OOB is an app that provides 'private social networking' to book clubs.
Book clubs meet regularly to pick books, discuss previously chosen books and generally socialise. The app helps them do all of this, provides a record of chosen books and a means to communicate about the books and anything else.
The challenge was to design an application that has quite complex processing appear simple and easy to operate.
First of all, this meant having a database design that allowed fast access and could scale to large numbers of users. Secondly, it required a user interface design that was intuitive and easy to operate.
The app is effectively multiple private systems (one for each bookclub). So the onboarding ('signup') process has different requirements to an 'all-together' public system. The first member registers the book club, then invites the others.
Members must be able to register books for reading by their club. This necessitates a look-up system for potentially any book. They must also be able to register books for their private reading, and ones they would like to suggest to the club for reading.
Book clubs may have hundreds of book they have read, so searching for books must be quick and multi-faceted - by author, title, year read.
Members can have online discussions about any of the club book they are reading - this needs to be quick and obvious. They must also be able to give reviews and ratings to books.
A notification system was needed to inform members about new books, comments and reviews.
Finally, to appeal to a global audience, the app must be multi-lingual.
Once we had the database design nailed down, we spent a lot of time working on the book search facility. It takes a title/author combination and returns a set of results based on an algothrim that calculates closeness matching. The user can then choose any of the results and view its details, add to the club or search again.
The app stores all of the club's books and the member's private and suggestion books in a set of panels that can be easily viewed. Clicking on a book gives its details, any converstations about the book, reviews, rating and other information including who chose it. The books can be searched for using a variety of different criteria. All of this works from a single web page, using Ajax to quickly fetch database information and refresh the panels.
The app is fronted by the member's dashboard which provides stats of the books, reminders, ratings information and member details. There are also facilities to manage each member's details, a calendar system for club meetings and social events, and a note system.
The app also has the OOBSeer™, a book choosing robot which takes book suggestions from all the club members and chooses one for them.
Finally, the app is currently available in English, Spanish and Chinese. New languages can easily be added.
Our Own Book Club means you never forget what each book was about - important when your club has been going for 15 years. It's there at your fingertips for all members to see, with dates, ratings, everything you could wish for!Deborah Fowlis, Peebles