of always being able to save an article for later.
My one ask is that there be an option to remove the number on the extension button. I don’t like having little number notifications, as it signals to be always having something to do rather than it just being there when I wanted to read an article.
One particular comments had a valuable piece of feedback that helped us iterate and update the extension. We added an option to hide the counter badge of pending reads from the extension’s icon.
The new update shipped making the counter optional and included themes. We carefully crafted a variety of themes that would help users customize and make the extension their own.
We carefully crafted themes as a thank you for all the love the community have been giving the extension.
It includes light and dark themes amongst others. Making the extension fit the theme used on the OS would help making it feel part of the system.
It was fun to design them and based them on some of our favorite topics:
→ Constant evaluation during discovery phases helps focusing on the central problem and reducing non-essential features.
As we removed the distraction-free reader, the focus changed to the main functionality of saving and retrieving reads.
→ Share progress and keep the process open.
Throughout the design and development, we kept sharing bits and pieces with the makers community. We got great feedback that helped shape the extension. Furthermore, it served as motivation to keep working on the project.
→ Keep your eyes open for opportunities to learn, build and collaborate.
Sometimes some of your networks might have good ideas, and it all comes down to listening and being ready to tackle problems.
persons using the
Most importantly, while building and creating this project we received countless love from the community.
We are grateful for all the support and every positive word. Maxi and I wrote a personal message thanking everyone. This is available in the latest update of the extension: