Gnome Outreach Program for Women

My experience interning with Gnome's OPW

Category: Needs Assessment

Research User Experience for Existing ReadLater Apps



Per discussion with my mentor @jancbrochart, I completed my research for user experience for existing ReadLater applications including Pocket, Instapaper, Evernote Clearly, and Readability.

I chose to research the user experience for these applications based on the user ratings on the Apple App Store and Google’s Play Store.

This post details my findings on the user experience for these applications.

I organized the features of these apps in the following broad modes – Read mode, Add mode, and Organize mode.

User Experience for Existing ReadLater Apps


UX for Pocket

Pocket provides the following user experience:

Read mode

  • Option to toggle between two views – grid and list


  • Each item in the list/grid shows action items like share, archive, delete, tag, etc. for that post

Pocket Individual Item

  • Videos are auto-detected and the user can consume the video within the application.
  • Several options to view your content – images only, videos, article mode are available, making it a very seamless reading experience.

Pocket Options to View Items

  • Various options to view the content – entire list, favorites, or archived items


  • Option to view items according to the tags


  • Search feature is also available

Add mode

Adding content to Pocket is a simple one-click action, the user can choose to either add the url or
can use the bookmarklet (browser extension) to add it to the user’s Pocket account.

Pocket Add

Organize mode

Pocket provides the following ways to organize your saved content:

  • Organize by tags
  • Organize by type of content – video, image, articles
  • Organize by favorited items

Additionally, it has partnered with IFTTT (If This Then That) to come up with unique recipes to capture your content:

  • Recipe to facilitate content collection for Youtube, Twitter
  • Recipe to create a Facebook post with what you favorited in Pocket
  • Recipe to save a favorited item in Pocket to Evernote

These are just some of the many recipes. For more recipes see:
(Note: Currently for each IFTTT recipe the download numbers are close to several thousands.)


UX for Instapaper

Instapaper provides the following user experience:

Read mode:

  • Better reading experience with clean design.


  • List layout is available with small blurb of the content.


Instapaper seems to parse the content well based on the latest reviews from the users and also allows the users to mine content from their social networks.

Add mode

Adding is simple action. The “Add Link” button is available across all the screens.

Organize mode

Instapaper provides the following features to organize the content:

  • Ability to create various folders
  • Highlights to save from the content (ability to store snippets from the content)

Explore mode

Additionally, Instapaper provides the following features to discover and explore new content making the app more stickier:

  • Browse featured content from friends, daily popular stories etc.
  • Allow ability to connect your Instapaper account with your social network to mine rich stories/content


UX for Readability

Read mode

  • Readability has clean design but has only one view for arranging the articles in read mode. Although it has several options for generating engagement – Reading List and Recommended Articles.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 7.26.31 PM

  • Additionally, it also highlights the articles and the blurbs associated with the articles

Add mode

Addition requires several steps for users (Go to Reading List -> Click on + sign-> then add the article).


UX for Evernote Clearly

Read mode

  • Ability to toggle between various typography format
  • Provides a clean and clutter free design – use of white background


  • Additioanlly, the app also provides a text to speech option but that is available only for Google Chrome
  • The app converts the web page into standard Evernote display

Add mode

  • Simple and intuitive to add the content to your Evernote account

Organize mode

  • Ability to highlight the text
  • Retrieve related notes from your Evernote account
  • Ability to organize content based on tags

Needs Assessment Plan for ReadLater App

Based on my initial discussions with project mentors and after following the discussion threads on ownCloud’s git issue tracker, here is the wishlist of features for the app:

  1. Integrate the API developed by Wallabag (Poche):

(a) Wallabag (formerly Poche) is an open-source self hostable application for saving web pages.

2. Implement a server for ownCloud that works with wallabag’s API and thus uses their existing Android app, browser extensions, and FireFox OS app.

3. Design and implement a front-end for the Read-later items within ownCloud and possibly combine with the Bookmarks app in ownCloud.

Based on the discussions with project mentors, I researched about the usability aspects of various bookmarklet apps and came up with the following list of design changes:

  1. The app should be able to intuitively build dynamic newsfeed based on the chronologically selected tags.

Why we need this: Because once in a while, you do want to clean up your accumulated tags (just like you would spring clean your house) Sometimes, we really need to read the article we have tagged/bookmarked/added to our account, but we forget the tag that we gave to the article, heck we even forget what the title of the article was, all we remember is maybe an image or central theme of the article.

2. If the app can show dynamically create news feed based on past week’s data, these would allow the user to go through the articles without spending considerable time searching for it. (may be Pinterest type thumbnail view of the articles for last week or asking the user to rate the article (whether they really want to revisit it say after 8 days or so). And because we are in spring cleaning mode, it would be nice to have an “archive” option to dump all the clutter.

3. I wanted to understand how users will engage with this app, so I came up with the following use case scenarios:

(a) May be have a ranking of most talked about articles/pages to keep you interested in the discussion

(b) Have an ability to tag any web resource (images, videos, podcasts, pages, etc.)

(c) Add ability to visualize your feed’s influence on your social network (items you share from your feed, etc.)

(d) When I click on the bookmarks that I have saved previously, it would be nice to see a preview of the page, so that I can decide whether to follow that bookmark/readlater tag.

4. I also proposed the following generic enhancements:

(a) It would be nice to have tag merging option in order to facilitate reorganization efforts for the collected pages.

(b) Single browser icon to bookmark a page (right now it is a clunky text “Add to ownCloud”, which takes up a lot of space on the Bookmarks Bar)

(c) Suggest tags based on the page’s content (to avoid tag soup for misspelled tags)

(d) Ability to share bookmarks (public, private)

(e) Ability import bookmarks from other accounts is hidden under settings icon, this gives a rather broken user experience for a first time user because as a first time user of the application, I want to ensure that I am able to bring in all the data from my accounts with a single click. (Right now the user needs to click the Bookmarks app first, then go to the settings icon to reach to the “Import” function)

5. Based on Alessandro’s idea about the app: “Read later app should be able to distinguish between bookmarks and pages that are part of the reading list (may be have separate icons for bookmarks and reading list)”

To enhance this feature, it would be nice to provide flexibility to the user for choosing whether to classify a URL as bookmark or read later.


For the above usability exercise, I used the following resources:

  1. Usability issues filed for boookmarks feature.
  2. Usability testing for instapaper, pocket, feedafever, and other apps listed in
  3. Inferences from the social tagging behavior: Trant, Jennifer. “Studying social tagging and folksonomy: A review and framework.” Journal of Digital Information 10, no. 1 (2009) and UC Berkeley School of Information’s course on Information Organization and Retrieval — INFO 202