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Workbuddy: Improving Our Reading Culture Through Gamification

Weiee Ying
Jul 10 · 7 min read

The adult literacy rate in Malaysia has been steadily growing from the 1980s until now, peaking at 95% in 2017. Malaysians are reported as one of the top buyers of books yet not the most read. Our previous prime minister, Dr. Mahathir spoke about our reading culture affected by digitalisation:

“One of the challenges we face today in encouraging the reading culture is the digital influence on society. This digital influence is so huge that traditional reading sources such as newspapers and books are increasingly sidelined.”

At the same time, makeshift initiatives across the world have been actively engaging people to read in passive moments like during commuting hours, deploying mobile libraries and hidden books in goodwill and trust.

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Left: Books On The Move Malaysia, Right: in-train mobile libraries

Problem: non-readers still read little 🤷‍♀️

While these movements stir up curious individuals and casual readers alike, there are some gaps that prevent converting non-readers to active readers:

  1. It’s not about the distribution of books: putting books in front of you might make you pick one up, but it hardly incentivises you to read more.
  2. It’s about learning a skill with incentives: books themselves can intimidate new readers. Without starting small with clear goals & instructions ahead, no habit will last long, which means…
  3. It needs to be targeted for a select audience: we can’t help everyone read more all at once, but we can understand the needs of a particular group to discover how reading can actually grow them in an area of life.

Users: non-reading working professionals👨🏾‍💼

With this context in mind, I figured that working professionals would be good starting audience to improve their reading habits due to their predictable commuting patterns and unoccupied time while commuting.

The average working professional is either actively or passively preparing for their workday in the morning. This enables opportunities to maximise their commuting time by reading something helpful on-route to work.

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Empathy map + user persona for the typical commuting professional to work

Understanding what goes into their morning process, the notion switched from ‘how to help working professionals read more’ to ‘how to better prepare working professionals during their commute’ — shifting empathy towards addressing their primary needs at work through the benefits of reading and ultimately forming the project outcome:

To help professionals better prepare their day at work by curating digestable content that improves their work-life — while growing their reading habits.

Solution: pick up reading like working out 🏋️‍♂️

Brainstorming potential ideas fitting the goal, I mused: “what’s different from learning how to work out and learning how to read?”—this insight stuck and formed the product requirements to help professionals read more:

  • Gamified at the readers’ level: the product needs to incentivise professionals on a recurring basis like a gym, tracking and growing the readers’ appetite in small quantities consistently.
  • Bite-sized content for work: the reading material must be curated to solve the professionals’ work-life needs to see the direct benefits of reading — thus increasing the chances of reading more.
  • Low-cost and investment for sustainability: the product needs to be cheap to onboard, use and maintain. Current mobile library solutions are particularly prone to short-term usage due to maintenance.

How it works

Utilising The Hook Model, the experience had to consider physical aspects in a train station attracting working professionals (like a mobile library) to get downloadable content (like a book) and return for more.

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Wireframing + information architecture

The next step was figuring out the skeleton of the product. I first mapped out the user flow from onboarding the user, browsing/saving content, tracking reading progress and reminding users to apply these concepts at work.

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Initial product interface wireframes, how it works and general user flow

The more ideas were explored, the more other potentially useful features emerged. Most of which are catering to the general wellbeing of the daily professional — something reading alone cannot do:

  • What if there are support groups for difficult situations at work?
  • What if there could be a daily boost quote to excite users each day?
  • How do we encourage users to eventually read more with books?
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Introducing Workbuddy 🤳

Finally, the concept of Workbuddy is born! — a friendly mobile assistant in growing your reading habits by feeding you daily curated work-based content focused on helping you become a better working professional each morning.

TL;DR product basics

  • Set and track your reading goal: easily set your reading preferences and develop your appetite to read more overtime by tracking progress.
  • Browse and save applicable work tips: find work/business concepts from popular authors and books that are helpful for your work — and directly buy a related book if you want to go deeper on a concept.
  • Get new content every day: to keep learning a habit, new content is only available by visiting to scan at the QR station every morning.
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Onboarding for the first time

From the start, Workbuddy gets to learn your reading comfort/pace, sets up a clear weekly goal and suggests work topics you might enjoy learning — all designed to break down your reading progress into simple steps, like a gym!

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The basic flow of reading, saving, applying and track your reading
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Browse various work-related topics and applicable concepts

Read, track and save work tips

Each work tip is summarised into its core concepts based on famous business/innovation books, helping you easily pick up the basics of each concept. By completing a tip, you can save, share or focus to apply the work tip. Your profile automatically tracks how long you’ve been reading the past week to measure your reading growth.

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Work tips are summarised concepts from business/productivity books

Bite-sized content from actual books

For every work tip, Workbuddy gives recommendations for books that the tip is based on —should you want to learn a particular concept in-depth and thus growing your appetite to read more based on initial interest.

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Scan the QR for curated work tips just for you.

New content — available every day!

Every 24 hours, you get new work tips to learn!… except that you have to acquire them by scanning the QR station again. This is designed to reinforce a physical cue that helps you get into the rhythm of reading consistently without overwhelming you with too much content.

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left: community support groups, right: quote boost of the day

Connect and grow with others

To avoid reading in isolation, you can post and share your work situation in the form of support groups anonymously for feedback and advice. Each morning reveals a simple work quote of the day through simple swipe down to give you that extra boost you need for the day ahead.

Key Project Insights 👍

“Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied”. — Dale Carnegie

The project started out by figuring how to improve our reading culture in Malaysia but gradually evolved into helping improve people’s work-life by making knowledge friendly and digestible— which inadvertently increases reading overtime. So what are some project learnings?

  • Start by solving for a smaller niche: people don’t read for different reasons. By analysing a suitable target audience, there’s a better chance to help a group of individuals than concocting catch-all solutions.
  • Build empathy with non-readers: learn to reverse engineer reading from the non-readers’ perspective, understand their pain points and close the gap between abstract knowledge and practical application.
  • Adapt solutions from across industries: there are a million ways to solve problems, but sometimes borrowing existing solutions, like gamifying reading similar to a gym, make it easier for stakeholders to simply ‘get it’.

You’ve reached the end of this case study! Thanks for reading.

Do you have feedback to share or want to build something together? Please feel free to drop it in the comments below or reach out to me at yingweiee@gmail.com ☕️

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Weiee Ying

Written by

A Christian creative who dreams of converging UX concepts with the real world of services, retail and urban environments he lives in. www.weieeying.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +720K people. Follow to join our community.

Weiee Ying

Written by

A Christian creative who dreams of converging UX concepts with the real world of services, retail and urban environments he lives in. www.weieeying.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +720K people. Follow to join our community.

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