This was a self-directed project where I chose one of my favorite apps, Goodreads, and discovered that users struggled to add books they've read to their Goodreads collection and find books by genre. I then designed alternative solutions that made these tasks easier.
Goodreads is a social mobile and web app that enables users to discover new books, read and write book reviews, and share books with friends. It’s Yelp for books.
Here are a few of many things you can do in the app:
- Rate/review books you've read and add them to your Read shelf
- Add books you're reading to your Currently Reading shelf
- Browse books by genre and add them to your Want to Read shelf
I give major kudos to Goodreads for having a rating of 4.5 stars in the App Store, but I’m a firm believer that there’s always room for improvement — be it big or small.
Here’s the challenge I gave myself:
- Discover pain points around two primary functions of the iOS app: (1) adding a book a user has already read to their catalog and (2) browsing for a new book in a specific genre
- Design an alternative solution
As this was a self-directed project, I chose the two primary features I use and what I thought first-time users would use.
2 weeks; November 2016
The framework I followed for this challenge included 5 phases:
guerilla usability testing
When crunched for time to do user research, guerilla usability testing is your best friend. I chose 5 people in downtown San Francisco who have never used the Goodreads app before and asked them to perform the following tasks on an iPhone 6:
- Add a book you’ve read to your collection of books.
- Leave a rating for the book.
- Undo the rating.
- Browse for a book in the Fantasy genre and add save it as a book you want to read.
- Remove a book from your shelf.
After conducting the tests, I wrote down each participant’s pain points and used an affinity map to uncover common pain points to solve.
User Pain Points
- Add to My Books: 5 out of 5 participants did not see a clear way to add a book they’ve read to their Read shelf. Once they landed on the book page, they didn't know what to tap to add the book as Read.
- Explore by genre: 4 out of 5 participants could not easily find a book by genre. They searched "Fantasy" or struggled to find the list of genres.
- Remove from My Books: 4 out of 5 participants did not see the option to remove a book from their shelf.
- Rating: 2 out of 5 participants struggled to undo a rating they gave a book
Ranking the pain points by how important they are to users and how important I think they are to Goodreads helped me determine which ones to design solutions for.
I decided to prioritize the two pain points that were more important to the user and more important to the business.
DEVELOPING A PROVISIONAL PERSONA
I created a provisional persona based on the users who performed my guerilla usability tests in order to guide my design decisions.
Now that I knew who I was designing for, I began to ideate solutions for the two pain points I prioritized.
Problem #1: Add to My Books - 5 out of 5 participants did not see a clear way to add a book they’ve read to their Read shelf
When asked how difficult or easy this task was, 3 out of of 5 participants said this task was difficult or very difficult.
I created a task flow to pin point areas in the current process of adding a book to the Read shelf that I can design alternative solutions for:
Solution: Replace the Want to Read button on the book detail page with an Add to My Books button.
If Elizabeth is checking out Goodreads for the first-time, one of the first things she’s going to want to do is add some books to her Read shelf so she can track how many books she’s already read. When she searches for that first book, she should not have to think twice about what to do next. Adding a book to her Read shelf should be as clear as a button that says Add to My Books.
My redesigned journey eliminates a step:
Problem #2: Explore by genre - 4 out of 5 participants could not easily find a book by genre
They either missed the Explore option under the More menu (which would have led them to a list of genres) or they unsuccessfully tried to use the search function to search for the genre. In fact, 4 out of the 5 participants used Search to type in the genre.
I created a task flow to show the current process of browsing for a book by genre and identified steps in the process I could improve:
Solution: Replace the Scan option in the main menu with the Explore option and add a way to search for books by genre.
Based on a quick scan of the customer reviews in the Apple App Store, I saw people mentioning that they love using the app for finding new books to read as well as the scan functionality. For purposes of this project, I chose to replace the Scan icon in the main menu after assuming that the rest of the icons in the tab bar were more important for users, but I would only do so after conducting quantitative research on the features that are most important to Goodreads users or looking at existing data.
Here’s my redesigned task flow for browsing:
After sketching out the UIs, I created high fidelity mockups using Sketch and a clickable prototype using Marvel so that I could validate my designs with users.
To validate my new prototypes, I ran a quick usability test with 5 new participants who have never used Goodreads before. I asked them to perform the following two tasks that were the focus of this project:
- Track the book “Franny and Zooey” as a book they have already read
- Find a book in the fantasy genre
- 5 out of 5 participants thought it was very easy to add a book to their Read shelf from the book detail page. They clicked on the Add to My Books right away
- One of the participants expected that she could start adding books straight from the My Books screen. She said that once she was on that screen, there would be a plus button where she could start adding books. This could be an addition to explore in future iterations — I think it’s a great idea to give users an additional way to accomplish the same goal. User test this first, of course.
- 5 out of 5 participants thought it was very easy to find a book in the fantasy genre — 4 participants used Explore and 1 participant used the search function to enter the genre
Talking to users will always reveal changes that you can make to create better experiences for both new users and existing users alike. Some of the pain points I found were struggles I don’t have as a regular user of the app. There's always room for improvement even when you feel like you don't have the resources to identify those opportunities—don't be afraid to go to a park and do some quick testing.