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Social sharing features for the Amazon Kindle iPhone app


TYPE: Class Project, Group (3 total)

DURATION: 2 weeks

TOOLS: Axure, Sketch, InVision

MY ROLE: Researcher, information Architect, user tester, project manager

Table of Contents: Overview | Discovery & Research | Ideation & Sketching | Prototype | Usability Testing | Final Iteration





Build out social features for an existing application

The idea was to build social features (open to interpretation) into an existing application that would 1) make sense for the existing user base and 2) work themselves seamlessly into the application itself.


The approach to Kindle Social was one of skepticism

With two weeks to build out a fully designed prototype, our approach centered on front-loading some work, including an initial ideation/brainstorming session to have fodder for interview findings. This was because there was some initial concern about the viability of social features within a reading application. It is common knowledge that users tend to enjoy reading as a solitary activity, not necessarily a social event. We wanted to verify this idea through our research and the initial thought was confirmed. This paved the way for other, more pointed questions that would allow us to gather the appropriate data for our assignment.


"A little bit of everything"

From the start, I was heavily invested in interviewing and getting the most out of our user and competitive research, personas, idea generation, user flows, sketching and worked primarily on those items for the first week.

As the project came to fruition, I focused my energy on the nitty gritty details and logic of the user flows, especially around discussion threads and how those would work in the overall design. Lastly, I spent a significant amount of time crafting a presentation that told a story.

User Testing the Amazon Kindle Social App

User Testing the Amazon Kindle Social App





We got inside the minds of avid readers

The idea was to build social features (open to interpretation) into an existing application that would:

1. make sense for the existing user base and
2. work themselves seamlessly into the application itself.

Our first step in the process of researching our users was to write and send out a screener survey to filter in the types of people we wanted to talk to. We were looking for readers: people who were knowledgeable about Kindle App, first and foremost. People who used e-readers and those who read strictly on their phones. People who have ever been in book clubs. People who get excited when we ask "What are you reading right now?"


Readers are funny creatures

  • 20-somethings
  • Romance-novel enthusiasts
  • People who read to learn
  • People who read to relax
  • People who desperately want to share thoughts on what they read and want to hear differing opinions
  • People who desperately don't want to share their thoughts on what they read
Question 7 of the Amazon Kindle Social App Screener

Question 7 of the Amazon Kindle Social App Screener





What we learned

"My friends and I all think the same, it would be nice to share ideas and topics with people from all over the world with different life experiences."

"When you’re reading a good book, but you want to talk to someone about it, but no one has read it, you’re kind of screwed."

"Reading is a solitary activity. It would be cool to see what my friends are reading. I have some really interesting friends and I would really like to know what some of them are reading."

"I just don’t really care too much about what other poeple are reading. Reading is a very personal thing for me."


"Social In my reader app?!"

Collectively, we interviewed 10 people to understand their e-reading habits, use of e-reading devices, pain points and "social willingness" to share their thoughts and opinions around their reading material.

  • How many books do you read per year?
  • Would you like to see a social aspect to your reading app? Why or why not? Nearly every person asked what we meant by "social aspect."
  • Have you ever been in a book club?
  • Do you ever find yourself discussing the books you've read with friends or family?
  • Would you ever take part in a reading challenge? (ex: "Read 50 books this year")




"Ideas? More like constraints!"

It was clear from the interview process that we were dealing with several complicated behaviors that would inform our feature ideas and overall design process.

On one hand, some users very much desired to have a more social reading experience. On the other, some readers preferred to keep their reading more solitary and private. We had to be careful to design the social features for both audiences

This presented a particularly big challenge for us as the project prompt suggested the social reading aspect already had a major green light from market research.

Each interview was boiled down to a few bullet points to help us understand the key takeaways

Each interview was boiled down to a few bullet points to help us understand the key takeaways





Connecting the Dots, Putting the Pieces Together

Using our bulleted list and interview records, we put together a quick affinity diagram to understand the behaviors of our potential users.

Kindle Social Affinity Diagram


"Wait, who are we designing for again?"

Interview synthesis and affinity diagrams in hand, we set out to frame our design process and feature brainstorm. Through our conversations, it became clear that we were dealing with e-reader users on a spectrum.

On the far left below (Linda), we have users who desperately want to talk about the books they read. In the middle (James), we have users who are curious about social sharing in reading. On the right (Debby), we have users who would prefer to keep their reading activity and thoughts private.





And the beginnings of a user flow

We jumped the gun a bit on sketching.

Let me explain: We had a clear idea of the prompt and the overall idea and goal of the project from the start. This was our advantage. Unfortunately, it led to some premature brainstorming.

This isn't always a bad thing. Through our research we were able to keep the things that made sense and get rid of the things that didn't.


"Ok, how do we translate these behaviors into a thing?"

With some lengthy discussion about our initial ideas, initial sketches, and initial thoughts on the prompt, we settled on some key features:

  • "Reader" Profiles
  • Chapter and Book-level Discussion Boards
  • Ability to Comment on Discussion Boards
  • Reading Challenges
  • Reading Badges




Our ideas needed some modifications based on user research. Some were ambitious, some neglected to account for certain user preferences. We made the following modifications to our features:

  • Ability to turn profiles off (i.e. social sharing features would simply vanish from the app)
  • Reduced social interference with reading
  • Profiles would live on their own and would not be connected to Amazon accounts

We gave users additional control over the social aspects with the ability to turn off features/profiles








"Maybe we shouldn't have done it that way..."

After importing our hi-fidelity sketches into InVision, we began user testing our designs. The results were...eye-opening.

  • Readers were confused by the Star rating system within discussion threads. They felt they were the same thing as Upvotes
  • The user flow from Profiles to Challenges and Badgets pages didn't quite make sense
  • Some users were confused about button colors. They did not know if a button was selected or not


Took in users' feedback and made some changes

We cleaned up user flows, made it clear which button was selected, greatly simplified the Discussions page, and made many more small modifications to ensure a great user experience.