AnyBooks Reading App — UX Case Study
Broadening the aspects for enhancing the experience.
AnyBooks is primarily an e-book reading application. It is a highly rated book reading mobile application on Google play store. The most endearing feature is the free availability of more 5 Million books. These books can be read online or offline. And also, it allows the user to request a book, if not already present in the application.
But with passing time, AnyBooks began to lose not only its ratings but also its users. The major turn came on 5 March 2020 with their recent version 3.22.1 in which they have introduced new features which might not be appropriate for their readers. The disparate interface changes only added the pain in the neck.
Considering I am an avid reader who also happens to self-start her career in UX Design, I tried to improve the overall experience of the application. And my process is what I have described through this case study. Let’s get to the bottom together.
I love AnyBooks, this case study is just simply a try what could make the application and user experience better.
Before we start, let’s see what it took:
Time: 4–5 Days (Without procrastinating. With procrastinating: More than 10 days)
Tools: Pencil & Paper, Sticky Notes, Adobe XD, Figma, Milanote and Canva!
To research and find out possible ways to meet users needs and improve the experience so that AnyBooks can retain its users and ratings.
The process is more like a story. A story which manifests the flow, a road-map.
“Every great design begins with an even better story.” — Lorinda Mamo, Designer
So here, I have used the Double Diamond model of human-centred design ideology. This model follows through four stages to reach the solution.
Overwhelming? I know. I had the same reaction when I first saw it and it took some time to settle in. I don’t want to make it complicated for you to understand and for me to follow so that is why I revamped it easiest possible form.
Phase 1: Discover — Research
For this step, I tried to discover issues from all the aspects and views. User’s as well as business.
There are many reading application present in the market place with discrete features. But there are very few applications which have such large active user base, popularity and appreciation as AnyBooks. That is why, I considered applications like is Kindle, Wattpad, Nook and Kobo for market research.
Insights from Market Research: (1) Users appreciate free books more than anything. (2) Users often prefer to download and read offline. (3) AnyBook’s UI design was not up to the mark as compared to others. (4) Anybook’s interface was not consistent with others which might confuse users.
Existing User Research
For this research, I jumped to app reviews straight away. After all, who knows what a user wants more than the user himself. Below are some of the many critical reviews I came across in the Rating and Review section. I have grouped the reviews according to their types.
Note: If there is anything you are not able to see properly because of the size just tap on the image.
Insights from Existing User Research: (1) Users are frustrated by the AnyGames feature of the app and I guess it is comprehensible because usually, the one who reads is not the one who plays. (2) Users want to track their reading activity status. (3)There are too many things going on in the application. (4) Users requests are left unanswered and unnotified. (5) The recommendation section always recommends the same types of books.
I conducted a small survey with 10 users about their usual activities in reading applications. This survey was generalized with very general questions. The aim was to explore all the cases and understand the ideology of all the types of users and also to derive how the existing circumstances can be refined.
Insights from Survey: (1) The genre and description of the book prompts the user to read a new book. (2) The views and ratings affect in initiating a book (3) Users are usually looking for takeaways in the book. (4) Users appreciate recommendations.
The main purpose of performing this activity was to organize all the collected insights from the researches and arrange them in such a way that they could generate some valuable information which could lead to a possible solution. And who doesn’t love to play around with sticky notes?
Moreover, I also asked other users their views on audiobooks as many users thought reading and listening to books at the same place will be useful.
Insights from Affinity Mapping: (1) Users want free Books. (2) Users do not want Games. (3) The interface should be simple. (4) Users want to be aware of what’s happening to their requests. (5) Users want recommendations according to them, not the app. (6) Would love to listen to books. (7) Users want to know the meaning of the words and take notes. (8) Users want to talk to people about books. (9) Users want to receive recommendations from their friends.
According to the affinity mapping and insights, I made four personas of the potential users. Here I tried to cover every type of users. Every persona has different characters, wants, and frustrations. These personas helped in understanding the user needs and therefore improving their reading experience. Note that each colour represents a user.
“When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as “SOME User Experience” or… SUX?” — Billy Gregory, Senior Accessibility Engineer
Phase 2: Define
Information Analysis :
Each colour represents each persona. The major pattern discovered is 75% of the users are readers but don’t mind listening sometimes, while other 25% are hardcore listeners and don’t like to read most of the times. Apart from that, almost everyone is frustrated with non-personalized recommendations.
At first, I assumed that most of the readers would be fond of listening to soft music while reading, but turned-out listening to any kind of sound with reading can prove to be a distraction. Also, the makers of this application assumed that readers would want to do other activities like playing games or writing inside the application and that is why they might have introduced the gaming and writing inside the application while they are a total no-no for the users.
The Problem Statement
It appeared that there is a huge gap between the contemporary features of the application and the required features.
Rehan: “I am a young working professional trying to absorb knowledge from my surroundings and people & books are my major source. When I was a student I used to read for long hours and go out with my friends but after stepping into corporate life I don’t get that much time so I usually try to find a book and go through the book and see if there is something I take away from it. While I also try to interact with people in my office but everyone is just always busy or they don’t have a similar mindset as me. It frustrates me that I cannot do what I used to.”
The UX Solution
The possible solution to this could be to provide Rehan with the discoveries or the important part or chapters of the book or to provide the aspect of listening instead of reading which he can do with other tasks to save his time. For connecting with people Rehan could join a book club or book community where he can find people of a similar mindset who are willing to share their knowledge.
Personalized Recommendations: Users will not have to look up or waste their time in finding a book. This contents our persona — “The Classic Bookworm”, Anastasia.
Declutter App — Simple UI: To not irritate the user with an unfriendly interface which may they find difficult to use. This was a general problem faced by every user.
Audio Books: This can serve users who are fond of listening and don’t have time to read. This feature satisfies the need of our persona — “The Screen Contempt”, Jaydon Hawking as he does not like to read.
Connect People: The feature where people with a similar psyche can connect to share their daily lives or books or whatever they want. This feature satisfies the need of our persona — “The Buzy Bee”, Ester Green.
Keep Users Updated: To keep users aware of what’s happening with their requests. This was again a general problem faced by every user.
Provide Insights: This features would provide the opportunity to only read what’s valuable in the book. It contents the needs of our persona — “The Knowledge Absorber”, Harvey Specter.
Also, it came to my notice that AnyBooks allows the readers to see the ratings of a particular book but does not allow them to rate that book. Like Seriously? From where do these books get ratings then? So,
Rating Books: Users will we allowed to rate the books. This was probably ignored by the people and makers.
Let’s go to the next step.
Phase 3: Develop — Design Process
In this phase of development, all the possible solutions are checked, and that is exactly what I have done. The features which are required are clear but the questions which were still bugging me was, what is more important? How do I define what has to be there and what not? To determine the answer, I used the MOSCOW method.
(1) Free Audio Books and E-Books. (2) Rating these books (3) Number of views of a book (4) A place to find offline downloaded books. (5) Notifications of what’s happening to request. (6) A place to connect people. — Community (7) Reading activity tracker. (8) Arrange books according to the user.
(1) Users own place and people to connect. — Community (2) A notification alert for accepting or rejecting people from the community. (3) Request to join a community. (4) Allowance to create and edit library. (5) Let users resume their reading or listening. (6) Access to reading and listening to books. (7) Invite friends in the community.
(1) Provide a weekly recommendation to keep users coming back. (2) Right to remove people from the communities. (3) Something to indicate whether a book is an audiobook or e-book. (4) Share the books with peers. (5) Let users listen at their own pace. (6) Allowance to create, edit and organize books using reading lists. (7) Add books into favourites.
(1) So many books in one place. (2) Gaming feature. (3) Ads at distracting places. (4) Inaccessible features. (5) Complicated Interface.
This method helped me prioritize the features and what is needed to be served. I tried to envelop every type of user.
“People ignore design that ignores people.” — Frank Chimero, Designer
Pen and Paper — Yay! Everything seemed real at this point. This the most important part, it allowed me to organize my ideas on paper. After a lot of iterations, these are the results I deduced. These played the part of low-fi wireframes.
Note: Everything was iterative hence things kept changing with discoveries. The Search Result and Menu were then kept as it is and Rating Page was added.
Wireframing (Hi-fi Wireframes)
Building wireframes a different experience in itself. They made the process of design more easy and flexible. Below are the final Hi-Fi Wireframes of the application.
Wireframes gave me a better understanding of what to put where to access effortlessly and easily.
Prototyping — Interface Mockups
Colouring the design! The most fun part. My goal in this phase was to make everything look attractive and let the user focus on the important parts while also keeping everything functional.
Home and Library
I have changed AnyBooks’s standard form of library and bookshelf to Home and Library as it would confuse users and they thought of both of them as same. Also doing this made the app consistent with other application and thus the user will know where to find what. Moreover, now the app launches with a home page rather than the library.
The library here is divided into two sections: Book and Reading List. The Books part consist of the offline downloaded books and the Reading List is what a user can create to organize his books. The top of the library section consists of the books which the user adds into favourites so it could be accessed easily. Above it is the sorting and searching options. And also, every book has a tracking activity status below it.
According to the research and insights, I have included listening to books. Here the user also can change the pace of the audio. And also, can read and listen at the same time. The forward and rewind time is kept 10 seconds. Moreover, the book can not only be saved into the reading, playlist or favourites. The user can reach here from the book description section. As soon as the user exits the listening track is updated so the user can know how much is left.
I have replaced the “Gaming” feature which most of the users found annoying with “Community”. This feature allows the user to form a strong community of a genre or a book or just of people with similar mindsets. Here the users can create their community, invite their friends or simply request to join existing communities. The creator of the community has the right to accept or reject the request.
In a community, people can share their views, thoughts, opinion on something and also share books. It is just like joining a book club.
This feature replaces the “Write” feature of existing AnyBooks app. The writing feature allows the user to write their book but on their website. They simply used this section to redirect writers to their website, if they want to write. Now, this thing could simply have been achieved by adding “Write a Book” in the menu.
Anyways, the replacing feature “Notifications” notifies the user about book recommendation and also it solves the major problem of the user about the availability of their requested book. Since there is a community section now, this section also receives the regarding people.
Lastly, the goal of the application is to help the user to read effectively, save their time and listen, form community and share ideas and the most important grow together.
I have divided this into two subparts. First is the “Comparing Objective and Goals” second is “Comparing Case Study with Actual Application.”
(1) Comparing Objective and Goals
I checked whether the objective meets the outcome or not. For this, I made a list of objectives with its outcome.
“Design isn’t finished until somebody is using it.” — Brenda Laurel, PhD, Independent Scholar
All the objectives have been accomplished! Yay!.
(1) Comparing Case Study With Actual Application
Let’s see where all of this stands against existing AnyBooks.
Phase 4: Deliver
For this part of delivering phase, I made the list of 7 possible use cases and tested them with 15 users. 7 of them were the users from whom I conducted the research and the rest of 8 are new users. I tried this with an age range of 14–45. this the report of the usability testing.
Hence it can be said that the interface is fairly easy to use.
Usually, this is done with deliverables but all things have already been covered, I am signing off with the Design System and a link to interactive prototype.
Click here see the Interactive Prototype of the design.
Note that for now, I have used simple animations and also that sometimes you might not be able to see some of the components present in UI because of XD’s Bug.
It’s done. Phew! Thank you so much for reading until here. I hope this made sense to you. And also thanks for the claps! I appreciate it. Don’t forget to rate it out of 10, so that I can know how much I need to improve. PS: This was my first UX Case Study.
“It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good.” — Paula Scher, graphic designer and painter