Hi, I’m Francesca, a student undertaking the User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly’s (GA’s) Manhattan campus.
Here is the story of my second project at GA and my first group project as a budding UX Designer.
- John Choi — former pre-med student/researcher turned UX student
- Anthony Sandoval — comes from the Fashion Industry, hoping to break into Fashion Tech
- Myself (Francesca Santiago)
Kindle is an internationally used application for reading e-books. They have integrated Goodreads, a social network in which users can exchange book reviews and share their current reading lists, into their iOS application.
The project prompt had us imagine that we were designing for Kindle. In this scenario, Kindle wants to highlight the social features of its application and to form social groups or book clubs within the app.
“You are not the user.”
— Jayse Lee, Our Instructor (and probably bunches of UX articles)
The above quote gets repeated frequently in class, and never before has it rung so true — none of the 3 people on the team use Kindle, mainly because none of us are especially passionate readers. We each downloaded the Kindle app to get more acquainted with it, and started laying out assumptions based on our experiences with books in general and our existing knowledge of book clubs.
Our audience — Kindle users — are likely avid readers who want to join book clubs to find others with similar tastes and thus find new books matching their preferences. They want to have a group with whom to discuss books they have read. They want to promote/recommend books that they have read and liked. They would be interested in an online version of book clubs.
To test the assumptions made in our hypothesis, we set out to conduct user interviews. First, it seemed that if we were to make a book club feature, there would be 2 user types:
- The Book Club Organizers
- The Book Club Joiners
We created 2 screeners, one for each user type, using Google Forms, and distributed them over social media, and even went to bookstores and handed them out in person. We tried looking for a book club, but had maybe 1-2 days to find people and as luck would have it…we couldn’t find a meeting happening in the evening in the middle of a workweek. Ah, well.
We received 10 responses for “Book Club Joiners” but none for the “Book Club Organizers”. We had cast too small of a net; all we really needed were people who had traits of each group. We focused more on “the Leaders” vs “the Followers”, the people who would likely create/run a book club vs the people who might be open to joining said book club.
We were running out of time and did the best with what we had. In the end, we interviewed 9 people, all self-proclaimed book lovers with familiarity with Kindle. Each person was interviewed one at a time, either face-to-face at GA or at a café, or over the phone. The interview team of 3 divided the tasks as follows: 1 person conducting the interview, and the other 2 taking notes/recording using the Otter app. The team rotated through the roles.
In these interviews, we retroactively screened the interviewees into either the “Leader” or “Follower” category by asking questions such as, “In your group of friends, who is the one usually planning social gatherings?” In the end, we had 4 “leaders” and 5 “followers”; the 4 leaders we chose were people who run a regular, organized social group activity.
Questions sought to explore the social experience surrounding books — to find out where people really found book recommendations, what draws people to book clubs or if they don’t want to join, what pushes them away, the pain points of running a social group like a book club.
- Vanna: regularly hosts dinner parties for his friends
- Marnie: runs her own book club
- Maryann: runs a Dungeons & Dragons group
- Rica: regularly organizes social events
- Rachel (actually part of a book club)
“I really love books, but what makes it fun is having someone to talk about it with.”
The group used affinity mapping to help synthesize our interview data. The main insights centered around the social experience that books create.
Users are passionate about discussing books, often in-person with their friends and family. They like being part of a community and meeting new people with similar interests (like similar book genres). And users are always eager to find that next book to read, looking for new recommendations or reviews. It should be noted that all of the above communication occurs mainly in real-life and outside of Kindle.
Regarding book clubs specifically, only 2 of the interviewees actively participated in book clubs. Some users expressed interest in book clubs for the sake of community and meeting new people, but some users were averse to the idea for reasons such as busy schedules or even the idea of book clubs as seeming antiquated and awkward.
Other insights focused on pain points of running a social group (like a book club), the biggest one being coordinating meetings around people’s schedules.
Alex’s Journey Map
Kindle’s book-loving readers enjoy meaningful discussions about the books they read, but these conversations take place outside of the digital space, and especially outside of Kindle, and are limited to a very small social circle.
How might we help Kindle users expand their social networks and find other users with similar interests to better connect over their shared love of books?
Kindle readers using the iOS (iPhone) app.
Success will have been met when 5 out of 5 selected Kindle users have each connected to 5 new people and when 5 out of 5 Kindle users state Kindle is their preferred social platform for books.
The group began Design Studio by independently sketching ideas for about 20 minutes, before re-convening to discuss what we had come up with. We had many exciting ideas from video chats to book sharing, but utilized the MoSCoW method to narrow down what features to include in the MVP.
Our “must have” was a Chat feature, because the user needs all centered around communication. Our “should have” was Book Clubs — which might seem odd given the business objective, but our research showed that real-life book clubs aren’t so popular these days, and the real focus was enabling people to converse about books on Kindle. Book Clubs should still be integrated, but more as a way of meeting new people and getting conversations started.
“Could haves” were ideas that were nice to have but not essential, such as adding tags to a book club for better search-ability. “Won’t haves” included things like video chat, which were nice to have but more effort to implement.
Because of time constraints, we stuck pretty stubbornly to the barest features: chat, join a book club, create a book club.
We decided on the iPhone as our target device, to take advantage of the existing Goodreads Community. The existing “Community” page would be the new hub for our social features. There was a profile page, complete with picture, already existing under the “hamburger”; we moved this profile more prominently to the top of the Community page.
From there, we whiteboarded a rough user flow:
John created wireframes for the main Community screen and for messaging, Anthony created wireframes for joining a book club, and I created wireframes for creating a book club.
We conducted 2 rounds of usability tests, with 4 users per round. Participants were recruited by approaching students at GA; 2 users were from the interviews: Stesha and Marnie. Each team member conducted 1–2 tests per round, acting as facilitator, note-taker, and recorder all in one. In each test, the user was assigned the following tasks:
- Send a message to an individual friend.
- Join a book club.
- Chat with other book club members.
- Start your own book club.
Round 1 Results:
We received some positive feedback over the idea of a social platform for books! However, there were issues with navigation, especially with achieving the first task of messaging a friend, and users felt distracted by the different wireframe styles and cluttered screens. Some users also desired the option to adjust privacy settings of their own book club.
Changes after Round 1:
We decluttered some screens, had one team member adjust the wireframes to make the style more consistent, removed the confusing “New Message” option in the Chat menu, created the option to make the book club public or private. We also added back in the “Friends” and “Following” links, because users familiar with Goodreads were wondering where they had gone (we had removed them in our initial prototype).
Round 2 Results:
There were fewer navigation issues, with no errors made in joining a book club or chatting with club members. There were, however, still errors in messaging an individual friend and in filling out the “Create a Book Club” form.
Changes after Round 2:
We added the ability to message friends directly from the existing Goodreads “Friends” screen and improved the layout of the “Create a Book Club” form.
Next, we could create further iterations of the prototype that more completely address the needs of the secondary persona, Lily Ocampo, the book club organizer. We could add in ways to coordinate and schedule real-life meetings, for instance, or at least a conference call among members.
Other features that we originally wanted could be re-visited. There could be improvements in how users browse book clubs, or maybe a way to see how far along a book club is with a given book, or maybe a way to see a book club’s history. So many possibilities!
And then, of course, further usability testing should be done to keep improving the prototype.
For my first group UX project, I am grateful to have had a great group that was truly committed to working together. We were so careful to get along, however, that we often held back from voicing new ideas or suggestions for revisions, and for the sake of time, we concentrated very pointedly on the bare minimum features: chat, join book club, create book club — anything else was quickly brushed aside “for a future iteration”. In future projects, I hope that we can better communicate, without fear of offending anyone, for the sake of designing a stronger product. My group worked hard and created a prototype we can be proud of, but we likely missed out on opportunities to really take the design to the next level.