Design Spotlight — Get Pocket app

“Tsundoku” is the Japanese word for the literary affliction of buying books you don’t read

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Pocket is one of my favorite apps. It’s simple to use, genuinely helpful throughout my day, and fits seamlessly into my life.

[Background: For those who don’t use it, Pocket lets you save articles and videos to read/view at a later time. Super simple and mobile-friendly.]

First Round Review just featured how founder Nate Weiner and his small by mighty team of 20 scaled the business to 20M users. I highly recommend reading it. As huge fan of their work and as a UX designer with an appreciation for beautiful yet simple digital solutions, I wanted to share highlights.

Re: Why I love Pocket — Pocket is simple. Really simple. It does one task well. By adding a Chrome extension, for example, I can save articles, websites, and videos to read later on my computer or phone. And because I am no longer skimming articles during work, my productivity is up during the day. Then, on the train ride home, I actually read articles without being distracted at work.

Re: Delight — Pocket is downright delightful. Small attention to detail adds up for users. I remember learning early on that I was a top 5% reader in 2014. The email made my day, which in turn made me refer several friends.

Re: Team Prioritization — Nate ran a small team well by keeping folks focused. To tackle projects at a small startup, he recommends: “Ask yourself: restrictions aside, would I put the entire company behind this project?” This has been particularly helpful in strategy meetings where we’re dreaming big while accommodating reality.

Re: Company Culture — I respect Nate’s approach to fostering healthy company culture. Admitting personalities weigh heavy on a small team for better or for worse, Nate approached “culture” not as office perks or job benefits, but rather as a way of working with his team to build trust, scrappiness, and ownership.

With a small headcount, Weiner was able to keep Pocket’s culture concentrated during its formative years. This was possible because its culture wasn’t a fuzzy concept — it meant trust, scrappiness and ownership. Weiner had years to discover and refine founder-culture fit with the same rigor that most apply to find product-market fit for their companies. After all, there’s a saying in tech that 80% of your eventual culture is your founder (literally their personality traits).

​Re: Making it simple and easy to scale — This. All of this. Keep it simple. Sounds easy, and a job well done at Pocket, from the sounds of it:

As much as possible, make it truly plug-and-play for others who want to build in your product. “If Twitter comes to us and wants to integrate Pocket, we’ve lost if it takes them a month to do it,” says Weiner. “They’re simply not going to do it. And I don’t blame them.”

Re: Pro Design — Saving the best for last, Pocket embraced design from the beginning. Nikki, Head of Design, turns out to be Nate’s first hire.

I [Nate] had the engineering and product experience, but she [Nikki] brought the design chops that we needed to truly make a great product. She changed the black and yellow color scheme — that had somehow looked good to me at the time — to what Pocket looks like today. It’s been vital to bring on people who own and value their part of Pocket as much as I have from the start. They’ve made it better than I could have.

A few days ago, I also found another Pocket designer, Diego Mendes, who just posted an awesome writeup about his first year on the job, which is worth checking out as well:

So there ya have it. Check it out and let me know what you think.

How do you read articles and save them for later? How do your friends share articles with you to “read when you get a chance?

Product designer focused on UX/UI and user research (he/him)

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