Udacity Course Project
Improved eBook app for avid readers
Kindle is an iOS app for reading ebooks.
✓ User Research
✓ Competitor Analysis
✓ Empathy Mapping
✓ Task Flows
Additional Improvement Areas
I explored three other areas for improvement—open the toggle to learn more.3 Additional UX Improvement Areas‣
 User-Focused Home Screen
Update the home screen to increase focus on user’s library and reading goals while still balancing business goals.
Personalized Recommendations Best selling books section has been replaced with personalized recommendations of recently released titles with quick Wishlist action.
Optimized Thumb Zone Search, library suggestions, and recently read books are all moved into the lower third of the screen for easy thumb taps.Search, library suggestions, and recently read books are all moved into the lower third of the screen for easy thumb taps.
Reading Goals with 🌲 The Reading Tree Brand Reinforcement & Positive Habit Building
I see an opportunity to reinforce the Kindle’s brand, build positive reading habits for users, create a new revenue stream for Amazon, and differentiate the Kindle app from competition through the introduction of what I have named The Reading Tree.
The Reading Tree (Start to Finish)
The current app’s home screen puts a heavy emphasis on recently opened books in the From Your Library section. With recently opened books moved into the bottom nav Bookshelf, the space can be used to more help users build a reading habit and track their reading goals. Part of this includes the introduction of The Reading Tree—whose leaves take on the colors of read books and helps reinforce the Kindle’s brand (a child reading under a tree). When a user is maintaining their reading habit the child appears under the tree. Each year’s tree will be unique because the colors of the book covers read that year will vary.
If they’ve completed their reading goal at the end of the year readers can order a free poster of their tree from the previous year (via Amazon’s existing Amazon Prints service)—the poster would also show the reader’s trees from previous years as well. The Reading Tree poster is a way of showing friends and family what Kindle users have read recently. The ability to have a bookshelf of their favorite books which serves both as personal expression and as a conversation starter is something missing in the ebook reader’s experience.
As Peter Fernandez writes, in “Books online: e-books, e-paper, and e-readers.” Library Hi Tech News (2020), print books are “cultural artifacts. People often associate printed books with certain meals and as expressive objects that indicate intellect and serious focused attention.” There are even companies that have turned this insight into a business and will sell books by-the-foot for decorating your office or home (see BooksByTheFoot.com to learn more). The Reading Tree poster brings this aspect of physical books to the digital reader’s life.
A minimum of 12 completed books are required so there’s enough content to print and this also encourages more ebook purchases. Additional posters after the first would require users to pay for printing and shipping. For each tree poster ordered Amazon could plant an actual tree which further reinforces the Kindle brand and helps build positive association with the Kindle brand.
Amazon could offer free downloadable wallpaper images of a user’s Reading Tree at the end of the year for free as well as homescreen widgets that show the user’s current tree and reading habit streak. Throughout the year the tree could change based on the user’s current time-of-day, season, and local weather. Presents could appear under the tree on the reader’s birthday and Christmas (including actual digital gifts such as Amazon ebook credit!).
Upon finishing a book an animation might show the book’s cover with text flowing out of the cover. As the words flow out of the book the cover slowly disappears from top to bottom. The words flow to the tree becoming leaves on the tree. Text appears below the tree with a message from The Reading Tree thanking the reader for saving one of its real-world siblings from being cut down.
🌲 Reading ebooks saves trees. 🌲
 In-Book Overlay Menu
The in-book overlay menu needed to be updated to include the Bookshelf for quickly switching books. In the process I found one-handed usability issues and felt that the book cover should be included as that is such a key part of a book’s identity.
Optimized Thumb Zone
All common actions are moved to the bottom of the screen for easier tapping; modern phones have grown in size and touch targets at the top of the screen are more difficult to tap with one hand.
Author and Cover Added
The book’s cover and author text have been added to the in-book menu to help readers recognize the book they are reading and builds a stronger association between the text of the book and its cover image.
Added Menu Icon Labels
Research shows that most icon usability is poor without labels.
 Search Empty State
This empty state for search in the current app is…rather empty.
Recent Searches By adding recent searches users can quickly find a book again. This applies the principle of recognition over recall. Users now only need to recognize a recent search term rather than recall it and type it in again.
Trending Searches Another addition to the empty state is providing suggestions for possible terms a user might be about to type manually by using recent top search terms by other similar users.
Avid readers need features to support their large libraries & reading habits.
These users want a single library for all of their ebooks (including audiobooks). By providing an easy and exceptional e-reading experience, users will be loyal to Amazon Kindle. However, there are several areas of frustration — particularly with large ebook libraries, that are pushing avid readers to other platforms.
UX/Product designer, Researcher
User Research, Competitor Analysis, Empathy Mapping, Personas, Wireframes, Prototype, Task Flows
GOAL Update the Amazon Kindle app to bBetter support avid readers.
OUTCOME Researched, designed, and tested solutions to 3 major UX problems in Amazon's iOS Kindle app.
Users with large libraries containing 100's-1000's of books need features that help them more easily browse and sort their large ebook libraries so they can better plan reading time and have a better awareness of what is currently in their collection.
Avid readers with large libraries have three major pain points.
Pain Point 1 Browsing
Pain Point 2 Reading 2(+) books in parallel
Pain Point 3 Downloading
In 2019, 25% of Americans read an ebook (source). The largest online ebook discussion forum, MobileRead, has nearly 300,000 users. In one poll on MobileRead, 50.91% of respondents stated they had purchased more than 200 ebooks (source). Assuming there are 332 million people in the US and Amazon has a 61% share of the ebook market, I estimate there are approximately 25.8 million Kindle customers who have more than 200 ebooks in their collections. This is a sizable market Amazon has previously seen value in as they purchased the social book platform GoodReads, in 2013.
As a “power-user” eBook reader, I have experienced firsthand the frustrations with the available apps.
I wanted to learn about the digital reading habits of adult Kindle ebook readers with libraries of significant volume (100+ books) — particularly how they like to organize and browse their eBook collections and any pain points they have in these areas. The goal was to determine what opportunities and needs aren’t being met by the current Kindle app.
Below is the data I collected from interviewing 5 Kindle users with libraries of at least 200 ebooks on their needs, pain points, and how they use apps to read eBooks.
"I downloaded a lot of my books a long time ago. When I look, I don't remember what it's about. I remember that at one point in time, I thought it would be a good read, but I don't remember why."
[UX Pain Point 1]
"I don't enjoy the experience, so I don't organize. I just search for everything."
[UX Pain Point 1]
"I usually read at least 2-3 books at a time. I like to switch back and forth between them."
[UX Pain Point 2]
"Some self-help book topics are things I may not be ready to share with others."
"I want to turn off progress indicators for fiction books because I don't like to know that there are only three pages left. I just want to focus on what is being presented to me on the page. It's about immersion. But I do want progress indicators turned on in textbooks."
- Add support for multiple active books.
- Add mood-based book selection for active and inactive books.
- Add filters for genre with options for sorting (author, title, color).
- Add additional display types: large cover, small cover, list.
- Update flow so that book blurbs can be seen faster & are more findable.
- Consider rethinking the app’s home screen to include library discovery features like Roon
- Consider adding multi-user support for Kindle accounts; similar to Netflix.
- Add chapter & book progress at genre & book level; with default options.
I sourced relevant insights from 21 research articles, mostly academic papers. 14 additional academic papers were evaluated but determined to not be relevant.
- Provide a way of viewing/previewing a book’s Table of Contents, Index, and Blurb from the book list.
- Consider adding support for viewing two pages, of the same and separate books—this will likely work best in landscape orientation.
- Evaluate options for showing a visual progress indicator, such as a circle or digital version of the book’s spine, during reading, to aid the reader in visualizing plot points chronologically.
As part of my research I compared Kindle to 4 other major ebook apps across 4 major categories: Organization, Filtering Options, Sorting Options, and General Features. I also compared their top level navigation structures.
Main Navigation Comparison (Information Architecture)
Home | Library | CURRENT BOOK | Discover | More
Reading Now | Library | Book Store | Audiobooks | Search
Home | Library
Library | CURRENT BOOK | Shelf
Avid readers, who actively switch between 2-4 books depending on mood, have 100's or 1000's of books and get frustrated when they can't find a book or remember why they added a book to their library. They want to spend their time reading their books, not sorting them into folders. Readers also have genre-specific needs and preferences that are not being met.
Travis the Student Traveler
Travis wants to be able to easily switch between reading his class textbook, science fiction novel, travel guide, and self-improvement book depending on his current activity and the time of the school year. Travis likes to be surprised when a fictional book ends, so doesn’t want to know how many pages or percentage is left in the book. But he also needs powerful annotation, memory, and navigational tools for his textbooks — and wants to know how much time a textbook chapter will take to read.
Natasha the Mystery Sleuth
Natasha wants to read more of the books in her existing library, keep track of the books she’s read, and discuss the books she and her husband are reading together. She also wants to easily switch from reading a fantasy novel to a historical memoir depending on how tired she is.
With the key research findings and personas in mind I generated several HMW questions which were then consolidated into the above question.
Value vs Complexity Matrix, Concept Evaluation
Primary Goals for Design Phase
- Add support for readers who have several active books that they are switching between depending on mood throughout the day and week.
- Redesign library view to support easier find-ability through sorting, filtering, and additional book metadata.
- Add support for automatically downloading existing and new user content.
Secondary Goals for Design Phase
- Explore a spine-based progress and contents UI to improve memory of book chronology (through increased spacial awareness) and to improve in-book navigation.
- Add support for controlling book and chapter progress indicators at genre and book levels.
- As an avid reader I want to switch between multiple active books so that I can read whichever genre I’m currently in the mood for.
- As a traveling reader I want automatically download all of my books so that I can read any book in my library when on an airplane without having to think about which book to download ahead of time.
- As an avid reader with a large ebook library I want better sorting and filtering options so that I can more easily and quickly find books.
Home is redesigned to put more focus on the user's books and reading goals. Book suggestions and active books, now located in the Bookshelf, are put in the lower easier-to-tap area. IA is improved to make actions easier-to-find.
Library is updated with automatic genre categories, additional user filtering and sorting options, and quick actions for each book. It is also easier to quickly switch view modes.
In-Book navigation is updated to include the book cover and quick access to the Bookshelf. Navigation items have also been moved to the bottom for easier tapping on modern, tall screen devices. Additional Book Settings are available for progress.
- Browsing large libraries
- Reading 2 or more books in parallel
- Downloading large libraries
Browsing large libraries [Problem 1]
Redesigned library view to support easier find-ability by automatically categorizing books, increasing sorting and filtering options, and adding book blurb and time-to-read metadata to book list view.
Amazon’s existing book meta-data is used to automatically organize purchases and user content into standardized categories.
Additional filter and sort options have been added — including opening a random book.
Book Blurb Added
A description helps remind users what the book is about.
Time-to-Read is based on each user’s past reading speed.
Reading 2 or more books in parallel [Problem 2]
Users are able to switch between active books and plan their next reads in the Bookshelf by creating queues: ordered lists of books around any theme or topic the user wants.
The existing recently read/opened collection on the home screen becomes a smart queue always shown first in the Bookshelf; this smart collection contains books not added to a queue manually.
Downloading large libraries [Problem 3]
Readers want access all of their books in offline areas such as airplanes. The existing app offers the option to auto-download only audio books. This can be solved by adding an additional control to automatically download all ebooks.
One user commented that they wanted purchases made on one device to automatically be downloaded on their other devices saying, “I don’t want to deal with storage of the eBooks”. Kindle on iOS requires purchases be made in a browser. It would be a better experience if users could make purchase on a laptop and know that those books would be automatically downloaded and ready to read on their phone.
- Academic papers are a great source of knowledge, including learning about potential problem areas to solve, when learning about new industries for design projects.
- Figma is a superior tool, compared to Sketch, for prototyping, collaboration, and developer inspection tools, making it my preferred design tool for future projects.
The next step in this project would be to run usability testing on the high fidelity prototype.
In my ideation phase I generated many additional solutions to user needs beyond the 3 main areas I chose to focus on in this case study. The ones I chose were low complexity and high value: solutions I felt could be implemented quickly and improve the user experience greatly. I would like to develop and test some of my other ideas as I believe there is a lot of untapped potential in the Kindle app.
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