Reading is a social activity. A person’s journey with a book doesn’t always begin when they see it at the store, and it rarely ends when they turn the last page. People love sharing their favorite books with friends, discussing elements of story, and getting suggestions on what to read next. People like connecting with each other, and books provide an opportunity for that. My team and I saw a chance to capitalize on this opportunity by developing a book club app that would fit into the Amazon family.
I worked hand in hand with a partner to analyze the eBook marketplace. From there, I led the research phase. Together, we wrote and conducted interviews, designed a UI that would fit seamlessly with Amazon's Kindle app, and created high fidelity mockups and prototype.
Currently, Amazon.com is not seizing on the social opportunities reading provides. Though Amazon offers several services for its Kindle reading devices and app, it lacks one familiar and effective mechanism for people to connect over books: a book club.
Amazon Book Club is an iPad app that aims to fill this gap. Its basic premise is to provide users the same experience they get in a physical book club, but virtually.
My partner and I conducted a contextual inquiry together. I led the feature comparison and technical constraints portions of our comparative analysis. We then wrote and administered the survey and user interviews as a team
Our first step was to visit a real book club in New York City, where we saw how a physical book club operates. Eventually, we’d come to digitize some of the ideas we learned that day.
We compiled a vast list of features from across a broad spectrum to see where these different offerings might have some crossover, and where unique features could prove difficult to loop in. This Venn Diagram is a portion of the competitors we included in our analysis.
Taking the responses from our survey, we contacted seven participants to take part in user interviews. Using a script, we asked participants nine questions to find out more about their pains, pleasures, behaviors, and context of use.
These questions elicited a wide variety of responses, which we organized using an affinity map (breaking feedback down into behaviors, pains, pleasures, and contexts). We then further categorized the responses into themes, and identified opportunities for each theme.
Using the data from the interviews, we had a clear way of assessing the value of the features we had chosen, and see some opportunities for new features. We combined feedback from interviews, surveys, and our contextual inquiry, into two user personas.
Our Primary Persona, Albert Friendly, represented 70% of the respondents to our survey and the same proportion of our interviews. He values book clubs for their intellectual merit, and the fact that they give him an opportunity to read more and connect with his friends over interesting subject matter. In his use-case, Albert would utilize such features as note taking and sharing, file uploading, and calendar integration.
Our Secondary Persona, Samantha Wallace, thinks of book clubs more as social exercises. She doesn't see her friends often enough, and a book club is a perfect reason to jump into a video chat, have a glass of wine, and catch up. For her, the video feature is the most important. She may be less interested in taking copious notes, but she enjoys seeing what other people think about each week's reading, especially as it tends to serve as cliff notes.
After identifying our primary use-cases, we began ideating on our design opportunities. Sketching our ideas, we found our main challenge was to to maintain simplicity and cleanliness in our design, but also provide access to features from the screens they pertained to. A card sort helped us structure our app in a way that made sense to users. The scope of the app, however, was still large.
My teammate and I ideated based on the design opportunities from our research. I started with pen and paper sketches, eventually moving to higher fidelity mockups using Sketch, which we then put into a clickable prototype.
Using low fidelity wireframes, we created our first prototpye in InVision, and performed some user tests. As our app utilizes primarily tap-based controls, interactivity with the interface wasn’t essential to our users’ understanding, but we were able to ascertain whether the design of our app and the placement of our features was intuitive.
I synthesized user test feedback and iterated on the design. I also created prototypes in Invision and Principle.
A book club app is a complex machine. There are many moving parts, some of which have to source data from other devices, apps, and databases within the app itself. Our MVP is only a first step in what could become a fully functional reading platform on a level with the Kindle and iBooks: a true go-to reader. The plans are laid, it’s a matter of fleshing them out.