How can teachers & students review textbooks?

University students and teachers alike are familiar with the challenge of finding informative, affordable textbooks. How can teachers and students find textbooks while sharing tips for learning?

On Bookr, both teachers and students can rate and review academic books, compare prices, purchase from third-party sites, and read articles pertaining to teaching and learning.

User goals

Create a new textbook rating and reviews website that recommends the best reviewed academic literature to busy students and teachers.

Business Goals

Create content that draws a broad audience and can be sustained by advertising space

Do teachers want this product?

I conducted in-person interviews with teachers and students to understand why they would be drawn to a textbook review site.

From user interviews and feedback, I discovered:

My team

I was the sole UX/UI Designer in a team of 7, including 5 developers and 1 Facilitator. The project lasted 4 weeks.

Stealth blocker - does anyone need this service?

User research took longer than I had expected, as I worried that students were only interested in price comparison sites. Textbooks are often written by teachers or assigned by a school district, and students don’t browse textbook review sites for leisure purposes. To combat my own biases, I relied on user research.

It turns out:  Students wanted to know whether a textbook was worth reading as a way to determine whether they would enroll in a class or not. Regarding teachers, both university professors and charter school instructors are overworked, and especially new teachers may feel like they don’t have a credible source to rely on when looking for worthwhile material and curriculum advice.  

Because my target users' needs differed from my original assumptions, I created a customer journey map to better envision what they needed from our product and how they would interact with the Bookr website:

How do we organize the diverse needs of our two target audiences?

I asked two colleagues to help brainstorm ways to solve the needs of our target audience. Then, we created an affinity map by brainstorming ideas on Milanote, a digital notecard site. Afterward, we organized the ideas into potential categories and dot voted on the best ideas with emojis.

What is the range of functions this product can accomplish to help target users?

After identifying the diverse key needs of our target users, I created a site map to determine the scope of the product:

Once I had defined our users’ expectations, I spent a day exploring other book review sites including Good Reads, Kirkus, Book Riot, LibraryThing, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon Books and created a competitive analysis amongst them.

When I had a better sense of which ideas to include on the app, I used a Crazy Eights exercise to generate design ideas for the landing page and homepage. This method allows for rapid ideation, stimulating creativity by pushing the designer to produce as many ideas as possible while forcing the designer to abandon preconceived judgment by creating one design per minute.     

Now that I had a general idea of what my homepage would look like, I recruited another colleague to watch as I sketched what I was planning to include on my website and why. In this role, I was the generator, sketching and explaining, and he was the synthesizer, asking questions to help clarify my design. Afterward, I annotated my design with comments to ensure I remembered what we had discussed so I could incorporate it into my more advanced iterations of the home page.

During this process, I checked our designs against the user journey maps to ensure these sketches were targeting actual user needs.

One of the most prominent needs that stood out was the search bar - that was the most important clicked-on part of the home page. To make it easier to find, we placed the search above the fold on both the home and search pages.

Before we began designing the home page, we needed to determine the ambiance  users would be most receptive to. I began A/B testing on two types of landing pages to determine whether users were drawn to a traditional look (A) or an edgier design (B). Users, both students and teachers, overwhelmingly appreciated A, which had been contrary to my expectations

How can we determine which design style users respond favorably to?

Design & Redesign

Three months after I created my final design, a senior designer challenged me to update my designs, so I returned and redesigned the site. After additional research, I discovered that our target users wanted a landing page that featured more clickable content that they could explore to better determine the site’s purpose before giving personal information.

User feedback included:

“I’m not really sure what this site does”

“The reviews are really hard to find - do I have to sign up first before I can see any reviews? I’m a little hesitant to enter my email address.”

"Is there a way to update the design style?"

I began with some sketching, which I had my colleagues vote on:

Design Transformation

Then more user feedback on these sketches the final landing page made the change from left to right in the redesign:

The original book review page included the date originally published, number of pages, language, and helpful pointers. After additional research, students and teachers explained that they didn’t need any of this information - instead they needed the textbook’s title, edition, ISBN and ISBN-13, prices, and an option to read the ratings and reviews.

User feedback included:

“Where are the prices?”

"I don't care about helpful pointers for a textbook."

“I’m not sure why I need to know what language the textbook is in but seeing both ISBN numbers would be helpful. ”

The original page design then transformed to the version on the left:

Surprise Finding - Articles & News

Our target users also asked if there was a way to read articles related to learning, so I included an articles page:

High-Fidelity - Home Page

High-Fidelity - Search Page

High-Fidelity - Individual Textbook Page

Site flow - High fidelity

What are our takeaways?

Research showed us that Bookr was useful to both teachers and students, giving them a way to connect with their community.

My learnings

Conclusion - Bookr will help teachers and students

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