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I performed an extensive evaluation of the Goodreads website through heuristic review, usability testing with 5 users, and accessibility assessment to gauge the overall usability of the website and redesigned it for a more aesthetic look and feel.

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This project is about evaluating and redesigning the Goodreads website, which is considered one of the best hubs for bibliophiles. I performed heuristic evaluation using Nielsen’s usability heuristics, moderated usability testing with 5 users, manual accessibility testing using WCAG 2.1 guidelines, and automated accessibility testing using the WAVE accessibility checker. Based on my evaluations, I discovered primary improvements and redesigned it for a more consistent aesthetic look and feel.
Project Duration and Team
My role
5 Weeks
(8 February - 26 March)

Individual Project
UX Researcher and designer
Prof. Jonathan Lazar
Prof. Jason Aston
  • Heuristic Evaluation
  • Usability Testing
  • Manual Accessibility Review
  • Automated Accessibility Testing
  • Redesign strategy
  • Final redesigned UI
Why goodreads?
I chose to evaluate the Goodreads website, which is considered as one of the best hubs for bibliophiles. I myself, being an avid reader, use Goodreads often in my daily life. However, I find the interface visually cluttered and confusing to find the right information I need. However, despite having apparently bad design, Goodreads has a large user base. It has managed to stay popular over the years. These are the reasons why I decided to evaluate some aspects of this website and redesigned it to improve its overall UX.

The scope of this project doesn't involve an exhaustive review, it rather focuses on the main pages and functionalities provided by Goodreads.

Deciding who would be the typical users of the platform
The typical users of Goodreads would-be readers and authors. Readers can be of any age, to be honest. They can be anyone from teenagers, and young adults to older people. Anyone who’s interested in reading - an avid reader or someone who has just started and is willing to read more can be considered as a potential user. On the other hand, authors can be anyone from young adults to older people.
Discovering usability issues using Neilson's heuristics
For the Goodreads website, my focus was on understanding the visual and structural elements, its consistency, and the ease of navigation of the website. For these reasons, I thought Nielson’s heuristics would be more appropriate to find out the usability issues, as it includes checkpoints such as aesthetic and minimalist design, consistency, and standards.
Top 3 Issues found (Prioritized based on severity, impact and ease of implimentation)
Lack of feedback
Heuristic - Visibility of System Status
I noticed the lack of feedback throughout the website for multiple activities.
Absense of breadcrumbs
Heuristic - Visibility of System Status
The website doesn’t show breadcrumbs, which makes it difficult for users to know about the navigation path and their location on the website.
Lack of consistent naming
Heuristic - Consistency and Standards
There is a mismatch between the names used in the website throughout.
Discovering real usability issues using moderated usability testing
I performed remote moderated usability testing with 6 users, including one pilot study to understand the actual user interactions with the website, comprehensive context, motives behind specific actions, and real usability issues. All of them varied in their familiarity with the interface.
Top 3 usability issues found (Prioritized based on majority of users struggling)
Confusion between shelves and saved books

A few participants found that the “want to read” button was a little confusing because it doesn’t clearly communicate that it’s going to add a book to a shelf. They would rather prefer having a button called “add to shelf”.

Indistinguishable buttons and links

When I asked participants to shift the book to a new shelf, most of them couldn’t notice the “edit” button given in the book row. The primary actions are written in very small fonts and displayed as hyperlinks rather than buttons, which makes them hard to notice.

Unclear search

There is no way to search for an author directly. The main search bar says “search books”, which made participants confused if they could search for authors through that search bar.

Finding accessibility issues both manually and using automated tools
I evaluated the home and book pages of Goodreads in terms of accessibility separately. I used both manual inspection using WCAG 2.1 guidelines and the automated accessibility checker "WAVE" to find all existing accessibility issues.
Top 3 accessibility issues (Prioritized based on conformance level and impact)
Lack of "Skip to main content" links
Bypass Blocks [2.4.1 (A)]

During manual accessibility testing, I found that most of the pages on the website don’t have a “skip to main content” link, which violates 2.4.1.

Insufficient contrast ratio
Contrast Ratio (Minimum) [1.4.3 (AA)]

During both manual and automated accessibility testing, I found that the contrast ratio of “customize” option is lesser than required ratio 4.5:1.

Repetition of link context through headings and ALT text
Non-text content [1.1.1 (A)]

During automated accessibility testing, I found that the ALT text used for images is the same as their headings. This results in screen readers reading the same link text twice. the ALT text for the image should be changed to “” (empty quotes)  to define it as decorative as the heading would be enough to give the context about the book.

Deciding top improvements
I focused on top issues found in both usability and accessibility evaluation and tried to improve the overall UX of Goodreads by resolving those issues. Based on the issues found, below are the top focal points for improvement.
Improving the overall visual appeal and consistency
Improving the current layout and making the separate section distinguishable
Improving accessibility in terms of font size and contrast ratios
Improving the UI elements for better UX
Finalizing redesign direction
Some fashion and lifestyle websites have an elevated and sophisticated vibe that enhances the image of their users, customers, and products. However, Goodreads seems to lack a unique identity and appears to be a mediocre version of Amazon.
To tackle this issue, I plan to revamp Goodreads by adopting a minimalist and artistic design, creating a museum-like atmosphere. This aesthetic transformation will help to elevate the image of site's devoted readers, authors, and books.
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Coming soon
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Get in touch for opportunities or just to say hi!

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