Updating Goodreads

Changes I would make from a content design perspective

Allison Wolfe
Published in
6 min readNov 21, 2022


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A pile of open books
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I’ve always loved reading, but I haven’t always had the time for it. When Covid-19 became prevalent and kept me inside all day, I found my love for reading again and became an avid reader. When I ran out of books, friends suggested Goodreads to me to find more recommendations. I remember downloading the well-known app and thinking, “this is it?”

Goodreads is a website and app that lets you review books, share your recommendations, and keep track of what you have read. After hearing about Goodreads for years and having multiple recommendations for it, I was expecting a modern style, however, the app looked like it could have been from 2003.

If you’ve ever used Goodreads, you may have also had this thought. The app is a wonderful tool and idea, however, it could use some updates.

Here’s what I would change from a content design perspective:

The Scene:

Before figuring out why someone would use Goodreads, I first had to understand who is using Goodreads. After doing some research, here are some quick demographic facts about Goodreads users from Statista and Goodreads:

  • There are more than 90 million registered users
  • 45 million active users a month
  • 67% of users are female
  • 47% of users are between 18–34
  • 33% of users are between 35–54
  • Jakarta, Indonesia delivers the highest number of users out of any city
  • The United States has the most active monthly users out of any country (20 million users)
  • While the majority of Goodreads users access it on their phones, 45% of users are still using their computers to access Goodreads.

One assumption I made about the users of Goodreads is they are avid readers. They read frequently enough to want to track their books and they care enough to want to find books that interest them. With so many active monthly users, it can be assumed the users are reading at least one book a month in order to keep returning to the site.

There are multiple problems Goodreads tries to solve for their users. First, as a reader, it can be difficult to keep up with all the books you’ve read and what you thought about the book. Unless the book stands out, the details sometimes fade. Goodreads helps people keep track of all their reading to refer to when giving a suggestion, picking out a new book, or refreshing their mind.

Another reason users may use Goodreads is to get book recommendations. Whether you’re looking for a book similar to one you love, trying to find a book to get you out of your reading slump, or wanting to know what is popular at the moment, Goodreads can give you a new book suggestion. It can be overwhelming to find a new book with millions of options out there. With choice overload, a suggestion based on authors or topics you know you already like is helpful when picking out a new book. With Goodreads, you can read reviews from actual people, rather than filtering through lists from sites such as the New York Times and deciphering which books are sponsored.

Lastly, there is a social aspect to Goodreads that motivates people to read. Adding people as friends and knowing they can see when you finish books gives pressure to not give up on a book part-way through. Goodreads also adds “Reading Challenges” to help motivate people to reach their goals.

My Revisions:

My first step in making revisions to the app was to collect opinions. I began asking others around me, searching forums online, and going through the app again first-hand to determine what to change. I began noticing patterns.

  • People didn’t know how to rate the books. What made a difference between a 3-star book and a 4-star? What if you loved it, but only rate your absolute favorite books 5 stars?
  • Upon signing up, selecting books you’ve read is limited.
  • The navigation wasn’t clear.

Revision 1: Search feature

The first revision I made is adding a search feature to the initial ratings. Currently, Goodreads gives you options to choose from to rate, while encouraging you to rate 20 books. For those who haven’t read the suggested books, or don’t remember them well enough to rate them, there must be a way to find other books.

Original (left) and revised (right) screens:

The original screen is on the left and the revised screen is on the right

Revision 2: Removing a book from the shelf

The second revision I made is allowing the user to reverse the “Want to Read” action. Currently, if someone accidentally clicks on the button or changes their mind, they must click on the button again, then click “Remove book from shelves” then click “Remove”. There are too many steps needed to be taken for a simple action. I recommended taking out the middle step altogether becase people are generally used to clicking on a button a second time to undo their previous action.

I also changed the pop-up box header. I chose to change it because “Warning” would make the users feel like they are doing something wrong and may cause them to not want to explore Goodreads further. I decided to go with “Remove book from shelf?” to make it clear to the user what their action would do.

Original screens:

The steps needed to take in order to remove a book from a shelf

Revised screens:

With revisions, the steps needed to take to remove a book from a shelf

Revision 3: Sort feature

I added a sort feature on the genre pages. Currently, the books are displayed by the top popular books in each category from all time. For people who have read those already, it can be aggravating to have to scroll far down to find new books to read. The sort options I would include are:

  • Popular books of the week
  • Popular books of the month
  • Popular books of all time
  • Alphabetical (A -> Z)
  • Alphabetical (Z -> A)
  • Newest release date

Original and revised screens:

The original screen is on the left and the revised screen is on the right

Revision 4: Rating scale

Lastly, I wanted to add a way to rate the book on more than just a 5-point scale. Talking to people, I found that Goodread users are frustrated with rating books with limited options. People only want to give 5 stars to their absolute favorite books, but don’t feel all books they like should be equal to the 4 stars because they like some more than others. To help solve this problem, I added a rating slider scale in which they could rate to the decimal point between 0–5.

Original and revised screens:

The original screen is on the left and the revised screen is on the right

Revision 5

Lastly, I would add more factors to the ratings. People like books for different reasons. Some people like a book they don’t have to think too hard to read, while others want to be challenged. Some people want relatable characters, while others want to get different perspectives. I would add the following tags for ratings that people could add:

  • Fast pace
  • Tear-jerker
  • Uplifting
  • Slow Start
  • Makes you think
  • Easy read
  • Trigger warning (sexual violence)
  • Trigger warning (Self-harm)
  • Trigger warning (Discrimination)
  • Trigger warning (Eating disorders)

If you’ve used Goodreads, what would your UX recommendations be?

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