Case Study


Goodreads is a social online library to organize reading shelves, discover books, connect with fellow readers, and read/write a review like a reading club for book lovers. It has a huge collection that made it a great place to explore, with other insightful and useful tools.



The site was originally invented to help discoverability of books and improve reading and learning. In contrast to the high traffic of 80 million visitors in 2019, the look of the site is visibly overdue for a change. As a user since 2013 myself, I used to only seek book reviews to finally discover that many awesome tools are way too hidden to ever be known.

User Research


Resourceful polls and reviews about Goodreads are available online. Sources such as Trustpilot, Sitejabber, and review article, give a pretty solid idea of what the user wants to accomplish and the hurdle.





General Problem

Goodreads has huge potential with features no other online library has (e/ book tracking). there is a couple of plus and minus stated online.






General Reviews


  • People find the benefit from the books they never know they will pick up from discovery because of its huge collection and personalized recommendation

  • People benefit from the review to make a wiser purchase decision.

  • Review from a friend with trusted taste helps too

  • There is a lot of tools to keep track of books

  • Great to share what they read with others


  •  The site is too clunky, gives an impression of an independent site that still experiments

  • The site is not intuitive enough.

  • Too much advertisements

  • Dozens of list recommend you to read the same book

  • The book from reader's list seem to come from entry reader

Observed Visible Problem

The problem needs not to be dug so deep to spot. They are right on the face and consistent across pages. Here are the four main mistakes.

1. Cluttered.

Many elements try to grab attention at once. Some essential tools look like an advertisement with the sidebar placement. Instead of giving it a chance to be seen, it makes it easy to overlook, reduces the appeal and send people away.

2. Repetitive link


Multiple links spread over different spots just to lead on to the same page. This creates unnecessary clutter though they were presented differently, grouped for an easy navigation of other functions. The followings are only home page, not including the others that repeat the same mistake.

main page


Choice Awards

Want to Read 

3. Disorganised Hierarchy of Importance


Useful tools can be worded unfamiliarity and obscured by small letters. 

For example, I only found out "General Update" is to post status after I tested it out.

It's clumped with Search (to add to "currently reading) and recommendation, which turns out to be separate functions. 

Also, there was no feedback after the status is published.  Not even on a timeline or your own profile so you can't tell where it ends. 

Most used tools

Based on a poll pulled on Goodreads with 151.593 votes​, the tools regularly used other than its basic function are as follow:

As Goodreads' huge collection naturally gives it high traffic, the challenge is to maintain users. People are aware of the site's essential role, that they would tolerate the poor appearance. Goodreads has array of problems, so I decide to focus on just three. Based on the feedback, personal bookshelves and the review itself are the major reason for using the site. Listoipia which function is aligned with discovering new books is the top most liked feature according to the poll above. Therefore the tools that need major changes for the time being are:








In order to maintain the familiar look of Goodreads, I try to break down the clutters to different groups of mentality that people come for.




and Activity Feed

Book Review

Home page

Recommendation as a landing page


Having an activity update on Home has become the norm. Based on the feedback, a friend's activity is not essential especially when automated adding is at default. Till user figures to set it to manual, activity update is not as relevant.

The sub-page is recommendation and activity feed. Recommendation is set at default as a landing page, as it is the most sought after feature.

Cohesive function

Book progress, shelf, and reading challenges are together because they fall under the same mentality the home page is: to discover new books based on users' taste and connection, to then organize.


The previous recommendation shows an empty rating to fill, as opposed to what people come for: discover new books and see the measure of the public’s responses. I changed it to an existing rating instead.

Footer at bottom

Footer which is previously located at the sidebar due to endless scrollable activity feed can now be placed at the bottom under recommendation.

Meanwhile, the rest of the display such as book awards, news articles, are now provided under the menu bar.

Book Review

Related booklists

Related book suggestion shifts from the sidebar to the body.

Based on the book lists' benefit, people who come to read review can be divided into a few categories:

1. Have not read. Booklists make user conveniently compare other books they might want to read instead, or to save for later.

2. People who have read would want other options with a similar theme if they find the read book compelling or disappointing.


At the side, it is easy to overlook.

Bigger Title


Hierarchy text between the title and body wasn't as apparent. That can be confusing given how loaded this page is from text and informative widgets. It also tones down a potentially important sections.

Trivia and Articles

Title and arrow are enough to inform that there are related article and trivia. Both are in itself not features that are that well-developed for readers to find interesting, so either they were kept to minimal by title or erased entirely.


All ratings are grouped on one side for easier judgment. "Read Reviews" call to action is the shortcut to reviews located at the bottom.


Quote is a fairly sought after based on the poll. In general, people like to find a succinct profound thought to keep or share. Prominent placing at the top after rating (and ads) makes it discoverable not just for one from the author but also for other quotes. 

Forum Discussion

I moved “forum discussion” up to a level to QnA, as the start of thoughtful and inquisitive mentality. It being at the bottom makes low visibility since people don’t always read reviews all the way down to bottom of page.


Reviews are mostly maintained the same way in terms of feature.

Learned Lesson

A site with a rich function, tools, pages, as rich as its problem, requires proper grouping and cohesiveness, in order to give the right exposure for every set of useful information. For example, the said poll which sits on the most regularly used tool is nowhere to be found at least for me, the first-time user of that tool. 

This case study is a great exercise to spot and resolve such usability error. 

There are many other problems this site has that are yet tackled, which I wish to gradually add here. 

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© 2015 Ahdini Izzatika

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