Kindle has a technology called Whispersync which syncs the position of the user’s place inside a book so that the user can go back and forth between a mobile app and an ereader. In 2014 Audible started working with Kindle to extend this ability between ebooks and audiobooks. They named it Whispersync for Voice and it became a full blown team inside Audible at the end of 2014. The goal of this product is to introduce the best of Audible to Kindle customers through Whispersync for Voice enabled titles. We provide free audiobooks, discounts on the titles if they alreay have ebooks, and much longer free trial for Audible membership. The number of touch points were still very limited, and the experience for discovery and consumption can still be improved a lot.
I joined this team to lead the design team of four, including myself. One senior visual designer, two UX designers and one visual designer. I worked together with my PM, dev teams (iOS, Android, Web), designers and PMs from Kindle side.
Whispersync for Voice lives inside Kindle’s eco system. We let our users consume both ebooks an audiobooks inside Kindle app. Most of our challenges are about balancing the user expectations of Kindle customers. In order to approach this simpler, I divided the challenges into two, discovery experience, and listening experience.
Inside discovery experience
1. Kindle is available on all major platforms. This is an opportunity and at the same time, it’s also a challenge in getting approval for our designs to get through. How do we make it easier and faster for us?
2. Many Kindle customers already have ebooks in their library so audiobooks are already available at a discounted price. How do we make it easier for them to take advantage of this?
3. 25% of Kindle customers solely discover and consume on e-readers. How do we get those potential customers?
Inside listening experience
1. Not all functionalities from Audible player are available in audio player inside Kindle app. In some cases, Kindle users don’t know some features are already available in their Kindle app. How do we narrow this gap?
2. In the age of bluetooth speakers, it is also a must to create a smoother bluetooth connectivity experience.
3. Kindle has a few different subscription models available for their customers and Audible participate in them. This means Kindle customers can enjoy free audiobooks. How do we approach them so that they would at least try?
Audible has a total of 16 touch points inside Kindle eco-system and there’s 8 more potential touch points for us to expand. But every time we designed something and reviewed with Kindle, it would take weeks for us to get approval since we will be working with different designers or product managers from their side depending on the platform.
I started looking into all the designs my team was previosuly doing for all of the touch points. Although there are similarities, there are also some differences depending on the platform. It is due to different user base these platforms have or due to different operating systems and design guidelines they needed to follow. Some UI components are not just available for all the platforms.
The second step I took was I tried to undertstand the user’s content ownership scenarios before seeing call to action from Audible since we are targeting Kindle customers. There can only be two scenarios where the first one is when the customer doesn’t have both ebook and audiobook, and the second where the customer already has an ebook but not an audiobook.
The way I fixed it was by looking at where the majority of sales are happening, and try to bring that design to other platforms. It was a design we have on ebook detail page on Amazon.com. By using that design where it was already performing really well and which was also already approved by Kindle, we were able to expand to other Kindle touch points like stores inside Fire tablets, Amazon app on Android mobile and tablet, Amazon.com mobile website, and store inside Kindle apps.
Amazon Tablet App Kindle Purchasing Experience
Amazon Mobile App and Mobile Web Kindle Purchasing Experience
Fire Tablet Kindle Purchasing Experience
Audible has created an awesome tool called MatchMaker and it let's the customers to log in and scan the their library to match their ebooks with audiobook companions so that they can upgrade the experience at a discounted price. The problem was that the tool was hidden on Amazon.com. Customers have to specifically search for that term inside a search field and a small link would appear above results.
I started building out the tablet and mobile flow for this experience. It cotains the educational piece, a list of audiobooks customers can upgrade, and if they are not liking the options, there’s a way to get customers to the whole Whispersync for Voice marketplace. This creates a no dead-end scenario.
Since Kindle app is divided into Store and Library and MatchMaker is half way listening experience as well, I started to push for a place also inside Library. We got agreement to also put as the last item inside Kindle Library and it became the first prominent spot we got for MatchMaker
MatchMaker on Fire Tablets
MatchMaker on Android
I believed it's a great tool for discovery experience so I started looking for ways to promote the tool. I started working with our marketing lead and pm to find a suitable place to promote the tool. Since it is for customers who already have ebook version, it’s a half-discovery experience and half-listening experience. With this in mind, I started looking at web based touch points and immediately realized that right after the Thank You Upsell flow would be a nice place to put this CTA since the customers in this flow have interest in upgrading the ebooks they own with audiobook companions. This could be for desktop web, mobile web, Amazon apps, store inside Kindle apps, and stores inside Fire tablets.
After all these initiatives MatchMaker became third highest revenue source for Whispersync for Voice team.
Even though our player inside Kindle app has almost all the features from Audible app, our customers on Kindle app aren’t discovering them. When Kindle app was updated with the new Page Flip experience, we got an opportunity to have just-in-time tutorial for our player. The logic we put in was to show the tutorial only when customers open a book where they also own audiobook companion. The reason behind that is also because for first time opening a book, Kindle tutorial will show up even if it has audiobook companion.
After putting this to a test for a month, we noticed that 46% of our customers on both Android and iOS went all the way to the end and press on done button. That was an impressive number comparing to industry standard of 13%. The usage number inside full player view also started to go up by 30% and less number of customer calls and feedback related to requesting features like sleep timer and narration speed also went down.
One thing we did was the instruction on Tap to download in the first slide. The reason to add that was because we have millions of Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading customers who already have access to free audiobooks but are not using them. With this tutorial, they started know more about audiobook availablity and started listening to them. So this project was a huge success for us since we get to improve two metrics from just one project.
A few months before I joined, Kindle Unlimited was released in US. It was a huge initiative from Kindle, and Audible was a part of the project. With the subscription, customers can get a catelog of 1 million ebooks and 10K+ audiobook companions inside. This give us an opportunity to introduce Kindle customers to our audiobooks. This also give customers to be able to upgrade their Kindle books with audiobook companions at a heavily dicounted price to over 90K+ titles.
In early 2016, Kindle started a Prime benefit called Prime Reading. It is a much smaller catalog (subset of Kindle Unlimited) of 10K+ ebooks and 50+ audiobooks. The idea is to give the first book in a series as a Prime benefit, and upsell Kindle Unlimited membership to read the rest. It seems like a small catalog for both ebooks and audiobooks but I was so excited for a much bigger reason. That is to be a part of Prime. Back then, Prime has an estimate of 60 million customers from third party sources and this project will get Audible to a much bigger audience.
It was an enormous amount of work since we need to support on all platforms where Kindle and Audible exist. But our previous work on dividing the experience into two groups came in handy again. We looked at whether the customers can get both ebook and audiobook for free or whether the customer can only get ebook for free where they will get audiobook at a discounted rate. We applied that logic and we were able to finish everything in just 2 weeks.
Both ebook and audiobook are available to Prime member for free
ebook is available to Prime member for free and audiobook is available at a discounted rate
It was the fastest major project we finished while I was leading the team. It also benefited a great deal toAudible since all the books inside Prime Reading has audiobook companion ready to be upgraded at a discount rate. It also helped Audible to consider our very own Prime benefit which we later launched as Prime Channels.
25% of Kindle readers are on e reader. They don't use cross platform which means they buy ebooks from ereader store and consume on ereader. If we really want to fully engaged with Kindle users, we need to be on ereader.
Ever since I joined in 2015, my PM and I have been talking about trying to going into ereader but we couldn’t come up with a solution to solve the consumption part on the device. I thought about how we could show the ebook on ereader and play the audio on Amazon Echo since Whispersyn for Voice backend technology knows where the customer is on both platforms. But it was reprioritized over other projects.
But a year later, the project circled back to our attention due to paradigm shift in book lovers starting to notice the benefits of audiobooks and adoption of smart bluetooth speakers like Amazon Echo with Alexa by consumers. It was a very fast paced project that we had to finish in just 2-3 months but it was a dream come true for me personally.
Working on ereader is something completely different from working on mobile platforms or desktop web although the technology used is somewhat the same. Setting up the design for the sale touchpoints I mentioned at the beginning helped us a lot in this project, too. One of the few things we needed to consider in the user interface design was the tap target size. We need to set around 80-100px to create a proper tap target.
Since we are completely new to the platform, I decided to put some decision making indicators to properly lead our potential customers to sale touchpoints. As you can see in the mockups, Go to Audible Store links are both on the storefront and inside the menu. The same for Audible Narrartion and Books with Audible Narration. For search results, all the titles that have audiobook version have View Audible Format link in list view, specifically in search.
One this I needed to design perfectly was the Bluetooth use cases since ereaders in general are slow in responses comparing to our touch screen devices. These devices need to refresh to show an animation so something like a loading spinner is best to avoid. That is why in the Bluetooth connection flow, it was best to reduce the opacity level of available Bluetooth devices list which also communicates to customers that the device is working.
Pull down to refresh like on mobile devices is also not available due to the slow screen refresh rate so rescanning funtion needs to be on the screen.
Since these scenarios are not new for other platforms, I had to designed all the cases if the customer already owned an ebook or an audiobook, an option to learn more about Audible Narration, and a link to see the detail page of the Audible version.
As I handled the Whispersync for Voice experiences, Audible’s very own Fire Tablet team handles the audiobook store and detail page design. We had to rush to make sure both the design and development were done for factory installation which are usually a few quarters earlier than the launch date. I finalized my end of the project and left Audible to join Fiverr. The new Oasis was launched on October 31, 2017. The previous Oasis version was also back suppored with an OS update.
For confidentiality reasons, I have taken out the actual numbers from all the companies I have worked for and have put percentage. These are all just my views on the project I worked on and does not represent the views on the organizations.
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