Ramsés Cabello, MSc

7Reads

Designing a minimalist inspired reading list

/ context

side project with Maxi G.

/ skills

  • product
  • visual
  • interaction
  • identity

/ date

  • march 2020

about the project

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 is available on Google Chrome Store →

context

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.

problem

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:

  • “I’m saving links very often but I do not get to read them and they just accumulate on my reading list.”
  1. The main difference between the digital hoarding and the physical one is that the digital one is not always visible. Digital clutter can be hidden away on a folder, a list, an app…

  2. How might we help readers avoid create cluttered read-lists and dodge the just in case feeling in a digital environment?

intention

  1. The goal of this project is to nurture a new habit: Read what you save and be intentional about it.


  1. I’ve been practicing simple living and minimalism for the last two years. Some of the knowledge and mindsets I’ve learned have been vital to the central idea of 7Reads. 

  2. One of the main takeaways from minimalism is the following:



"Minimalism has never been about deprivation. Rather, minimalism is about getting rid of life's excess in favor of the essential."


– Joshua Fields Millburn

  1. Minimalism pushes us to think carefully and intentionally about what we own and avoid creating clutter. 

  2. For example: acquiring a new book. Unless you have space on your shelves for an additional book, it is recommended that you read one of your pending books or detach of the books you’ve already enjoyed or you’re not planning on reading.


  1. Transforming the metaphor of physical clutter and the concept of minimalism into the digital world, we end up wondering: How about limiting the number of things you can save on your digital read list?

  2. Having a finite amount of slots to bookmark reads might make readers evaluate their list each time they intend to save a new one.

  3. How can we translate this into a digital product?

initial ideas

  1. Our first approach to solving this project included a system that would:

→ 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.


seven

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:

user interface

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:


UI Overview / Settings / Browser Icon

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:

UI Hover effects

launch

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:

feedback & iteration

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:

Brian C.

  • LOVE this! I always have a browser window devoted to only articles I plan on reading, sometimes exceeding 10 articles. This extension has really forced me to read more often and is incredibly useful!


Manar A.

  • I love the limitation of 7, looking forward to testing it out to see if it prompts me to actually read more frequently.

Awards

  • It’s Nice That
  • AIGA
  • Fonts In Use
  • The Dieline

Contact

email@domain.com

000-000-000


— Instagram

— Twitter

— Facebook

David G.

The 7reads extension that allows you optimize the number of readings and prioritize the most important ones, without having a drawer full of articles.


Fran S.

Easy to save links to read later, the limit to 7 items help you to keep focused in a short list. Great job!

Awards

  • It’s Nice That
  • AIGA
  • Fonts In Use
  • The Dieline

Contact

email@domain.com

000-000-000


— Instagram

— Twitter

— Facebook

Libby L.

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.

Awards

  • It’s Nice That
  • AIGA
  • Fonts In Use
  • The Dieline

Contact

email@domain.com

000-000-000


— Instagram

— Twitter

— Facebook

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:

learnings

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.

by the numbers

~300

persons using the 

Chrome Extension

~10

  • new daily
  • installs

181

  • upvotes on
  • ProductHunt

Contact

email@domain.com

000-000-000


— Instagram

— Twitter

— Facebook

afterword

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:

Acknowledgements

First and foremost to Maxi for being the second half of this project.


  • Every person that has been using the extension and shared their feedback with us.



Patrick Tomasso for the 'Open Book Lot' photography.