Recall — UI/UX Case Study of Safari Reading List.

To start off, open up your Safari Reading List and see how many items there are that you have said you would ‘read later’. A couple or a few? Is it empty?… No? It’s packed full, isn’t it?

I love Reading List, but I want a better one. The feature has been neglected since it’s first release back in 2012. And I feel motivated to come up with some much-needed improvements.

I feel that the Reading List is a ‘friend-zone’ but I can see the light & I think there’s a way out of it.

The Problems

I tend to refer to my Reading List as my procrastination list. I add something to it and say, “I will read this later”. But I rarely find the time to do so and so it grows and grows until it becomes overwhelming…

Problem #1

The problem with the Reading List is that it’s premise is later — “I will read this later”. However, later is undefined so it self-propogates and multiplies like bacteria and before you know it you’ve got 2768 items in your reading list. May as well call it the “Read Never list”. heh.

Problem #2

Reading List items lay dormant. You put stuff in there and Safari leaves it up to you to go back to it. While this could be argued as a good thing, it just not enough. You’ve saved something that interests you or is important to you and Safari makes no effort to ensure you read it.

Problem #3

It’s Passive — Safari doesn’t learn anything about you. It doesn’t understand your reading habits or your interests. You’re giving it so much data about the things you like and find interesting but nothing comes of it. We’ve come to expect more from the tools we use, especially ones where data is present.

When we improve UX, it is important to preserve the original intent and carry forward all the good parts and learnings, to ensure we are moving the needle forward and not just altering appearance.

The Reading List is one of the best additions to Safari. It allows you to save things that are not categorised as Bookmarks, but one-time reads. It allows frictionless saving of websites and resources, that won’t clog up your OCD Bookmark Folders. You can save things and not worry about which folder they should be stored in and, god-forbid, thinking of a new folder name if you can’t locate a suitable one. It fixed the problem of people with commitment issues: “I’m not sure if this site is bookmark-worthy, I kind of wanna take it slow for a bit and let it simmer in my Reading List. I’ll get back to it later and if I frequent it enough, I might promote it to my Bookmarks.”

The Reading List is a “friend-zone”. Once you put something there, it stays forever — And once something or someone is friend-zoned, there’s no coming back. But maybe there is a way…

Preservation Criteria — These are the thing we need to ensure are still present in our re-work.

  • Frictionless Saving
  • Offline Caching
  • Functional — it’s really easy to add stuff to it.
  • Doesn’t get in the way of the normal browsing experience
  • ‘dat’ animation — you know the one… Add this page to your Reading List and you will see what I mean 😏

Empathising with the user, there are underlying feelings of doubt when adding new items to your reading list. I want users to feel certainty and assurance and think “I will definitely read this later and Safari will show me the way”.


Wireframe Sketches for Solutions

The Solutions

When you add something to your reading list, you should be confident that you will read it at some point — Later. But when is later?

Opportunistic Discovery & Smart Recall.

I want Safari to define later for the user. To make that possible, we need to employ some data science to bring Reading List content to the users attention at the right time.

Smart Recall

With some common data analysis of our Reading Items, we can utilise moments in the users’ browsing experience to suggest related reading content. This is how we define — later. It brings relevant content back to the user’s attention in an unobtrusive manner that does not frustrate the user. This is the key mechanic behind improving the Reading List UX.

We can recall items based on the following criteria:

  • NLP (Natural Language Processing) can determine what items in our Reading List are related to user’s current browsing session (e.g. opened tabs, viewed websites)
  • Resurface Items that have laid stagnant for some time. You could potentially place an expiry date for FOMO.
  • Time of Day — determining when the user is likely to be a in a reading mood and if so enable Guided Reading (refer below).
  • Time-to-Read displayed to increase Conversion Rate; User would be more likely to click an item if they were aware of a commitment time.
  • Summarise items in to one or two paragraphs. (If item type is a blog post/article/etc).

This data is then taken and rendered into the following UIs.


Reading List Summary View

Create an opportunistic, event-based approach that surfaces content and brings it to the user’s attention

  • Show Newly Added Reading Items in a New Tab view underneath favourites.
  • This is a overview on the items in the reading list, displaying a combination of old and new items. (Items are selected based on Smart Recall)
  • Using NLP we can infer meaning from text-snippets to create short paragraph summaries for each Reading Item.
  • Safari could also go once step further and calculate the Time-to-Read of the given item, as figured above.
Reading List Summary w/ Latest from Reading List.

Guided Reading & Smart Recall UI

Extract a Reading Item that is relevant to current page

Upon reading an article, once the user is near the bottom of the page, a relavent Reading Item can be recommend. This is only activated if user is in reading mode which can be inferred by analysis of mouse movement and scroll behaviour.

Guided Reading — Suggested next read from Reading List.

A related Reading Item is suggested in the Search Bar Dropdown.

Guided Reading Suggestion in Address Bar Drop Down.

A related Reading Item is be pre-loaded in-place of the Reading List Summary View.

Smart Recall in New Tab View.

Hopefully we see some reading list improvements in a future safari release.


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