I conducted this usability study in October 2018 to better understand how Audible might improve their product out of sheer curiosity and a love of reading on the go.* Based on a random sampling I made some tweaks to Audbile’s interface and saw a dramatic improvement in usability.
Improve usability of the Audible iOS app
An updated design with accessible navigation
End to end research and design
Three main screens updated for usability
I discovered through testing that users struggled with completing basic flows within the app’s functionality: finding help, bookmarking their progress, sharing books with friends, and navigating between chapters.
I exposed several buttons that were buried in the UI and improved the visual hierarchy to help users find what they were looking for before they gave up.
During validation testing I saw a huge jump in the completion of the tasks. Before my updates only 0/7 or 1/7 users could compete core actions with the app. After my changes 6/7 and 7/7 users could complete these actions.
To determine whether or not customers were having trouble using the audible app I conducted seven guerrilla usability tests in a coffee shop in Oakland, CA. With permission I recorded the tests so I could sift for further insights later.
During tests I asked participants to complete five tasks that anyone using the app might want to complete. I tested scenarios such as: “You’re in the middle of listening to [specific book] and you want to find a bookmark about networking so you can re-listen to that section. How would you navigate to that location in the book?“
In addition to usability tests I did some cursory market research to determine what possible business directives Audible might have. I found that currently 46% of audiobook listeners are over the age of 45 - so potentially half of the folks using Audible could have trouble with their vision and/or are not digital natives.*
This was particularly interesting to me as I watched several participants in the usability tests struggle reading the small type and buttons in the app.
Evaluating research and choosing the right problem
In order to organize, and then prioritize, pain points of Audible’s customers I mapped insights from each session. First I created an affinity map to find common ground and hot spots. Then I transferred the insights to a 2x2 board to better highlight the intersection of high priority items for the customers and the business.
One of the main pain points in the Audible app - for the business and customers alike - is not being able to purchase books from within the app or even link to the online store. This is a huge deal for Audible because their entire business model is built on delivering content to their users. It’s also big for customers; it’s the first question served in the FAQ.
So why can’t Audible sell content within the app? They’re not willing to pay Apple the 30% cut they’re entitled to from purchases of digital products on the iPhone. This is not a problem I can (currently) solve, so I decided to focus on other, lower-hanging fruit. Looking at the 2x2 I noticed several pain points relating to navigation that were keeping customers from accessing the content they had already purchased, and decided to focus on those:
Areas of Focus
Customers find it difficult to find where you last left off and can’t find bookmarks
Customers have issues using the various scrolling functions
Customers can’t find Rate & Review or Send to a Friend
Customers can’t find the help button
To ensure I was keeping the customer experience in mind before I began making changes I mapped out the steps customers take to complete the tasks they’re struggling with.
In order to experiment with changes that would be an improvement I sketched new possibilities for the interface. I wanted to make the smallest necessary changes and retain all of the current functionality so I could improve usability while retaining the same user experience Audible has spent time and money building to this point.
Hi-fi & Prototype
[For the clickable prototype scroll to the bottom of the page.]
While converting the wireframes to a prototype I noticed several accessibility issues with the app. The contrast in many areas was not passing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and some of the hit areas for buttons and icons were smaller than the apple guideline of 44x44 px.
Keeping in mind that Audible could potentially increase their business by 50% by catering to those who have trouble with visibility I tried, wherever possible, to increase the contrast and size of components.
Pay attention to hierarchy when designing for a broad audience. Folks tend to look at the top or bottom for high-level functions.
Not everyone will always understand what certain icons mean. Often users are too overwhelmed and busy to click around experimentally.
It is difficult to balance branding with accessibility; Audible chose their brand color (a bright orange) over accessibility in several instances.
*I am not affiliated with Amazon or Audible in any way - just love reading.