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Choosing Your Book of the Month

Reimagining the way you choose a book

Trevor Rogers
May 2, 2018 · 5 min read

At Book of the Month we help readers discover new books that they’ll love. We’re dedicated to providing not only great books, but a great experience that is fun, easy to use, and ultimately useful.

At the end of 2017 we sat down to reimagine what choosing a book could feel like. We had gathered a bunch of data on the types of books people enjoy reading and the unique properties of those books that make the reading experience enjoyable.

We wondered if we could craft a new type of shopping experience for books. One that was built uniquely for the types of books we choose and the people who read them.

Finding your next read

There are some key pieces of information that might come to mind when describing a book: genre, author, and title. Traditionally, books have been organized this way in brick-and-mortar stores as a way to filter from endless shelves of books down to a singular title.

This way of organizing books works for bookstores, and is especially great if you know the title, author, and genre of the book you’re looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for it can become a daunting experience.

Of course, picking a book is much different from the experience of reading that book. A lot of readers go to sites like Amazon and Goodreads not only to find recommendations, but to also find reviews that communicate facets of the book that aren’t covered in the synopsis. This includes things like the pacing of the book, explicit language, the usage of multiple narrators, and non-linear narratives.

Ultimately, a synopsis is great, but a lot of the times it doesn’t capture what we find most important about the reading experience: how it makes you feel. So we set out to create an experience that captured not just the summary of the book, but a summary of what it feels like to read that book.

Getting started

Book of the Month picks five books each month to offer to our members. Every month our editorial team works closely with publishers, a group of our members, and guest contributors to choose these five selections.

We constantly survey our users for feedback on their reading experience, and overall experience with Book of the Month. We also allow users to create a virtual bookshelf where they rate the BOTM books they have read. After doing this for a year, we had a ton of information on what made some of our books hits, and what made some of our books misses. 😢

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Our editorial team kicked things off with some great ideas. 🤔

The beauty of collecting information about what users disliked about our selections was that we came away with a clear understanding of what information our members needed to avoid choosing a book that isn’t right for them.

Working closely with our editorial team, we reviewed the feedback we had from our members and uncovered some recurring problems our readers were facing:

  • Picking one book out of five was largely a process of elimination and our members needed a faster way to compare our books without having to visit every product detail page and read a lengthy synopsis.
  • Our members care about what other readers think. We needed a way to collect member reviews and surface that content to our community.
  • The majority of negative feedback we receive had to do with traits of the book not communicated in the synopsis. We needed a way to give this information to our members.

Our design process

Our design process consisted of sketching, wireframing, high-fidelity prototyping, user testing, and some final rounds of visual design and interaction to cap things off.

We relied heavily on Sketch and Invision which allowed us to test the new design with our members over the course of multiple weeks. As questions crept up, we implemented small changes to our prototypes to better understand which pieces of the design were functionally helpful and which pieces just added noise.

The end result was an experience that was not only usable and functionally essential, but also a friendly experience that we found made our members more delighted when using it.

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A combination of Google Slides, Sketch, Invision, Principle, Framer, illustrator, and Dropbox Paper.
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The finished design

The shopping experience was a true test of information hierarchy. The final version we shipped to our members included some new features, and some updated ones, that surfaced the right information at the right time.

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  • The quick take: a quick and easy way to read a book synopsis, free of marketing speak.
  • Good to know: a fun and easy way to quickly understand if the reading experience will be right for you.
  • Why I love it: an updated version of what used to be our guest judge essays that made this content easier to read.
  • Member thoughts: book reviews from other members of the Book of the Month community.

I’m thrilled with where we landed and we’re continuing to make improvements to this experience every month. Looking back on this work, I’m pretty impressed with how quickly we redesigned this experience. Sharing work with stakeholders using tools like Wake and Invision drastically improved the speed and quality of this project. 💪

The entire BOTM product team was involved in the success of this project, but I’d like to personally thank Liza Heussler and Siobhan Jones for their hard work and dedication to providing the best possible experience to our members.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out on Twitter at @trevorgrogers and check our open positions at the Book of the Month jobs board. ✌️

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