Crafting an Audiobook

Designing an app which will enhance audiobooks listeners experience to be more useful and enjoyable.


When we’re reading on the go, we often get interrupted by events such as the train arriving or social interactions with other people. Many interesting articles we started reading get abandoned or added to the ever growing “read later” list. Audiobooks and podcasting are the current trend in response to this problem. However, users who listen to audiobooks don’t enjoy the benefits of bookmarking pages, highlighting excerpts or leaving notes on their favorite pages. This leaves a lot to be desired from the audio experience on mobile.

1. Strategy: Competitive Analysis

After identifying some competitors and observing their activities, I highlighted some areas of improvement in the SWOT Analysis. The following are some key points to consider:

User’s digital habits:
I believe that most users start their reading journey at home and finish their book while in the train on their way back to work.

Quality & design patterns:
I believe that users are more confident using an app that looks like most popular apps rather than a brand new app with all new functionalities.

I believe that the user should have the ability to select, share, quote audio content with a swipe or a touch.

2. Interviews: qualitative understanding of behaviors and context.

User opinion is the starting point of this research. I want to focus on users process of listening, investigating behaviors and motivations in order to define their needs and pain points. The results are really interesting and aligned to the first key point stand out from the competitive analysis.


  • Identify user’s habits and approach when they are facing general daily issues: what is working for them, what isn’t, and what could be better.

Main findings and takeaways:

  • Users seem to not use the audiobook app to find informations on a book unless they are focused on a specific topic.

3. Personas

Based on the interviews/workshop I set up two personas. Those users wrap up all the needs and pain points I collected during the previous research phase.

In addition, I put them in a daily situation and l categorize these in two groups:

Digital listeners:
They are the people who consider using a mobile as a whole. They are day commuters, executives, drivers, students… The everyday people. They read articles, follow social feeds from news alerts, listen to music and switch to a YouTube Video at anytime. And they do this every day. Unfortunately this makes followers out of them, not leaders. Therefore, they want to break away from this never-ending push-button behaviour that keep them busy all the time. And they don’t have the time to think. They want to hear a story; something extraordinary — to share with others and that they would be proud to call their own. This way, they would feel comfortable sharing deeper thoughts and feel connected with people sharing the same mindset, or cultural interests.

They are the influencers. They keep up to date with blogs of all topics. And for that reason, they seek and find informations wherever they can: books, magazines, podcasts, brands live feeds, unboxing videos, online benchmarks, testimonials, short stories… They are able to promote a content to a wider audience. So it’s very important to build an app smart enough to help these people connect to whatever they like in the most timely way.

4. User Journey

In order to define a usable flow, I design specifics scenario in which I can play personas, moving between different task, based on their needs and goals. I define 3 user flows and related tasks. In this case study, the target user is a train commuter who listens to audiobooks, She identified the problem of selecting quotes and share them widely. She would like an app that would record her voice comments and share to the other passengers in the train connected to the same app.

5. Guiding the user: follow their mental models and improve the flows

I run an open card sort, with no preset categories and I ask users to group cards however they saw fit, with as many or as few groups as made sense. Participants label and describe each group and suggest additional cards or alternate labels for the existing cards.

With all my observation data sorted into column — I build an experience map to identify the areas of interaction that are causing problems for users, the pain points. The best way to extract pain points from an experience map, is to get the people who created the map to dot vote. Dot voting involves giving every user a small number of sticky dots, say five or six dots each. Users can choose where to put the dots. They can put them all on one issue if they think it’s really important, or split the dots over a couple of different issues, or place one dot each on several different issues.

I reorder the pain points with the biggest impacts at the top of each list. I found that fixing the biggest user pain point also has the biggest business impact. Then, I rewrite each one as a goal simply by inverting it. I list the benefit the users would get from the product if I fix the pain point. Then turned that description into a scenario.

6. Paper Sketch & Concept

It is now time to write scenarios. I get to put my personas — Digital listeners and Bloggers — into situations were they’d need to use the app, and then describe how the user experience that I want to create, will help them through that situation to a suitable outcome. The idea isn’t to make life difficult for my personas, but just to describe how a regular day would be made better with the design ideas I’ve created.

Scenario 1: User wants to spread the world
Scenario 2: User wants to highlight audio
Scenario 3: User takes notes

7. Wireframes

I build an InVision prototype, complete with listeners scenarios. Users move fluidly through various Apple devices as they sat at home, on the train, or in their car. Understanding how devices interact with the users help me think about the experience from a more strategic standpoint and help me make better decisions from a user experience perspective. The experience should be clear and intuitive to use. The reader should not have to guess about how the new app functionalities work from their device.

Launch the prototype

8. User Testing

User Testing sessions are really crucial to establish the right flow and clarify some doubts I have on screens. I make six in-person moderated test. The session begins with a short introduction to the project and some questions to collect data on users behavior.

During the sessions, I show users some screens to have an overall impression of space distribution and elements. Then I describe the user scenario and ask them to accomplish some tasks.

I designed 3 different user flows for testing.

User is listening to a book he finds interesting when he decides to get more informations through the community of readers on the same topic. I want to observe the user reactions in the moment where they are connected to a wider community.

Reading is on when the user feels like he wants to keep track record of what he just heard. I want to check which uses the user feels comfortable with when he has to trigger action on the app based on sound judgment.

Now the user wants to get involved in the audio process. He would like to react to the audio content. He would like to share his thoughts/comments with others but he would like to do this within the same app. As an observer, I would like to know if the user is interested in using new functionalities regarding this need. I want to check if accessibility is to be improved.