Libby Mobile App

UX/UI DESIGN | grad school PROJECT  •   2023


As part of 577 HCI coursework, our team was asked to conduct user research on a mobile app and redesign it to correct identified information architecture and usability issues in 14 weeks.

• Josh Rao, UX
• Allan Kochanek, UX 
• Abigail Lorincz, UX/UI


I participated in all research activities and was the sole UI designer for this project. Following completion of the course, I independently continued to revise the UI.

• 129% improved system usability score
• 48% decrease in average task time
• 81% decrease in average error rate


Libby connects 1.5 million users to free library resources

Released in June 2017, Libby is a digital library app that simplifies how users borrow ebooks and audiobooks from local libraries. Despite being editor's pick in the app store, our team identified numerous negative reviews and opportunities to improve the app.

A heuristic analysis revealed potential usability issues

Our team imported screens from Libby into Figma to familiarize ourselves with the app's functionalities. We uncovered several issues:


Layout prompts horizontal swiping but this is not possible


Books are not clickable, forcing users to perform a search


Collections are not personalized to users' reading histories


The minus icon deletes the collection, rather than collapsing it


Most libraries lack banners, leading to layout inconsistencies


Filters are on the home page but absent on the explore page, where users browse titles


Graphic incentivizes scrolling but there is no content beneath it


Not clear users can change their library by tapping the card icon


Home and search page functionalities are largely redundant


Validating our analysis with user interviews

To test our assumptions, we spoke with 6 participants between the ages of 21 and 67. We asked each to download the Libby app, complete tasks, and verbalize their thought processes (i.e. think aloud protocol).

Collecting concrete feedback on the app's usability

As a team, we strategically drafted interview questions to collect qualitative and quantitative data on the app's search, browse, and filter functions. We wanted to know:

• Are users finding the books they want? In what instances is search preferred over browsing?

• How supportive are the app's filters? Can users sufficiently narrow down large collections?

• Are there any elements, such as icons or features, that users find unfamiliar or confusing?

See Interview Questions

Negative sentiment was reflected in our participant's think aloud comments

The team carefully reviewed the participants' transcripts, which revealed a pattern of mismatches between user expectations and the app's functionality. All six participants expressed confusion over how to complete one or more tasks within the app.

Patterns in user behaviors validated our suspected issues

Problem Statement

User satisfaction is negatively impacted by restrictive searching, unsupportive browsing, and inflexible filtering. These problems are most evident when users attempt to explore book titles, which weakens overall dependence on the app.

User flows

Mapping how users flow through Libby

Asking the participants to think aloud while interacting with the app gave our team first-hand knowledge of users' expectations and preferences. We synthesized this data by creating user flows that visualize how our participants completed tasks within the app. One flow is provided below:


• Visualize user behaviors and decision-making
• Uncover tasks with high cognitive load


• Potential oversimplification of user behavior
• Participants were inexperienced Libby users

Identifying target users to prioritize impactful design changes

After a comprehensive review of our research findings, the team agreed Libby has three main types of users: casual, serious, and academic readers. We created personas to better understand their needs and have a common reference point that ensured the team's solutions matched their goals.

Bringing the traditional library experience to the digital realm

I was solely responsible for creating the wireframes and had several ideas to address the problems identified in our research. To deliver an intuitive experience that matched users' expectations, I studied how book titles are organized at physical libraries.

I updated the app's layout and navigation to simplify the categorization of books, provide more familiar collection names, and optimize the placement of popular titles for easy access:

Getting feedback early for rapid revision

I held off on designing higher-fidelity mockups until I could validate the changes made to Libby's information architecture, as well as browse, filter, and search functionalities. I had open-ended discussions about our prototype with two of the participants who tested the original Libby app.

Personalizing the experience to make Libby your virtual librarian

While the wireframes were positively received, both participants felt more could be done to personalize the experience. One user suggested adding recommended book collections based on their browsing history, as if a librarian had curated selections for them.


Delivering a modern, library-inspired UI with Material 3

As the project's UI designer, I opted to use Google Material 3's open-source design system to ensure the app followed best practices in typography, color, spacing, and icons.

Strategically prototyping user flows for testing in Figma

In preparation for usability testing, I designed and prototyped key user flows in Figma. These mockups served as the foundation for assessing the app's updated navigation, interactions, and search, filter, and browsing functionalities.


Measuring whether our proposed changes worked

We recruited 6 participants between the ages of 22 and 67 for usability testing. Each completed a series of tasks using the original and revised versions of the app.

Our team recorded the time to complete each task and the number of errors made. After testing was complete, the participants filled out a system usability scale, where they answered bounded multiple choice questions about their experience.

See Testing Form


Average error rate and task time fell by 81% and 48%, respectively

We exceeded our initial target of reducing both average errors and time on task by 50%. Our metrics signaled considerable improvements to the filter, browse, and search functions.

System usability improved by 129%

We concluded our usability testing with a SUS assessment to directly compare user satisfaction and perceived usability of both app versions. Although there is always room for improvement, our prototype moved Libby well into the acceptable range.


We successfully presented our prototype to faculty and friends

Our prototype was completed ahead of schedule and well received by our instructor and course peers.

Search History

• View past searches
• Revisit or clear search results

Filter Book Collections

• Set preferences to apply to all searches
• Toggle filters to apply to current search results
• Like or dislike book collections for personalized browsing

Revisit Saved Searches

• Browse past searches
• Check for new titles
• Visit favorited books and searches

Lessons Learned

Practical takeaways for personal growth

Defining the must-haves from the nice-to-haves. Our team faced challenges during ideation because we didn't prioritize essential features over those that are nice-to-have. In the future, I would dedicate more time to analyzing research findings and assessing the potential value of each proposed idea to the business. Ideally, I would collaborate closely with fellow researchers, designers, and engineers to gather diverse perspectives and prioritize new features together.

Staying organized and communicative. Every team member had an assigned role, leading to occasional independent work. I learned the value of brief check-in meetings and organized files to ensure optimal team awareness. This allowed us to work efficiently and dedicate more time to validating solutions with end users.

I appreciate your time!

To everyone who has ever read, critiqued, or shared my work - thank you.