Case Studies: Athena Book Reader
Hypothesis: A standalone device luxury E-Book reader for Children made out of futuristic materials that can be marketed to wealthy parents and schools (This changed).
Hypothetical problems solved:
Books take up a lot of space
The reader could be large format with flexible pages for better kid handling
The reader could have a customizable front cover to tell them apart at a glance (all Kindles look the same)
The reader could save recordings of parent voices to play later, saving the parents time and encouraging independent reading
Existing readers for children such as the Kindle Fire for Kids and Ipad discourage learning and reading in studies due in part to distractibility from extraneous animations and games.
Testing the theory
A preliminary survey with six parents revealed that none of the participants were interested in purchasing a standalone children's book reading device, even with advanced features. A follow up survey with twelve participants confirmed this. Summary of initial survey results.
The second survey did, however, identify two major problems:
A full 80% of respondents indicated that they were distracted from reading when reading on a device that has multiple capabilities such as a Kindle Fire, Laptop, or Iphone. This confirms studies that have been done regarding dual use devices. This is a good argument in favor of a standalone device that focuses primarily on reading capability.
Among people who are reading textbooks, their main concerns are being able to highlight and write in the book margins, and being lightweight. These will be important features to consider if we want to ensure textbook capability in the e-reader.
A multitude of competitors are duking it out over declining sales in the E Book market
Competitive Analysis revealed a multitude of competitors actively engaged in price wars on the E Reader and especially Children’s Book E Reader fronts. There was also an indication that the market has become saturated with people who have already made their large stand-alone device purchases and are not looking for more than one device.
In order for the Athena reader to make it in this highly competitive field, the E Reader will have to offer something that the other readers do not.
Color E Inks and Flexible Screens are still at unreachably high prices
Color electrowetting, E-Ink technologies, and flexible screens, are all still in the early pioneering stages with a high price point of around $1000 per device that would not be reachable by consumers in this already saturated marketplace. This is something to keep in mind as prices go down and color quality goes up. It is currently too ambitious a price to enter the market with as a new product.
Conclusion: It will be best to focus on an app-first design to enter gently into the market with our minimum viable product, and raise funds with the consideration of a possible stand alone device release down the road.
Comic books and Textbooks both rely on the traditional two-page large format design. As indicated by our user surveys and by research into user reviews for existing apps, these two areas are not being adequately served by existing E Books and E Book readers in the marketplace.
These great survey responses led us to two central ideas for the Athena Reader:
In order to study textbooks it is vital to be able to easily make notes in the text and easily recall/compile those notes
In order to read traditional format comics there must be a multi-page display option at a size at which the text is legible
Revised Product Concept
The product is now an App that specializes in textbook reading foremost as our Minimum Viable Product. As we continue to develop with a waterfall approach to multiple iterations it will also allow for a multitude of other formats for flexibility and an all-in-one approach to book reading. A way to view the textbooks in smaller formats would also be great in the long run. This will enable us to eventually have textbook studying capability on phones [see Manga Storm's innovative interactive reading feature for comics where a user swipes from panel to panel]. It will take a lot of R & D or crowdsourcing to do with textbooks so that will be a later iteration.
Ability to take notes
Target Larger scale devices
Comic Book reader
Integration with Goodreads
Collaboration w/ existing reader
Animations or interactive features
Advertising fundraising model
Given the need for a large screen, our Minimum Viable Product will be an app for tablets
The first screens will be designed for the recently released I Pad Pro, taking into consideration the advantages of its pen and split screen capabilities.
Extrapolating from the survey participants and types of books we will be designing for, these are the three personas. They are a lens to help focus empathy as we explore their needs within the app:
General book reader
Stars indicate Minimum Viable Product, White tiles indicate initial target screens
The Mental Models and User Stories for these three personas helped me realize a few things:
The needs for note taking are different depending on the subject of the textbook: Biology textbooks (flash card making, highlighting) requires a different type of notation inputs than Math (freehand, calculation) and Literature (highlighting, long notes)
Using the areas of overlap in all three mental models was helpful to determine the minimum viable product in the sitemap
Jake Studying Mental Model ABR
General Reading Mental Model ABR
User Story Jake Studying ABR
User Story Clara Comics ABR
User Story Ellen Novels ABR
Initial Wireframe Iterations
Building on the sitemap, the first iteration of wireframes was based on essential screens. These were hand drawn and more skeuomorphic than they ended up being in the second iteration.
Changes as a result of second wireframe iteration testing:
Create a simplified page count visual from book image to a simple graphic line stack
Give the Owl logo eyes
Group the hamburger menu text into main and sub categories so as not to be overwhelming
Streamline some of those options into the User Account and Settings Menus
Decided to begin with an empty bookshelf with User guidance to fill it*
*This came after a brief yet heated discussion about when U2's album was preloaded in iTunes. You may recall this caused a debacle among people who did not enjoy having pre-loaded content, even when free, because of the removal of individuation / choice. And some people inexplicably hate U2.
Feedback highlights from tests 1-2
"Owl Logo looks too much like a bikini, add eyes"
Feedback for this graphic showing how much of the book is left to read at a visual glance was positive
People found this back button to be too similar to an "Undo" button
"Too much of a Wall of text, divide into submenus"
Third Wireframe Iteration testing
Due to budget constraints we did a few in person and one in-app test at usertesting.com. At least 6 - 15 tests would have been ideal. The tester was excited about the idea of being able to take notes in books and textbooks and save them digitally. She was confused about how to take notes with this design. She wasn’t sure if “annotation” also did notes. Because of this I changed “Annotations” to “notes” in a future version. She also had trouble understanding the series function and seemed to be stuck in it for a little while.
Feedback highlights from test 4
After discussion with my peers and some friends of the fourth iteration, the decisions were:
Make all the text size bigger across the board for better legibility
Decided to add the option for reading in a one page vs. two page layout to the horizontal menu as well as the vertical
Now showing the book cover preview in the reading menu view after swiping up, along with the page count and page progress graphic, and Author and Book title information
Differentiating some of the text more with Bold text for selected items
The wireframes can begin the UI process for further refinement from here. We will begin User Interface Design and then development/coding. We will be working with the App based textbook reading features for our Minimum Viable Product. A target date of completion within six months is ideal.
A potential collaboration with Evernote could be great on the note taking and indexing features. We can use the UI screens to approach them with the idea to see how they feel about it. I am also not against eventually collaborating with an existing E-Reader Device such as the Kobo or Kindle should the opportunity present itself.
The concept of giving users the option to submit their own audiobook readings will need to be explored further with the UX Design team as well as with a legal team. It seems there is potential there for revenue where the users submit their own recordings and get ranked and paid with Athena Book reader earning a percentage of audiobook sales.