The Good and Bad of Information Architecture on PangoBooks

A green, blue and pink book stacked on top of each other.
A book stack.

PangoBooks is a used book buying and selling website where users can upload listings of books they want to sell along with book reviews of those books. According to their About Us page, PangoBooks started out as a response to book lovers needing to sell or add to their collections through a reader-to-reader interface, instead of purchasing new through big bookstores or websites such as Amazon. Users can search the listings of other users to purchase books from a singular or multiple sellers. There is a desktop and mobile version of the site, both of which have recently gone through multiple small updates in the last year.

Website Layout

The architecture of the site is a little different between mobile and desktop versions. On the desktop version, the homepage features a search bar at the top, along with an actionable button to create a book listing in the header along with profile access. Underneath the header, categories and genres of books are listed along with articles for recommendations based on the time of year and what is popular. An AI search function follows this with data being collected about each individual user to provide customized recommendations. Beyond this point in the page, there are listings of popular books, most recently uploaded, and some more customized recommendations based on what you may have looked at before and purchased.

Homepage for Pangobooks Desktop Website
PangoBooks Desktop Website

The mobile version of the website has a pared down look compared to the desktop version. Here, the search bar and cart header continue, but underneath there are no AI recommendations or articles. Instead, recommendations based upon previous purchases and views are featured. At the bottom of the mobile version is where more of the navigational features are located, including your profile, your wish list, and the ability to create a listing.

Mobile Homepage for PangoBooks

Features of the Website

There are some notable features, part of their user-centered design, of both the mobile and the desktop versions that serve users well in terms of searchability, labeling and terminology, and actionable content.

Searchability

Searchability is a highly used and required function of this type of e-commerce site. In both the mobile and desktop versions, the search function is featured top and center, allowing users to find specific books or books by specific authors. Just underneath this, the labeling of different genres in both the mobile and desktop versions allows for authors to search books that are tagged as being part of that genre. Genres include romance, thrillers, and young adult among others.

Searching feature on the desktop version of PangoBooks

 Labeling & Terminology

These categories also lead us into labeling and terminology used on the site. When users list books, they get to pick the genre the book belongs to. Additionally, if the category or genre a user is looking for is not listed, there is a drop-down menu in the genre toolbar which lists more categories and even includes collections and famous authors to search through. Users can also add tags to the listing to entice more users to look at their listing such as #booktok, #oprahsbookclub, and #spicy. Using these interrelated systems, a user looking for a specific book, author, or type of book is able to narrow down the search results to match what they are looking for. Some of the articles listed at the top of the desktop version can also help with this. Currently, they are including their gift-buying guide and how to save money on books which both have recommendations for best sellers, type of books for folks who like to cook, game, etc., and how to read their listings more closely.

Recommendations on the desktop version of PangoBooks

 Actionable Content

The actionable content on PangoBooks is plentiful. The listings of each book a user wants to sell on both the mobile and desktop versions is structured in such a way that each listing presents clear information on what the book is: the condition, the seller, the genre, or category it belongs to, any available book reviews, etc.

A listing on the desktop version of PangoBooks

The articles discussed above also add to the actionable content on PangoBooks. They recommend different categories of books that may not be presented on the normal homepage. This is especially true of the article that teaches users how to save money while using their services. Looking for different conditions, sellers that offer discounts and sales, and looking through all available listings of a particular title are examples of some of this actionable content.

The top of a listing on the mobile version of PangoBooks
The bottom of a listing on the mobile version of PangoBooks

 The Bad

One criticism I have for the information architecture of PangoBooks is that the content hierarchy, despite having good searchable content and strong labeling components. Content overload can happen very easily through this website, especially if you are unfamiliar with the ways that books tend to be categorized and labeled (ISBNs, differences in genres, hashtag management) and therefore can lead to an inability to easily navigate the site. The popularity of reading has picked up in recent years due to the pandemic and the increase of #booktok and #bookstagram taking off via social media. The desktop version does a better job of trying to alleviate this problem, but the mobile version is more convenient for users, raising the chances of information overload occurring. I’m not sure now what might be the solution, but I do think it needs addressed.

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Overall, PangoBooks does a good job of meeting a need the users have asked for and its constant updates, even if they are small, show that the website is constantly looking at feedback and re-analyzing their designs through iterative designs. Currently they are even hiring for an engineer to help them with the functionality of problems encountered, if you are interested!

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones

I am an Assistant Professor in Communication and Emerging Media at Georgia Southwestern State University. My research expertise focuses on digital games.
Americus, GA