UX Case Study: 10cBooks — How We Improved our Internal System for Borrowing Books
An internal library in our office is one of the best ideas we’ve ever had, but how to make sure that it comes with an equally good online service for borrowing books? (UX case study)
10cBooks is an internal system for borrowing books in 10Clouds. Thanks to it, employees can develop their interests in the area of IT, design, management and many others. Everything is completely free! We created 10cBooks with the idea that everyone could easily access unlimited sources of knowledge. What’s more, if an interesting book is not in the collection, employees can add a book to the waiting list, which is subject to vote. If the book gets enough votes — it is ordered.
Even the best product can be improved, which is why I wanted to determine — what is the level of satisfaction of using 10cBooks, what are the main pain points and how we can get rid of them. This article describes how the process looked like step by step.
Research Goals & Stages
I wanted to check what experience the use of the system generates and identify areas that need improvement. For this purpose, I prepared a questionnaire (thanks, Google Forms!) and sent it out through the company. The next stage was to create a map of empathy based on open answers and the definition of the main pain points. Then, using the HMW method and brainstorming technics, me and UI Designer Agnieszka Ciurysek identified a number of solutions that respond to the user’s problems. By creating two primary use cases, I was able to input the actual solutions within the user flows. After that, wireframes where quickly created and then, actual UI.
The first step was to indicate who uses the service and what are the feelings associated with using it. Users are all these people from 10Clouds who borrowed a book at least once. The questionnaire was sent to all of them, so we were able to check the satisfaction level and also all comments, pains, likes and feelings about the service.
From 120 people 35 filled in a questionnaire. This is not a bad result, assuming that only 62 people actively use the internal system to borrow books.
I asked 16 different questions:
- 7 of them where multiple choice questions such as: “how often do you borrow books” and “how often you give back the book after the deadline?”
- 4 of them where scale questions such as: “how would you rate your level of satisfaction when using 10cBooks” and “how would you rate the system of reminding about the return of the book?”
- 5 of them were open questions: “describe three things which you don’t like about 10cBooks”, “describe your feelings regarding 10cBooks in one sentence” etc.
What were the major findings? In general, the service was rated as good, very good or excellent by 89,7% of respondents, but only 5,9% rated it as excellent, so there was a room for improvement. From all functions, experience related to returning books got the worst score. 36,8% of respondents rated the process of returning a book as bad or terrible, so we knew that this area should be deeply analyzed. The answers from open questions gave us the most hints and deeply tackled the interesting aspects of using the service. Based on that answers it was possible to create the empathy map.
An empathy map allowed to understand the user. Thanks to this it was possible to determine what the user thinks, feels, sees and hears, and based on his fears and needs we have identified a wide range of possible pain points.
Pain points were then combined into groups using affinity mapping. We have indicated areas which are the most common problems for users. The process of returning books generated the most pain points — as expected from the rating questions. This is a complex problem because it occurs for people who have a borrowed book and must return it, but also has an impact on those who wait for the book.
- “Returning the book” — Users paid a lot of attention to the process of returning books. One of the respondents noticed that there is no information on for how long you can borrow a book. There is no commitment that you have to borrow the book for a certain period. The other problems are annoying notifications, which are silenced only when the book is returned. Users who have missed the deadline are worried that they are holding a book that someone is waiting for — they have no information if this book is needed or not.
- “I do not know what to borrow”- There are a lot of comments pointing out that there is a need for additional information about the book, so then it will be easier to decide which book to take. It is also necessary to publish covers so that users could easily find the book on the shelf.
- “Rating” — A few people pointed out that the rating system is not very clear. You can not evaluate a book that you have not borrowed. The possibility to look how others voted for specific books might be beneficial.
How might we?
Using the “How might we?” method and brainstorm techniques we developed a number of ideas that seem to solve the problems described above.
- Adding information on how many days you have left to keep the book so that the user would be aware of when he should return the book
- Adding a profile in which we show information about both the history of borrowings and recommendations based on borrowed books, and notifications related to information about the availability of the book or about new books.
- Adding book details — the ability to rate a book that was not borrowed through 10cBooks, the ability to preview the cover and check the ratings given by other users. Thanks to this user can write to the person and exchange opinions about the book
- Adding a screen informing about the maximum time of borrowing the book — thanks to this the user will be more aware of his choice. In addition, every time you enter the list where you see the book you read, it also has information about the number of days left to return.
- CTA “I am still reading” — By adding this option, users will not receive annoying notifications about the return of the book at the moment when they exceeded the deadline. They simply click on the button “I am still reading” and they have to declare how much time they still need. In addition, the information will be displayed on the list of books — thanks to this, those interested in the book can see how much time it will be out of order.
- In addition: adding filters and advanced search to help find a particular book
After identifying areas that respond to users’ pain points, the next step was to consider transferring ideas to specific functionalities. In that case, I wrote out two use cases: “I want to borrow a book” and “I’m still reading”.
In order to improve the process, I sketched the solutions on the sheet of paper. The design phase based on close cooperation with the talented UI designer Agnieszka Ciurysek. We exchanged our views and opinions, as there is never a single solution to a particular problem.
The visual and functional solutions focused on fixing the pain points determined at the discovery stage. We have made sure that changes are introduced evolutionarily, without the need to redesign the entire product.
What did we design?
- User profile — a place where the user has the whole history of borrowings, as well as recommendations related to his interests. Also, there is a section with notifications from people who are waiting for the book, which user has borrowed. From a psychological point of view, we believe that social responsibility will make the user feel responsible for returning book as fast as it’s possible.
- Book’s detail page — a place where the user can see the cover and a description of a particular item. There are also similar books available so that user can quickly browse items on similar topics. There is also a place where the user can see who else has read that book, how and by whom a book is rated. Thanks to this user know with whom he could exchange opinions about the book, which is helpful to make decisions.
- Remaining time: smart reminders — when borrowing the book, the user gets notified about the borrowing time. Already at this stage, he becomes aware that borrowing time is not endless. When the user exceeds the deadline — he can extend the time in three options — 1 week, 2 weeks and a month. During this time, he will not receive annoying notifications about returning the book, but he will still see notifications from people who are interested in it. That option is available from the main list as well as information about time left.
As the previous design was rated very high we didn’t change it so much. (91% of the users said that they want to keep the existing colour scheme) Design is available on Dribbble or Behance, and I definitely recommended to go there to have a full picture.
We are now in a phase where the project is waiting for development — we would like to send a survey to 10cBooks users one month after launch to see if the satisfaction of using the website has increased and, above all, whether the process of returning books will have better ratings than before the changes.
I hope that those actions will improve the quality and satisfaction, but only evaluation and test will give me the real answer. Fingers crossed :)
I also believe that this case study will inspire you to always look for improvements and remember how valuable the feedback from your users is. Even if an app that you are working on seems to be fine, it is worth to check if it really fulfils the needs of its users.