Problem Statement: we find it harder and harder to finish reading a book.
Possible Solution: a platform to share, discuss, and show off books we read. 

The book you don’t read won’t help.

– Jim Rohn
“Shelfie” —  A Capstone Project for the Interaction Design Specialization on Coursera Offered by UC San Diego

Need-finding

Two years ago, during one of the 10-week school term of my junior year in college, I worked on a project that I named “one-book-a-week.” My initial intent was to finish reading the books I curiously bought but failed to finish reading. I successfully read ten books in ten weeks and later made a video about this. After joining graduate school studying language education and linguistics, I started to maintain a personal blog where I share interesting research findings and postings about linguistics and education. Once I was able to share some brief insights about four books that I read that month, and to my surprise, my readers demanded more posts like that. They said they always wanted information about what to read; they thought my summaries were intriguing and that they trusted my recommendations.

 
 

I asked two questions on my blog to listen to potential users

|        How did you decide to start to read read the last book you read?
|        Is there anything you expect to help you read more in the future?

In the 15 answers I received, most of them were expressing regrets about not being able to follow through a book. One reason might be they did not find what managed to interest, another being that they simply were too underdetermined to finish reading. The other responses mentioned that the books their friends or admired ones recommended would be their targets.

 

Ideation and Inspiration

One response clicked with me when responding to my question about why someone might successfully finish reading a book:

|        “To show off and play cool.” They said.

I thought, isn’t that the core of social media? To let people know. To spread the words and be supported.

In the earlier stage of design, more detailed ideas of features and needs were gathered in a brainstorming fashion. There are 15 statements that I gathered based on my initial intents, ideas from friends and families, and from online questionnaire results.

1. Be motivated to read new books
2. Get access to recommendation of books
3. Share with others that the book-reading is completed
4. Set goals of reading and track reading process with friends
5. Receive recommendations of writers I admire
6. Participate in potential meet-up and book club activities
7. Connect with people who love to read
8. Understand different genres of books
9. Discuss details about a book after reading it
10. Exchange books after reading
11. Rate books after reading
12. Find books with similar style that interest me
13. Get information of why a book might interest me
14. Know what people surround me is reading
15. Leave comments and interact with people who have read a book

 

Storyboards & Prototypes

For storyboarding, I picked a scenario where:

  1. It explains why someone might buy a book (friend’s recommendation)
  2. Implies the challenge of finishing reading a book
  3. Suggests book exchange

 

Paper prototypes

When I moved on to paper prototyping, I was thinking about whether to have parallel design (multiple separate designs) or serial design (with features together). Later, since I noticed how much overlap share among the many features of this activity I am designing, I thought it might be more efficient to do a serial design to layout all interactions in the app.

Paper Prototype testing with Jessie:

For my initial paper prototype testing, I reached out to a suitemate who kindly gave me two books from Haruki Murakami, a prolific Japanese writer on my birthday, which I have gladly finished read. I cared about her ideas on my app. After I introduced her to my app, while walking through one slide by another, we jotted down a lot of notes and had an extensive talk about various apps. Here are some core values and functions that we decided to add:

  • Highlight the notion of reading what “YOUR circle of friends” recommends
  • Recommend new bestsellers to the user through various ways
  • The function of finding out what people are reading in the area
 
paper prototype
 

Digital Protype

I made a lot of changes to my paper prototype based on the feedback as I explore ways to design each slide of my digital prototype. Here is a glimpse of it:

Then it’s time to conduct two types of testing for the digital prototype.

  1. In Person Testing
  2. Online Testing with A/B versions of one specific feature
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In Person Testing

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I introduced my design ideas to my testers and briefed them that I will be doing the following things:

  • Highlight appreciation, encourage questions and feedback

  • Keep prompting questions
  • Asking my testers to “think-aloud”

Then I acquired consent from them (recording, photo-taking) before I presented the app and asked them to play with it.

 

Heuristic Evaluations:

This is the Usability Heuristics proposed by Nielson, which is the go-to guideline for an app assessment (also attaching its severity rating system).

The following chart concludes the violations my tester, SJ recognized during the testing:

 0 = I don’t agree that this is a usability problem at all 1 = Cosmetic problem only: need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project 2 = Minor usability problem: fixing this should be given low priority 3 = Major usability problem: important to fix, so should be given high priority 4 = Usability catastrophe: imperative to fix this before product can be released

0 = I don’t agree that this is a usability problem at all
1 = Cosmetic problem only: need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project
2 = Minor usability problem: fixing this should be given low priority
3 = Major usability problem: important to fix, so should be given high priority
4 = Usability catastrophe: imperative to fix this before product can be released

 

A/B Testing

I understand that the assignment asks us to use UserTesting.com to test on our A/B features. Unfortunately, my gift card credit at the website is low and could afford more than two user testings at the time. As a result, I thought it’d be more helpful if I could have my whole app tested by the two sessions rather than the one specific feature. To test the A/B testing (specific feature), I asked four in-person test takers to select their preferred version and provide reasons. I thought it worked well since it is a within-subject test, which removed variances of different testers.

Here are two features I tested during the in person A/B testing:

 Tester LW and YX prefer the one on the right because it is more subjective and fun.  Tester YW andSC prefer the one on the left because it is direct and guiding.

Tester LW and YX prefer the one on the right because it is more subjective and fun.

Tester YW andSC prefer the one on the left because it is direct and guiding.

 Tester LW prefers the one on the left because of its sense of seriousness in the color tone and font weight.  Tester YW, SC, and YN prefer the one on the right because it gets to the point without adding extra steps.  Test YW also mentioned that the three-line instruction line should be bold (as in the one on the left).

Tester LW prefers the one on the left because of its sense of seriousness in the color tone and font weight.

Tester YW, SC, and YN prefer the one on the right because it gets to the point without adding extra steps.

Test YW also mentioned that the three-line instruction line should be bold (as in the one on the left).

 

Online Testing @ UserTesting.com

My script and questions for testers:

You would like to find good books to read and successfully finish reading them. You especially care about what your friends are reading.

https://invis.io/K9A1EZ9GN

userTesting.com

Questions for testers to answer during their recording session:

Thank you for testing this prototype for me. As the designer, I understand that it still needs a lot of improvement. I’d like to thank you first for helping me on this!

>>My first question: do you know any apps or websites that promote book-reading? If so, explain how these platforms work.

Kindle, “books on the iPhone,” audible
Goodreads, where people share what they read with other friends

>>(Before opening the app) What features do you expect to see on this app?

|        “Expecting a store; social media aspect and see what your friends are reading”
|        “Shelfie,” “funny”
|        “Not visually visually appealing”

>>What do you think help this app stand out from its competitors?

|        “set goals and reminders!” cool
|        “I don’t know about digital books.” I am a fan of actual real books.”

>>What do you think are the highlights of this app? What do you think are the highlights of this app? What is the feature that attracts you the most?

|        “I wonder how many books are out there.”
|        “You need some little, really special things that would make it stand out.”
|        “It needs a lot more visual developing.”

Promotion Video

 
 

Final Discussion

As I finished testing my prototype on UserTesting.com, I reached out to a friend back in San Diego for some more inspiration. I asked her, what do you think can help readers find interesting book for them and be motivated to read? My friend asked: “Tinders swipes? When they swipe to one direction, it means they are interested; when they swipe to the other direction, it means they are not. When there is a match between two friends, they can schedule to read together.”

What intrigued me most, was how constantly the inspirations show up, as along as I am seeking feedback. I have to say that listening to feedback was extremely hard, the negative ones. When I clicked open the thorough audio feedback I gained from online tests on UserTesting.com, I could hear their thinking process. As it was exciting when they expressed excitement to certain features, their disappointment in certain aspects do leave scars (as positive marks!). “I don’t think I’ll download it.”

But, without these honest feedback, how can I possibly improve my project?

Users first.