TLDR 2.0 — BITE SIZE NEWS IN EVERY TAB
GOING FROM AN EXPERIMENT TO A PRODUCT
Only 30 days ago, we launched the first version of the TLDR Chrome Extension on Product Hunt. We actually held that top spot for the majority of the day, but eventually lost out to Twitter because well… Twitter.
Starting that day, and then every day since, we’ve heard from users who love the product. They tell us that we broke important stories to them they hadn’t heard anywhere else. That we’re keeping them up-to-date on topics they didn’t really know too much about before. A few of them have even said it makes them look forward to the surprises that await them every time they open a new tab.
Hearing things like that makes you feel great when you build products for a living.
TAKING IT A STEP FURTHER
Right around Launch Day, we added a service called Intercom to our extension, allowing us to directly ask users for feedback, feature requests, things they hated or loved or wanted, and so forth.
It only took us a few days to talk with several hundred people, and that’s when we started to see a pattern emerge. Our users wanted more control over what kinds of news we sent them.
TLDR had originally been envisioned as essentially a firehose of news, pointed at your browser. We just turn it on and suddenly, you’re overwhelmed with every kind of popular, trending, important story our curators can find, from every category and vertical possible.
But what we heard from users was, that firehose needed a spigot. Some people wanted us to ditch the fluff and concentrate on hard news. Others don’t care about U.S. news and wanted stories from their part of the world. Many people wrote us saying that they wanted a version of TLDR but only about their favorite subject. What would it look like with just Tech? Only World News? Sports and Business but not Politics?
Almost everyone we heard from agreed that TLDR, as a concept, had value. But few of them agreed, specifically, on what the content should be like. So we made two decisions:
- This silly TLDR experiment was worthwhile and we should go all-in to really give our users the complete experience they wanted.
- The most effective way to do that for the most people would be to give them more control, and the ability to customize their feeds.
Of course, it’s all still a work in progress, but here are the features we’ve added to this first big update.
We’ve divided all of our TLDR content into two very general buckets.
“NEWS” refers to real-time stories of significance. Think major world events like wars, diplomatic incidents, elections and natural disasters. This is where we put all the important stuff you really ought to read.
“FLUFF” refers to the fun stuff. Trending and “viral” Internet content, TV and movie updates, music videos, news about celebrities and, of course, Cats.
A LOT of people told us they wanted more News and less Fluff. BUT we also see what kinds of links people click on, when they don’t know we’re watching. So we decided to give everyone a choice. You can leave the controls alone and see Everything, or you can turn on Just News. Or, you can turn on Just Fluff, if you’re having a bad day and just need to enjoy adorable things and Crossfit fails.
A lot of users found the GIFs and images overwhelming, and wanted a more clean, Reddit-style view. So we’ve added that as an option.
CURATED RSS READER
A lot of people told us they wanted more of a specific kind of news. Sports came up a number of times. So did Finance. But we didn’t get enough of a consensus to really direct our editorial team. Many people want to know about many different things.
So what we’ve done instead is add a simple RSS reader to TLDR. Our editorial team picked a few of our favorite blogs and websites from a number of highly requested categories, and you can now add them as a compliment to our main TLDR feed.
When designing TLDR, we had wanted to give it a very clean, streamlined design, making the links the focus, rather than the product itself. One early decision we made was to drop “share” buttons. We were a bit surprised to have so many people ask us to put them back! But “I need a way to share this with my friends” seemed to come up a bunch, so we’ve added a button to help you easily share the original article to Twitter. (We figured we’d start with just one and see how it goes, and maybe add more social media platforms down the road.)
Along with these new features, we also cleaned up the design (and our code) quite a bit. We think the page is much cleaner, and we know that stories load 80% faster than the previous version. (Another common piece of feedback we heard from users: LOAD FASTER!)