Simplifying Pullquote

Every new tool starts in the middle of an open field. Anything is possible.

With each step away from launch, a left or right turn is possible. With each new user, tempting new vistas and potential directions open up.

If all goes well, as time passes functionality deepens to fulfill the specific needs of a particular group of users. The number of potential realizable trajectories narrows.

Eventually, a tool’s muddy, twisting path becomes a paved, unwavering road. This road is efficient and high-volume for users, but, for its original creators, nearly impossible to shift.

For a new tool, though, there’s no pavement, no traffic insisting on proceeding as it did last month or last year. The options are dizzily unlimited.

So it’s been with Pullquote over the last year. Back in January, Pullquote started as tool designed to permit link to a specific sentence or paragraph on a web page. After each link, we added a shadowbox containing the respective quote to highlight the text for clickers who didn’t have the Pullquote extension installed. (This shadowbox also allowed us to hint to its viewer that she or he might want to get the Pullquote extension and create her/his own Pullquotes.)

That was our original idea. Then we found that some users particularly liked the shadowbox, seeing it as a kind of infographic.

And then we had a bunch of users decide that Pullquote should be used chiefly to swiftly populate a tweet with a headline and a link. Swipe, click, tweet. This group, lets call them Swift Tweeters, didn’t care about the shadowbox.

The use cases of these two groups conflicted, because the latter group’s usage created a shadowbox with text that was often redundant with the text in the Tweet that pointed to it. This, in turn, greatly annoyed some of the people clicking on those tweeted links.

In July, we added some filters to reduce this redundancy. But this measure reduced the number of shadowboxes by 70%. Which meant that Pullquote user acquisition flatlined, as you can see from the following graph.

Pullquote user graph 2013

Which leads us to our latest measure: simplifying Pullquote to facilitate the creation images containing quotes that then appear inline on Twitter. This idea came to us a couple of weeks ago when Twitter started including inline images in its feeds. Here’s an example of how Pullquotes now look in Twitter feeds:

That’s a big win for Twitter usability. Some Pullquote users seem very excited. Retweets of tweets with these new Pullquotes seem to have jumped. Unfortunately for Pullquote, though, users who like Pullquote for swift-tweeting have stopped using the tool. And the shadowboxes that have helped potential users find will been seen even less, since you no longer need to click on a link to read the full text of a specific Pullquote. (Because its there in the inline image.)

But we’re taking this step because we see indications that new people (outnumbering the swift-tweeters) are excited enough by the new inline Pullquote functionality to just shout about Pullquote and get friends on board.