Analyzing the IA of Goodreads

Analyzing the IA of Goodreads
Goodreads image

User-centered design and information architecture were terms I was vaguely familiar with before this unit reading, but as I learned and analyzed websites for this week, I realized how often these concepts are present in my job and day-to-day internet scrolling. 

UCD is almost as simple as it sounds: it serves to cater to the specific needs and expectations of users. Dr. Lucas’ lessons this week constantly compare these methodologies and theories to academic papers and novels which is a great way to put it into perspective. Similar to the types of advertisements pushed to certain algorithms, the key to understanding UCD is the audience it will serve. 

Once an audience is determined, applying proper IA to the digital document will allow for a better UX experience on the platforms involving response web design as well. Simply, IA is the “blueprint that determines how information is organized, labeled, and interconnected within a digital environment.”

To put these approaches to digital and technical writing to the test, I’ve chosen to analyze Goodreads; more specifically, their UX experience, user-centered design, and IA as well. I regularly used this website to log how many books I read, my reviews, and get recommendations from friends, but I’ve always found it highly frustrating so let’s figure out exactly why. 

Balancing Organization with Content Inventory 

Referencing the picture above of my personal Goodreads page, their main navigation reads as Home, My Books, Browse (with a sub-menu), Community (with a sub-menu), and then the search bar. Past the search bar, notifications, discussions, messages, friends, and main profile settings are all the icons listed. At its core, the setup seems simple enough and most can decipher what the icons for the right bar menu mean. However, I find that their My Books tab is severely lacking while notifications, discussions, and messages all get their separate icons. Additionally, many of these are repeatable under Community and the profile picture icon. 

For those unfamiliar with Goodreads, each user has a “currently-reading”, “read”, and “to-read” default list that books can be sorted into. This is also visualized on the left side of my screen; however, I find these otherwise difficult to navigate and believe they should be listed under “My Books” while the many notifications and community tabs could be condensed. In regard to the labeling of discussions and other tabs, once they are clicked on, there is no explanation for users on how to use these features anyway. There should be easy accessible instructions for users to find when navigating the site.

While examining the methodology of information architecture, I believe the designers could benefit from reimaging their card sorting and information taxonomy. Card sorting refers to how users group and categorize information while information taxonomy involves organizing content in a proper and sensical hierarchical structure

Searchability and Metadata

For Goodreads to succeed, they rely on metadata extensively to organize, categorize, and catalog book, author, and user information to improve their searchability function on their website. Goodreads provides a paramount amount of book information, challenges, discussions, and other engaging content for users to enjoy. However, their searchability for this information and explanation of features need major updating. For example, by default their search bar looks up books. You are able to search more with filters and sorting, but I find it not very intuitive or user-centric. I believe tweaking this to allow for easier search of friends, tropes, genres, publisher information, or support articles on the website would be helpful as well. If they still want a specific search bar for just books, I would default back to my last section on adding a submenu to the “My Books” tab. 

Goodreads Adapting to Responsive Web Design

Goodreads is available on the Apple and Android store as an app and I feel their app helps tackle some of the navigation issues I find on their browser site. Their search bar, menu, and icons are more user-friendly. While this is a good example of responsive web design (RWD), a “dynamic approach to design and development” to adapt web content to various sizes and devices, the overall UCD is better on the mobile application as well. We learned in our reading that UCD leverages UX principles to design and craft digital interfaces to improve interactions, satisfaction, and experience with the platform. 

Applying to my Website

By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of Goodreads, I will be using the methodology of information architecture to improve my content, navigation, and overall design. Currently, my website, wordcraftbyjewel, does not have a clear method behind the organization of information or great search functionality. I intend to create a navigation system that gradually expands to include previous information about my work and portfolios. 

I find this graphic from Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond by Rosenfield, Morville, and Arango to be helpful when considering how to create an effective IA design. The authors refer to this graphic as “information ecology” to help visualize the dependencies all these components have in digital information environments. 

Overall, I feel that Goodreads' main website suffers from old web design while their app is more modernized with its application. I strive to have my website capture the essence of a good UCD and IA experience. 

Jewel Caruso

Jewel Caruso

Jewel is a higher education professional, freelance editor, writer, and avid reader.
Athens, Georgia