Iron Hack Project 3: Adding a Feature to the Amazon Kindle Mobile App

For the third project in the Iron Hack UX/UI boot camp, I was challenged to develop a new feature for a mobile application of my choice. With this boot camp now halfway complete, the reality of working as a full-time UX/UI designer is taking clearer shape. The task of analyzing and editing already existing platforms would become a regular activity in such a role, so this would be a taste of what is to come.

For my project, I chose to revamp the Kindle mobile application. In a time when people are craving connection and seek it in technology, most applications have some kind of social component. Currently, Kindle’s sharing ability is limited to Family Libraries and short-term book lending. Neither of these elements allows users to simultaneously read a text with another person nor make notes in a text visible to another user. As a frequent user of the Kindle application and a “social reader”, I wanted to expand this feature, and I believed others would as well.

I began my process with a bit of research into the e-reader market and the presence of social media in society. I learned that Amazon Kindle is the leading e-reading product in the United States, and the global e-reading market is projected to grow at a rate of 6.1% between 2019 and 2024. This would make its market value upwards of 12.33 billion USD. As impressive as the e-reader market is, my research into social media was even more notable. It is estimated the there are 4.2 billion social media users around the world. In 2020, 490 million new users entered the social media market. Both the e-reading market and social media sphere continue to see tremendous growth, which is greater evidence that a combination of the two would have great value to consumers.

I tested this theory with UX tools, such as a Lean UX Canvas, Feature Comparison Chart, and Market Positioning Map.

Lean UX Canvas

The Lean UX Canvas allowed me to organize details about the Kindle app’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities while setting the stage for feature ideation.

Feature Comparison Chart

The Feature Comparison Chart showed similarities and differences between the Kindle Mobile app and its competitors. None of these platforms currently offer a feature like that which I am proposing in this project.

Market Positioning Map

Next, the Market Positioning Map helped me classify major players in the e-reader industry based on their value propositions and adaptions of either traditional or innovative features. The Kindle application in its current state is fairly neutral on the traditional versus innovative spectrum. It pairs minimalistic designs with vast product availability and accessibility. On the other hand, I placed it higher on the value scale because of its relationship to Amazon, sharing exclusivity, and purchasing requirements for users.

With the new feature, it is my hope to move the Kindle mobile application from its current position to the area indicated by the yellow circle. A shared reading experience would put it ahead of its competitors in innovation and give users an improved experience adding value to the app.

I used my assumptions to create and conduct a survey that would gauge user interest and need. I received 12 survey responses, which helped me shape the app’s audience and review their needs.

I later organized each response in an Affinity Map. Each response was categorized to make the data more digestible. Categories included Demographics, Interests, Pain Points, and Habits. This tool allowed me to analyze the user experience and begin to mold a feature that would make the Kindle app more social and enjoyable.

Affinity Map

Based on the data from the surveys and the Affinity Map, I created Customer Job, Pain, and Gain statements. I placed them in the Value Proposition Canvas to then ideate potential success routes and solutions to negative experiences.

Value Proposition Canvas

I expanded on the Product and Services section of the Value Proposition Canvas in a Jobs to be Done exercise. Here, I listed what a Kindle Sharing feature would accomplish and how it would assist customers in completing their “jobs.”

Jobs to be Done List

The Jobs to be Done listed was then formalized into Jobs to be Done statements that clearly define what a user desires before, during, and after product and feature usage.

Jobs to be Done Statements

I went on to personify all of the data that I had collected during the research and information analysis stages. This resulted in a User Persona profile of a young college student who would be able to use a Kindle Sharing feature for academic, professional, and personal purposes.

User Persona

Introducing the User Persona and proposed feature then led me to the User Journey tool. It follows two friends who want to enjoy a shared reading experience but run into obstacles like lack of structure in note-taking, unawareness of others' status, and miscommunication. This leads to a poor experience that could have been improved by the Kindle sharing feature. It also showed what attributes the feature needs to be successful for users like the two in this scenario.

User Journey

With all of the previous tools, I was gathering data that would later guide the characteristics of the Kindle Sharing feature. In the Problem Statement, Hypothesis Statement, and How Might We Statement, I summarized my findings and set a clear vision for how the feature should look and how it should serve the user.

Problem Statement Preparation
Problem Statement
Hypothesis Statement and How Might We Statement

The overarching vision then allowed me to breakdown exactly what the feature should involve. I used the MOSCOW Method to organize the details of the feature. During the ideation process, I came up with several ideas that were later categorized into Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won’t Have aspects. This helped me set priorities for the feature, including shared libraries, e-mail and account connectivity, text annotation, and highlighting. These were then laid out in the Minimum Viable Product Statement. At the very least, the Kindle sharing feature required these characteristics to be successful and achieve the intended goal.

Minimum Viable Product

Next, I needed to determine where this feature best fit into the Kindle mobile application that already existed. I organized the pages into a site-map to capture what was already in place. I then used card-sorting to get user input into what felt most natural in the user flow. It was found that the Shared Books collection should be kept in the Library tab along with All Books and Downloaded Books. All 3 users who did the card-sorting test placed it there, so it was added into that section in an updated site map that would be the basis for the updated application.

Now that I knew where to begin, I made a User Flow to demonstrate a user’s path through creating a shared book experience and inviting other users to share the text. This tool put into words what each screen needed to be in order to give the user a successful experience.

User Flow

Now, to the drawing board. I created several low-fidelity sketches that demonstrate the user flow and set expectations for future iterations of the feature in the app. It shows how a user would download a text to the Shared Library, which would then alter the settings and allow for sharing to other Kindle users. Editing the text would be the same as it already is in the Kindle app, but such edits would now be visible to whoever the text is shared with.

Lo-Fi: Downloading a Text to the Shared Library
Lo-Fi: Sharing a Text with another User
Lo-Fi: Annotating Text

I then used Figma to add more structure to the lo-fi sketches. I used this mid-fidelity model to test the feature’s viability. Most of the design mirrors what is already present in the Kindle mobile application. The main difference in the flow with the feature addition is the presence of sharing options in the settings that pop-up when a text is opened from the library.

You can access this mid-fi prototype at the Figma link below.

Based on the testing and the mid-fi prototype, I created a high-fidelity prototype using the UI already present in the Kindle mobile application. The sharing feature in this version is enhanced by the personalization of the highlighting color. No two users can have the same highlighting color within one shared version of the text. This allows users to easily identify who annotated certain words or sections because it is consistent and unique throughout the shared reading experience.

You can access this hi-fi prototype at the Figma link below.

I was able to test this hi-fi prototype, as well, which unveiled aspects of the process that were not yet clear. A major question I received from test-takers was, “Why has Kindle not done something like this already?” As previously mentioned, the current version of the Kindle application only allows sharing via a Family Library and limited book lending. Only one user can access one text at any given time. Simultaneous reading and annotating are not possible in the current version. Reasons related to intellectual property and profit are most likely the main reasons for this omission. However, I propose in this project that both readers must own their own individual copies of the book in order to download it into the Shared Library. When the text is properly categorized, the settings will be configured to allow sharing and simultaneous use.

Another question I received from testers was, “What does it look like to be invited to a shared book?” With that, I was prompted to develop a second user flow that would provide an answer. I created a mid-fi model and subsequent hi-fi model that shows how a second user would respond to the actions of the first user in the previous prototype.

The invitation would appear in the Notifications tab on the Home Page. A user would have the option to Accept or Decline. Furthermore, they would be prompted to purchase the text if they did not already own it. The information would be provided on the invitation pop-up as shown in the wireframes.

Once accepted, the text is automatically downloaded from the All Books Library to the Shared Library. When the user opens the text, the settings pop-up appears and shows all of the details that were customized by the original user.

Once the second party has entered the text, they can see the annotation that was already made by the first reader. They will also be unable to change their highlighting color to that which the first reader has already select. This is notated by an X on the claimed shade.

You can access this mid-fi prototype at the Figma link below.

Once again, I mirrored the UI already in use by the Kindle mobile application for the hi-fi prototype. With the color, it is now more evident that the second user can easily identify notes made by other parties in the shared text based on their highlighting shade.

You can access this hi-fi prototype at the Figma link below.

After many hours of research and analysis, two user flows, two sets of prototypes, and only six minutes to present all of it, I had completed my third project of the Iron Hack UX/UI boot camp. Based on user testing and instructor feedback, this feature was successful in achieving user goals and improving the overall application experience.

I greatly enjoyed this project because I was able to audit a platform that I frequently use then develop a feature that I would love to actually implement. Working alone had its challenges, but I enjoyed wearing many hats that helped me learn my strengths and weaknesses as a new designer. With that, I will challenge myself to improve in certain areas and seek out that which I lack in future colleagues.

I am a firm believer that people should surround themselves with others who are better than them; I think that I am a part of a wonderful group of classmates and instructors who are just that. As we continue to progress through the boot camp, I look forward to learning more from each of them. I would like to give a special thanks to Juno Jo, Jade McVay, and Robert Zamora for continuously supporting our class and for helping me throughout the development of this feature project. We are now halfway through this UX/UI boot camp, and I am excited for what is to come.

Part-Time Student in IronHack Miami’s UX/UI Program; Events and Entertainment Professional