Social app prototype

A more social way to read books on your Kindle app.

User research • Interaction design • Prototyping • Usability testing

The brief

Our brief was to extend the Kindle app, to increase customer engagement. People love reading and talking about books, and they love to have access to books via the Kindle app. We were asked to design a way to bring those two activities together, to create a more social experience for readers.

The solution

An extension to the existing Kindle smartphone app, that allows users to scan, share and chat about books with their friends, wherever they are.

Project length

2 weeks

Team members

Manuel Capurso, Ellie McCarey, Emily O’Byrne 

My role

Survey design and distribution, competitive analysis, user interviewing, sketching, wireframing, remote usability testing using Skype and InVision, pitch writing


Surveys and interviews

We began our research by designing and distributing a survey to understand how, where and with whom people liked to discuss books. We distributed the survey via social media and book club forums and gathered 143 responses. We followed up with in depth interviews with 8 book lovers.

Competitive analysis

Along side our user research we also investigated potential conpetitors for our new features. We started with book reading and discussion apps and sites like Goodreads, Scribd, Medium, iBooks, and the Richard & Judy Bookclub. We also looked at sharing and chat apps for books, music and photos: Spotify, Soundcloud, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Path, Tango, and Instagram. Among the digital book platforms none offered a service of scanning, chatting and sharing books in real time, and there was no integration from these apps into mainstream chat apps.

Contextual enquiry

We also looked closely at the existing Kindle app, recording users as they looked for books. One of the users noted they couldn’t share books from the app easily, and overall they found navigating the app difficult. This led us to think about ways to help user find books more easily.

Research findings

People mostly get recommendations for books from friends and colleagues. Reviews do play a part, but people treat them with a little scepticism and often deliberately read the best and worst reviews to get a balanced view. We therefore looked for ways to help people give and save the recommendations they get from friends, and to access reviews more easily - for instance online reviews about a book in a bookstore.

People do love to discuss books, as our brief suggested, but mostly with people they know, and informally as part of other social occasions. Only a minority belong to, or would like to join, any kind of book club. Our social features should extend existing networks, rather than competing with them. Focusing our design on smartphones would give people access to our sharing tools where ever they are talking about books: at work, at home, or in cafes or pubs.

Even devoted e-reader users also love and use printed books. Using the scanning facilities in a smartphone means people can bring physical books into the app for searching and sharing.


To attract readers to the new social features, we needed to make the Kindle App the fastest and easiest way to share a book. We did extra research into mobile chat apps to understand how they tackled this design problem. We paid particular attention to apps that focused on easy sharing of music, photos and videos.

Evolving the share feature

We also needed to balance sharing within the Kindle App with sharing on readers’ existing networks. It can be difficult to drive take-up of an app if it relies on all the people in a social group downloading it too.

  1. Kindle and external networks have equal weight: cluttered and confusing for users.
  2. ‘Flick’ your book to any network. Nice for users, but too little focus on the Kindle network.
  3. Kindle network has riority but other networks are available.
Wireframe iterations of the share feature

Usability testing

Once we had a prototype in InVision, we carried out recorded usability tests with readers from our research pool, using Skype and Quicktime. The first test showed that the app was easy to learn. Our design was consistent, the tester recognised key features when they reappeared later in the app flow.

My Kindle 2.png

We did realise we needed to pay more attention to context, only presenting the user with relevant options for their current flow. In some cases we could remove options entirely. For instance, if a user is scanning a book they might want to choose between ‘save’ and ‘share’. But if they are scanning while composing a chat message, they probably want to add the book to their message, so we can take that action for them.

Our tester felt scanning in general was too cumbersome. We simplified the feature in the next iteration and it worked much better for the next tester.

Usability testing over Skype

For this short project we focused on features that would appeal to the majority of the readers we contacted in our research: sharing books, scanning books, and chatting with their book- loving friends. In our research we did discover a group of readers who love more organised book discussion groups, both online and face to face.

If we had more time, we would consider developing features for these readers. Calendar integration to help them organise their meetings. Suggestions and voting would help them decide which books to read. These would appeal to groups currently using Goodreads, and help attract them to the Kindle App.

Emily O'ByrneWork