Putting the Library in Libby

Rethinking Libby- the online Library e-reader and audiobook provider.

Conceptual Project| 2 months |3 UX Researches | Native App

Screens from final prototype


As an introduction to UX Research and Design, I, along with my teammates, was instructed to work on optimizing a native app. After some initial research, we found Libby; a free app where you can borrow ebooks and digital audiobooks from your public library, anytime, anywhere. All you need to get started is a library card.

Given the pandemic’s effect on day to day life, I thought Libby’s would be a perfect redesign candidate, and could offer people the opportunity to bring the library into their homes.


Our goals in redesigning Libby were to:

  • Humanize Libby and mimic the feeling of being in a library.
  • Create a more approachable interface by improving the hierarchy of information.
  • Offer a more personalized, bespoke browsing experience.
  • Broaden and strengthen user base through expanding book medium options.
  • Motivate users to improve reading habits.
  • Foster a sense of discovery, as well as conversation and community amongst users.

Research and Discovery

Understanding what Libby currently offered was key to understanding what areas could be improved upon. We chose to assess this by doing an app map, and also conducting a heuristic analysis to show opportunities for redesign.

The opportunities that presented themselves were:


The online shelf could mimic actual shelf in a Library.

Browsing for new books could be more like an actual library (recommendations based on what you've read).


Confusing navigation within the E-Reader and Audio book experience.

Returning media was difficult and not straightforward.


Browsing books was unclear and there was no clear delineation between mediums (audiobook vs ebook).


Libby showed books that weren't available, causing confusion.

Competitive Analysis

In addition to using the Nielson Norman 10 heuristics, we conducted a competitive analysis to gain additional insights into who was providing a similar product more successfully (or unsuccessfully).

Libby’s Top Four Direct Competitors

Target Segmentations: Understanding the User

After gaining a stronger understanding of the redesign candidate and key features offered by competitors, our next step was defining who we wanted to reach.

Through conducting some initial desk research, I came to understand three key insights:

1) Consumers, primarily millennials, still overwhelmingly preferred print books over their electronic counterpart, a 2019 poll showed that only 25% of readers chose eBooks, while 65% stuck with print.

2) Millennials tended to seek advice from their peers before making purchases or decisions.

3) Millennials were impatient and prioritized ease above all else.

All of this led to the creation of my target segmentation: Young, educated, city dwelling white collar workers, who despite having relative means, value a good deal and access to a wide array of material on a platform that minimizes environmental impact.

Since broadening and strengthening usership was one of our goals, we also targeted:

Suburban parents who rely on resources provided by a local library, but desire a more convenient experience from the comfort of their own homes.


Recent retirees who prefer to read as a way to slow the advancement of mental decline, but without the financial impact of purchasing their books outright.

Empathizing with Users

We were curious about our users, and wanted to really gain a deeper understanding of them. We spoke to 15 people from a mix of backgrounds, comprised of social, avid, and need-based readers, who used a mix of ebooks, audiobooks, and physical books.

Ages 24- 67

I asked the following Key Questions:

  • Can you tell me about the fondest memory you have from the public library?
  • When was the last time you used the library?
  • When was the last time you visited a bookstore?
  • How do you prefer to read?
  • How do you find your next book to read or show to watch?
  • How do you keep yourself entertained?
  • Why do you read?

Affinity Mapping

After conducting our interviews, we surfaced themes by affinity mapping interviewees’ responses.

Personas and their Journeys

With a more meaningful understanding of our users, we was able to create a persona who encapsulated the key aspects of my findings: Peter, Daphne, and Isabel.

Peter- the Quintessential Social reader who values ease, efficiency, a well rounded reading experience, and having access to recommendations.
Daphne-The Super Mom who needs access to a wide array of material across different mediums.
Isabel- The Venerable bookwork who reads for the benefits and her own pleasure.


Personas’ Problems (Jobs to Be Done)

Having created our personas, we began to think about a problem statement, (or Job to Be done) to help us begin the development phase and hone in on potential solutions.

Peter- When I am online looking for books, I want an app that will offer me the key comforts and amenities of a library, so I can feel more relaxed and better about potentially increasing the amount of time I spend looking at my screen.

Daphne- When I’m on the go, I want to quickly find a book for my kids to keep them entertained.

Isabel- When I’m looking for a new book to read, I want to be suggested titles that match my interests, so I can spend more time reading and less time searching.

How Might We

Once we created our Personas and defined their problems, we started to think about how we might solve them.

Some Key Questions we asked were:

How might er make readers more productive?

How might we make libby more welcoming and Human?

How might we make finding new reading material exciting as opposed to tedious?

How might we work with users who do not have library cards?

How might we make browsing less overwhelming and more specific?

These statements demonstrated a need to focus on maximizing our users’ time while using the app, streamlining the onboarding process, and providing a level of personalization in regards to reading/ listening material.

These became the framework for our MVP’s.

Minimum Viable Products

The initial MVPs we had were different from what we ultimately settled on. Based on the research and interviews I conducted, I knew that ease, personalization, and motivators would be really key to Peter and people similar to him.

We decided as a group, however, to share out some of these table stakes as they would be appreciated by all, but really benefit some more than others, so our MVP’s shifted.


Sketches- Low Fidelity Wireframes

In the early phase of design we only sketched to share information with one another, due to not being able to meet in person.

Sketches were done thoughtfully, but quickly, with an aim to:

1) Communicate key info

2) Stay consistent with Libby’s past design and one another’s design.

3) Balance space.

4) Work on tone and copy.

Initial Sketches for two task flows.


Based on the sketches, I used figma to build wireframes for Peter’s taskflow. Wireframes allowed me to see what a mid fidelity model would look like, and also facilitated user testing.

Testing the Solution

Overall, I did two rounds of remote moderated tests, with 4 users for each round. As I was focusing on millennials, the ages ranged from 28–40 years of age.

Before launching the product, I did a testing round in order to reveal possible usability problems.

Aim of Testing

  • Identifying whether there was any match between persona Peter and real world users.
  • Understanding users’ pain points and confusion.
  • Seeing users’ nonverbal cues and reactions to design.
  • Seeing whether users were able to understand and comfortably navigate design.

Test Results

Users were able to navigate pages and for the most part understood my design.

However, they highlighted a few key points that were indispensable.

1) Users did not want to navigate away from the reading screen when getting additional information or facts about text.

2) They wanted access to information that would round out the reading experience in the least intrusive manner possible.

3) Some icons were not clear.

2) “Libby Learner” facts could be subcategorized.

3) Buttons could be more spaced out.

5) The general copy and tone could be warmer and friendlier.

4) They wanted an easy way to get back to the Home screen.

UI Design

The first two rounds of usability tests complete, I went on to design the final working screens in Figma.

Main Focus of Design:

  • Maintaining consistency with Libby’s current aesthetic and color scheme, while introducing lighter elements.
  • Minimizing choosers dilemma, but offering relevant reading material.
  • Offering ability to search specifically for ebooks, audiobooks, or physical copies.
  • Providing a design that was consistent with Peter’s goals; Libby Learner allows users to stay on their current page, while also having access to key information that rounds out their reading experience, saving them valuable time. Instead of putting down their reading device and resorting to google, users can maximize their learning and feel productive.
  • Libby Icon and highlighted text invites readers to engage with function, but doesn’t force them, thus remaining unintrusive.
  • If users do not wish to continue using the function, they can easily disable it.

Discoveries and Learnings

This was a my second time working on a project, so I experienced growth at an exponential level, but to distill this experience I learned the following:

On a personal level:

  • I enjoy research!
  • Stay in the problem space for as long as possible- don’t pre-empt solutions- if an idea is good for our user, it will come back.
  • As I did not have a strong design background, (any) my learning curve was very steep, and I learned a lot from my teammates!
  • Spacing is important.
  • A good overlay can make all the difference.

On an App level:

Early on, we had to make peace with the fact that the Covid-19 outbreak was going to drastically reduce our ability to observe people at physical library spaces, and therefore potentially limit our findings. In the future, I would spend more time observing and speaking to users in this setting, to see if there was anything I could learn.

One interesting insight I gained was that during testing, it became apparent that although useful for adults, the Libby learner function could be key for children who have not yet developed research skills, but are at an age where they are beginning to present, discuss, and write about themes in books, essays, and papers.

Looking forward, I’d enjoy testing this out and seeing whether my hypothesis would prove useful to users or stakeholders. If so, it could broaden and strengthen Libby’s user-base and make it an app that is truly fun for the entire family.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store