Add a Book Swapping Feature to Goodreads

Project Role UX Designer
Team Solo Class Project
Duration 4 weeks, 80 hours total
Tools Figma, Optimal Sort, Miro
Project Background

As an avid Goodreads’ user, I felt that they were overlooking an opportunity to serve both user and business needs through a book swapping service. They have a strong user base who engage in creating book lists, building personal bookshelves, and writing reviews, but through a book swapping feature, they could further strengthen ties between users and offer an environmental friendly initiative which would extend a books usage. My hypothesis was that this would also solve the user need of how to discard unwanted books - this was rebutted during my research, but more on that later!

The Challenges

Research

Research revealed that the user need I hypothesized this feature would solve was not valid: I thought this initiative would provide users an easy way to discard of unwanted books, but research revealed that users already had practices in place to solve this need. On the other hand, my research revealed that users preferred reading print books and would be interested in an inexpensive way to attain books, so I pivoted to focus on this user need.

Below is the process which led me to uncovering the real user need:

Research Goals
My Research Methodologies

I first conducted market research to learn about overall book purchasing and reading trends. I then conducted competitive analysis to understand how other companies facilitated book swapping. Next, I hosted remote user interviews with 3 participants, who considered themselves avid book readers and were familiar with Goodreads, and asked them a series of open-ended questions which tied back to my research goals. Later on, I conducted usability tests on my Mid-Fi and Hi-Fi wireframes to uncover blind spots and unexpected pain points.

Market Research Key Insights
  • According to Greenpeace, one Canadian Spruce tree can produce only 24 books, further enforcing that a book exchange program leaves a smaller environmental footprint than printing a new book.
  • The rise of eBooks seems to have stabilized, and print books are still are preferred by readers. According to a Pew Research Center report, only 25% of U.S. adults read an ebook in 2018.
  • 37% of Americans say they read only print books, while 28% read in digital formats and also read print books. Only 7% of Americans say they only read books in digital formats and have not read any print books in the past 12 months.

Competitive Analysis Key Insights

  • Competitors have functional websites, but the UI is convoluted and not easy to understand or navigate.
  • Competitors have varying systems in place around book swapping credits: some have a simple 1:1 credit ratio, while others had a more complicated credit system depending on shipping location and book type.
  • There were no clear patterns among competitors about who would cover the book shipping cost: the book sender or the book receiver.

User Interview Key Insights

General

  • There is interest in book swapping.
  • Preference is to swap print books, little interest in swapping audiobooks.
  • Participants use Goodreads differently: track books they want to read, read user reviews, find quotes.
  • All participants preferred reading print books over
    e-books and audiobooks.
  • Eco-Sustainability was a factor for the majority of participants.

Desired Functionality

  • Users were divided between who should cover the cost of shipping: the book receiver or sender.
  • A big incentive would be the ability to print a mailing label from home and not have to go to the post office.
  • Divided between the credit format vs. subscription format: Users noted that they would be willing to spend more money for the convenience of not having to go to the post office.

The Key Takeaways from My Research

My next step was to find a way to make this process as easy and inexpensive for users as possible. I conducted additional competitive analysis to learn how competitors facilitated shipping services, which was a good starting point, but my aha moment was when I remembered that when I sold books after college, I mailed them as 'media mail' which cost a flat rate of $2.80 for books under a certain weight via USPS, which was much less expensive than other shipping rates. After researching USPS’ website, I discovered that they allowed users to print mailing labels from home and they offered a free pick up service where users could schedule package pick ups from their homes! I researched USPS’ competitors, FedEx and UPS, and found that both do offer a similar service, but for a fee.

This was a major breakthrough:
I had found a way for users to mail books at a very lost cost and avoid a trip to the dreaded
post office! 

Based on this research, I concluded that the system which would be most in line with users needs and expectations would be a credit system where each book is 1 credit and users gain a credit when they send a book to another user which they can then in turn use to request another book. This system would effectively solve the defined user need and users would be able to create and print shipping labels and schedule package pick ups from their homes, all for $2.80.

Empathy Map

I then built an Empathy Map, based on my research, which outlined how my potential user would think, what she would do, see and hear.

Building out this empathy map further helped me understand my users, and consequently, helped me maintain a user-driven mindset.

Persona

Based on my research findings and Empathy Map, I built my Persona, Madeline. I kept her goals and pain points in mind as I made design decisions during this project which further helped ensure a user-driven approach.

DEFINE

Establishing Terminology

Since I was adding a feature to an already existing website, not much was needed around the IA. However, I did conduct a simple card sort, via Optimal Sort, to determine the best terminology to refer to users interacting with the book swap tool.

Based on the card sort, the terminology that was most clear to users was receiver (the user receiving the book) and sender (the user sending the book). Turns out some things really are just that simple sometimes.

Thinking Through the Flows

While having established the credit system was a major breakthrough, there were still functionalities that I had to think through: how exactly the credit system would work, how users could interact with the book swapping tool, etc. 

I created a few Task Flows to help me think through these functionalities and I later revised them after my usability testing because certain components didn’t fit in within the larger context as expected.

Here is the primary Task Flow which solves the users need, the task is for the user to find a book and send a book swap request. This is the final version which had been validated during my usability tests.

DESIGN

Designing Lo-Fi + Mid-Fi Wireframes

I developed iterations of wireframes using pen and paper and then developed the pages most in line with solving the defined problem in Mid-Fidelity in Figma. 

I based the main ‘Creative Confidence’ book page on Goodreads’ current design, but I wanted to update the page with modern elements from Audible's UI. I also wanted to remove unnecessary functionalities to help highlight the book swapping feature in a way that would feel natural to returning users.

Below are early Lo-Fi and Mid-Fi drafts of the main Book Swapping page which highlight the benefits of book swapping, showcase available books, and outline the process. These were later iterated upon, but they served as my starting point.

Mid-Fi Usability Testing

Once I designed my Mid-Fi wireframes, I created a prototype in Figma but due to time constraints, I only had the opportunity to conduct testing with 2 participants within my targeted demographic.

The goals were:

  1. Test the overall ease of the designs
  2. Define areas of uncertainty
  3. Understand if the book swapping process was clear to users
  4. Learn if any key information was missing

Both participants said that the task was simple and intuitive, but there were a few takeaways:

  • Suggested to adjust the hierarchy of information in the ‘Confirmation Pop Up’
  • The Book Swap CTA under ‘Get a Copy’ was easy to miss and that the Book Swapping tool on the right side of the page was easier to use.
UI Design

Since I was working with an existing brand, there was not much to do around the visual design of this project (although, gosh, I would have loved to update Goodreads' branding). I did however update certain elements with Audible's UI, Goodreads' sister brand, to give it a slightly modern update, but I maintained the original structure of the pages and hierarchy of information.

I used Goodreads' logo but the font, Arial, was inspired by Audible, as well as the colors:

Hi-Fi Designs: The Evolution of the Book Swapping Tool

I want to highlight the Book Swapping tool here, the main feature of this project. This tool went through many revisions, but below is the final version in its various stages of use. Below is the story of how the final version of the Book Swapping tool came to be, based largely on the great feedback I received during usability tests.

The arrows around the 'Book Swap with Other Users' represent a swapping motion. In earlier iterations, I had placed a Recycling icon to highlight the environmental benefits of the feature, but users noted confusion about the meaning of the icon. Below that, I reiterated that each book is only 1 credit based on feedback from users who said they liked to have the same information accessible in different places. Then listed are the various books available for book swapping. I bolded the condition of the book because participants noted that this was most important to them and I wanted to establish hierarchy to highlight that information. In the same vein, I organized the book listings from 'Great' to 'Fair' condition. On the bottom of the tool, I placed a 'Help' section for those who may not be familiar with the book swapping tool. I had initially had this section at the top, but participants suggested moving it to its current placement, the idea being that the entire tool will be visible so that section would always be accessible.

Default state

Once a book had been selected

Once a book has been requested

Below is what the final Book Swapping tool looks like in action, in the context of the books main page:

Besides finessing with the Book Swapping tool, I spent time finalizing the look of the Pop Out screens which would appear when users would select the 'Book Swap' CTA under 'Get a Copy' on the main book page. The hierarchy of information mirrors the Book Swapping tool, and on the Confirmation Pop Up, I again reiterated the details of the book swap per the user feedback I received that users appreciate to see the same information in various pages.

Test

I touched upon it above, but below are the full findings from my Hi-Fi usability test. I had recruited 4 participants within my targeted demographic to test my Hi-Fi designs. The results were far more interesting than my earlier usability test!

Hi-Fi Usability Test Key Findings:

Pain Points:

Affinity Map

I built out this Affinity Map after my testing to help me uncover patterns between the feedback I had received and to help me visualize the Priority Revisions needed.

Priority Revisions

After analyzing the feedback I received from the participants, I made the below key revisions to my designs:

I mentioned above that the Book Swapping tool went through many versions, but I wanted to highlight the changes here because a majority of the changes came from my Hi-Fi usability tests. Under normal circumstances, I would have been eager to test this Book Swapping tool again with users, but due to the nature of this project, I was unable to do so.

CONCLUSION

Since I had certain constraints around the structure and UI, the research surprised me as being the most interesting element of this project. It was frustrating to have my initial hypothesis about user needs rebutted, but it was also extremely rewarding once I found a system which would support the new user need I discovered during my user interviews. The usability testing that I conducted on my Hi-Fi wireframes also revealed interesting results and I think the designs improved infinitely.

This project highlighted the importance of research and testing at every possible opportunity, it’s a lesson which will stay with me during future projects.