Overview

Part of an intensive 2-day UX Research & Design workshop organised by CuriousCore was to use National Library Board (NLB) as a mock client and use the UX design process to help ‘redesign’ the their app experience.


Roles

As this was a self-initiated project, I was both the UX Designer and UI Designer.


Context

Demand for library books and materials has surged as a result of stringent circuit breaker measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. In response to the increased demand, NLB has enhanced its digital offerings such as e-books as well as online courses and programmes. It now offers 8,000 newly curated e-books with unlimited checkouts and more than 1,000 popular e-books for adults can now be borrowed without waiting time. However, there have been some complaints by the users about the NLB mobile app.

“Definitely would like to see an app like this.
The next tech startup?”

— Hannah

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Problem Statement

How might we get the public to borrow more books so that it can be beneficial for them during Covid-19?”

ZULAZFAR AHMED 😉

Basic Research

For this project I started out with basic research to learn about the problems faced by users on the app review page as a base for my questions during user interviews as part of the Qualitative Research.

Some issues highlighted on the app page:

∙ Singpass/login Issues

∙ Slow/laggy app

∙ Bloated/too much clutter

∙ Search/filter functions not working or need to be better

∙ Unavailable books still being shown 

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Qualitative Research

I interviewed a total of 3 people and the scope of users I was looking at were ranging from 25 – 40, all Singaporean.

Insights from user interviews

∙ People still prefer physical books as there is the physical ‘shiokness’, which is a sense of satisfaction as a whole

∙ In this modern day and age of technology, people are concerned about screen time albeit the convenience

∙ Physical books as compared to e-books take up space and storage


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Key Quotes from User Interviews

“You cannot find the book that you’re looking for.” — Sarah, 31, Designer
“E-books are convenient, but they are not good for eye and the formatting can be off.” — Fanny, 30, Events Manager
“Browsing other books that didn’t intend to borrow.”— Hannah, 25, Writer

Epiphany

Utilising divergent and convergent thinking, we were told to come out with numerous ideas pertaining to the problem statement. This was a by chance moment where I ended up creating a combination of two apps into one. Some of the ideas include a Youtube version for book reviews and another being a calendar for book releases.

Out of all the ideas, we were told to choose one and focus on that idea for all upcoming activities such as creating a user flowchart and viral/retention loops.

Note: There was no assignment or end product expected out of this workshop and the rational of the NLB app was just a starting point for all participants to create a problem statement. Since the chosen idea was already put into use, I felt it was only natural to continue to work on it and this explains the switch from an NLB app to something entirely new.

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Proposal

To create a platform that allows users to borrow or buy books on demand and has a leaderboard function. The leaderboard function allows collection of special badges and/or perks However, the priority of this app is for users to borrow from each other regardless the reason. Users can borrow and review another user which in turn encourages others to borrow.

What if the desired book is not available? This is where the local bookstores come into the picture. Users will also be able to view the catalog of available bookstores by location should they want to purchase.


Goals

∙ A platform where users can borrow or buy books on demand at their own convenience

∙ A platform that could help users who want to make use of underutilised or rid of unwanted books

∙ Encourage more users to read and support local bookstores

∙ Encourage borrowing between users

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Persona

Singaporean woman who’s a writer, conversationalist and explorer

Goals

Alice wants to have the ability to borrow books from friends at her own convenience. She encourages people to connect with people over books in a physical space such as a cafe. She hopes that everyone is more mindful of their screen time.

Frustrations

She found that physical books may only be available at certain locations. For audiobooks or e-books, she will need to use a proper reader or app for it and ownership of books borrowed from the library are not transferrable to another person.

“Borrow books anywhere.”
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User Research & Planning: Part 1

As part of user research analysis & synthesis, I created affinity maps to organise ideas and data. Themes were broken down into frequency of books borrowed/bought, what are the thoughts the users have regardless of physical books or e-book and ultimately, the problems faced as users. This thematic segragation allowed me to have a clearer understanding and concluded that no matter physical or electronic, some of the problems faced were fairly similar.

The user flowchart is by far one of the most important elements as this part was often reiterated to ensure a smooth and logical process when users are on the app. Things such as having error prevention were needed in an event someone doesn’t go through the conventional flow as intended.

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User Research & Planning: Part 2

Prior to working on the app design, I also performed a competitor analysis between brands such as Audible and Book Depository. This allowed me to study which feature worked well and which did not. More importantly, there had to be a sense of familiarity so that the app doesn’t have a steep learning curve.

Viral and retention loops are mainly the monetisation aspect of this app. For an app that has a delivery function, I believe having referrals to offset said delivery costs would allow for higher acquisition rates and eventually lead to more conversions. The intent of this app is to be a one-stop platform for book lovers so naturally, reviews by real users and a leaderboard function (more reviews = top reviews) will allow more people to embark on the app.

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Wireframing

I started with a paper prototype to create the initial wireframes of the app. This allowed me to revisit certain screens and make new iterations while also tweaking other aspects of the project such as the user flowchart. I then worked on a high fidelity wireframe for better accuracy and visualisation. You may view the paper prototype via the Invision link below.

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Feature Rationale

When designing this app, it was crucial to link back to the user interview insights. Through that, I determined key features on the app which helped with the whole design process. As quoted, “Borrow books anywhere.”, this was the baseline where I intended for users to be able to borrow(or buy) books at their convenience. Another issue faced by users was the problem of finding a particular book which in traditional libraries, would require manual searches and without a confirmed find at the end. This is where the search function helps and quickens the process.

In the ‘Selected Result Screen’, say, you’ve chosen the book that you intend to borrow, there are various types of information for the users. This includes basic information such as book description etc, reviews by other users, how to get the book i.e. delivery, seller profile and similar related contents. All these information were carefully selected to give users an ease of mind when borrowing but more importantly, it also allows potential users to discover books that they did not intend on borrowing. This will ultimately keep them occupied on the app by further exploring other books.

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Test the prototype here!

Aside from the above UX research, I’ve also designed a mock-up prototype of the app to give a better understanding and experience of the concept. Lo and behold, the GraBook app!

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Some after thoughts…

∙ With or without Covid-19, this app idea will still work

∙ Having a subscription based model and express partner delivery (Ninjavan etc) to generate revenue

∙ Make it into an all in-one in-app reader that can read e-books and listen to audiobooks

∙ Featured book of the day as part of advertisements or sponsored posts by local bookstores

∙ Include event finder for readers to get together to share or create book clubs

∙ Tools used were Miro, Figma and Invision but I'm also experimenting with animation such as using Framer and Principle

∙ As biased as it sounds, I personally think that this is a prospective project and my instructor also mentioned that this was a potential start-up idea