Driving product affinity by personalizing the listening experience for indie audiobook lovers

#Information Architecture
Conceiving of, validating, and prototyping a prospective new user-centric feature for indie audiobook provider, Built as part of Designlab's UX Intensive Bootcamp.
My Role
UX Research and Design including: Interviews, Survey Design, Feature Development, Wireframing, Prototyping, and Usability Testing
3 Weeks. Winter 2023.
Figma, Miro, Google Forms
The Problem

Audiobook listeners are burdened by choices.

With hundreds of thousands of books at their disposal, readers can feel overwhelmed by choice. Although provides tools for book discovery — search filtering and curated playlists — it is difficult for readers to keep track of them, leaving them to start their journey from scratch each time they visit the app or move to other services altogether.

The solution

Improved and customized findability

I created a new and improved method for users to interact with existing content to more easily find their perfect next read without leaving the app.

Save playlists for future browsing

Find a bookstore playlist on a topic you love?  Don’t forget about it! Save it to your account and browse it any time.

A redesigned library

Quickly access owned and saved content on one convenient page.

“I listen to audiobooks when I’m getting ready for bed, when I’m working, when I’m cleaning, when I’m doing projects... pretty much any part of my waking hours”
— Emily, User Interview

Getting to know audiobook fans

In order design & develop a new feature for I set three distinct goals for discovery research:

Understand the ways audiobooks and reading fit into users’ lives.

Determine what factors contribute to readers choosing their next book.

Understand what draws users to over competitors.

Background's support of bookstores shines, founded it 2014, makes it possible for users to buy audiobooks through their local bookstores, giving readers the power to keep money within the local economy, create jobs, and make a difference in their community.

Bookstores leave staff picks and craft thematic playlists for readers to browse. Audiobooks are available through memberships, credit bundles, and à la carte purchases.

Competitive ANalysis

Amazon’s Audible is the service to beat but users are looking for a way out

In order to design a feature that will draw in users it is important to understand how fits within the current market of audiobook providers. I conducted a competitive analysis of other major audiobook services, looking at their features, strengths, and weaknesses. I also looked to user reviews for each service for a snapshot of user's frustrations and needs.

A competitor analysis of and 3 related services

🎧 What are the opportunities?

  • Playback features on Audiobooks have fairly comparable feature-sets. The differentiator between these services often comes down to how users find out what to read next and how easy it is to get it. (Other readers, trusted sources, algorithms, local stores, publications).
  • Across the book world, socially-conscious book lovers are looking for Amazon-alternatives for their book consumption in the form of indie trackers, indie retailers, or library systems.

Audiobook listeners are more loyal to genre and mood than they are to any particular app

I reached out to audiobook specific interest groups on Reddit with a 13-question survey to learn where, when, and how users listen to audiobooks and received a staggering response: 282 participants within a 24-hour period.

44.7% of respondents listen on Audible and 31% listen on Libby however, price and availability are more important to listeners than app loyalty.

Readers choose books based on genre, mood, and recommendations from trusted sources.

98.9% of respondents prefer to listen to audiobooks on their smartphones.


Users identify strongly with’s mission but not necessarily it’s features

Armed with a wealth of preliminary data from the survey, I sat down (virtually) with 6 audiobook listeners to hear from them directly about their experience with choosing audiobooks and choosing

It's complicated to find a list [that I like] and then cross-reference which ones are audiobooks that are in whatever app I'm using the time...”
The perfect book list is a holy grail: Hard to find but extremely useful.
“I had Audible for a long time. And I think and it worked great. But f*ck Amazon basically.
Using is a form of commerce activism.
“I realized this year that I need like a better system of keeping track of what to read because it's kind of just floating around in my brain.”
Users crave an easy way to keep track of titles that interest them.
“I love Libro’s mission of supporting local bookstores. You couldn’t do that with audiobooks before.”
Readers love connecting with independent bookstores in new ways.
  1. What was the last book or audiobook you loved?
    • How did you find out about it?
    • Is that how you typically find out about books?
  2. When you listen to audiobooks what service(s) do you use?
    • How did you learn about it?
    • What do you like about it?
    • Is there anything you find frustrating about it?
  3. [If they use]
    • Do you support a particular bookstore on
    • Have you ever purchased a book based on a bookstore’s staff pick recommendations or reading list on
    • How do you organize your library?
  4. Are you now or have you ever been a paid subscriber to an audiobook service?
    • [if they are no longer] What made you unsubscribe?
    • [if they currently are] What do you like about being a member?
  5. Have you ever used an audiobook platform other than the one you use now?
    • Why don’t you use that one any longer?
  6. Describe some of the ways you seek out new books to read.
    • What makes you trust a recommendation?
    • When you hear about a good book what do you do with that recommendation?
    • How do you decide where to get a book after you learn about it?
“I need help. I literally spent hours the other night trying to figure out books to listen to but I have so far been pretty unsatisfied.”
— Linda (User Interview)
Meet the user

Users want to listen to more audiobooks but get discouraged by complex browsing

Meet Elijah, my primary persona for this project! His goal: to easily find audiobooks that he will enjoy and to feel good while doing it.
realistic possibilities

Finding opportunities where user and business needs connect.

At this stage I realized we needed to take a step back and align user and business needs. The feature we aim to create needs to be a valuable solution to a real user problem but it also needs to be viable project for to implement. Luckily some simple diagramming revealed ample overlap & complementary needs!
With research, personas, and these goals in mind, I determined that has an opportunity to craft a feature that can:

Build on user affinity from a ideological standpoint...

increase users’ connection to specifically...

and encourage users to find their next read within the app.

How might we personalize the browsing experience on so that users can more easily find a next read that's right for them?


Ideas built on practicality & scaleability

Alright, how do we give users more tools for a pleasant browsing experience? I sat down with an empty whiteboard and a time and let the ideas go.

Given the timeline and scope of this project and the relatively small size of as a company we decided to focus on where we could make the highest impact within these constraints. I prioritized features that:

  • Fit within the existing patterns and architecture of
  • Be easily-learnable and user-friendly.
  • Honor the core relationship on affinity between readers and independent bookstores.
  • Fit within the timeline and scope of my project.
A new feature

Let users interact with content in a new way.

I settled upon features that will give users more control over their browsing experience.

A mobile screen of the app’s current exploration model is built off of thousands of thematic playlists crafted by indie bookstores. Users can search these playlists based on certain theme, moods, genres, and more.

My research revealed that users highly value this type of recommendation when deciding what to read next. However, while you can save individual books on to a wishlist currently there is currently no way to save with these playlists.

So, how might achieve this personalization?

Give users the ability to save playlists for future browsing.
Redesign the Library page to include owned, wishlist, and saved playlists.
"I realized this year that I need like a better system [of keeping track of what to read] because it's kind of just floating around in my brain."
— Victoria, (User Interview)
seamless ui

Building new elements within an existing design system

To ensure my new feature could fit seamlessly into the existing product I created a UI kit that let me take stock of current design patterns...

...and add new ones

Key screens

Saving a playlist

User Need: Find audio book recommendations that cater to their specific interests while supporting indie bookstores of their choosing.

Solution: With this new feature, users can now save and return to playlists from their favorite bookstores, genres, moods, or themes.

Upgrading your library

User Need: A simple way to keep track of what audiobooks they have purchased and what content they have saved.

Solution: Users’ owned titles, wishlist, and saved playlists are consolidated on the new library screen making it easier to access titles all in one place.


Using this feature to personalize the wholistic app experience

Part of this new feature includes further personalization with supporting text and indicators that help users recall their choices and aid their browsing.

“I like that this makes it very clear that saving playlists is something I’m opting to do. It’s meaningful to see reminders or bookmarks that I’ve made myself.” — Michelle (User Testing)
Usability testing

Returning to the users

To test the viability of this new feature I ran moderated, virtual usability tests with 5 participants. All users were able to successfully complete both tasks!

... and making user-guided iterations.

Users favored the indicators shown in the right column below.

I discovered that they would rather their own interactions override over generic statuses like “new,” “bookseller pick,” or “coming soon.”

User feedback also led to some hierarchical changes to aid reading clarity.

Audiobooks count as reading. Enjoy a book!

Explore the prototype here:

View on figma
feature roadmap

A feature can be a stepping stone

There are so many opportunities to grow’s features on behalf of the users we identified. Here is an example of a feature roadmap built from my research that shows how one way new content interactions can lead to more engaged users and a community of indie-bookstore loving audiobook listeners.

Click to explore this roadmap full sized!

Personal takeaways

Designing and working within an existing system was a real learning experience. This process taught me a lot about focusing on what is helpful for users, building for future growth, and aligning design work with established patterns. Some key takeaways are:

  • Focus on scope. I only had so much design time and is a small company with limited dev lift. It’s important to focus on what can actually be done by the actual people doing the work.
  • Write everything down. I had a lot of ideas to keep track of when exploring this app space. I was constantly reminding myself to write them down. Even the ones that didn’t make feature MVP could be considered for later development.
  • Brand values > “neat” features. It is important to remember to stick with the core values of your client when considering potential solutions for the users. You don’t want to create a feature that feels incongruous with what the users love and expect from the product.
Thanks for reading!

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Get In touch.