How We Built A Social Networking App For Book Lovers

Description

BookWA is a Russian virtual book club that comprises a listing and a social network's functionality. Here, people can connect over literature worth sharing, indulge in meaningful discussions, and get reading recommendations based on real feedback and personal preferences.

Tech stack

iOS:Swift, RxSwift, CocoaPods, VKSDK, Facebook, Realm, Alamofire, Sockets, Markdown, SnapKit, Fabric, Crashlytics, YoutubePlayer
Backend:Node.js, JSBerry, Express.js
Integrations:VK, Facebook, Apple ID, CDN API
Database:MongoDB, MySQL
Frontend:React, Redux, Redux Saga

Our role

UX/UI Design, Branding, Mobile Development, Backend, Support

The Challenge

The Rocketech team joined the project at the point when design and the overall logic of the product have already been developed by another team. Back then, it was a basic book review generation algorithm. Our specialists were called in to help with the development, finalize the app, and carry it on to the release.

The first product overview revealed serious inconsistencies in design, interface, and logic. So, we approached the founder with a suggestion: to step back and improve the design instead of working on the existing one.

The team got involved in the project to the maximum extent, crafting the overall concept, logic, interface, and design.

Project management

Over the course of the work, our team made two substantial pivots, which dramatically changed the original idea of the app.

First off, we suggested improving the design to make the app more user-friendly. The second pivot point was to change the entire project's idea: from a simple review generation system to the social networking app.

Legacy design created by the predecessor team

Pivot 1

We started with re-thinking the legacy design created by the predecessor team. The Rocketech experts made suggestions on how to improve the algorithm and added the unified touch to the interface elements.

To create a human-like book recommendation experience, we consulted with a psychologist on how to emulate emotions and produce a stronger emotional attachment.

Once the new concept and design were accepted, we skipped to the technical realization of the product:

  • Admin panel development and API integration
  • Feedback generation algorithm
  • Newsfeed
  • Book recommendation system
  • Testing and customer development

Pivot 2

Testing revealed that users would like to engage with the app more, so the next step was to expand the functionality to a book-specific social networking app. It was agreed to develop smart recommendation algorithms based on two metrics: community feedback and user behavior.
VK and Facebook integration
Comment functionality
Daily book suggestions
Rating system
Polishing friends functionality
Discussion club functionality
Expanding database with LitRes and Book24 integration

Overview of interface and functionality

Emotion-based book recommendation system

To generate a truly personal recommendation list, the app analyzes users' emotions evoked by the books they read. This is a key difference that makes BookWA stand out from existing recommendation networks and algorithms.

Users can search and tag books with the suggested emotions: 🔥 — catchy, 🌸 — soulful, 👆🏻 — an interesting find, 🚀 — motivational, etc. Thus, they receive more accurate personalized recommendations based on their emotion history stats, not just on the authors and genres as other book apps normally would.

Book recommendations

For those who don't know what they want to read, the app suggests books based on different criteria: recommendations of the day, famous people's choice, and trending books. Besides, users can ask the community to recommend specific books by posting a recommendation request in the feed.

Quotes

BookWA generates meaningful quotes every day — users can share them with friends within the app or on social networks.

Filters and search

Users can search for books by author or by title. If a book is not in the database, it's possible to add one. It will appear in search after moderation.

Portfolio

In the personal library, users can view and manage their reading choices. It stores all the recommendations they've written, books saved for later, emotion stats, friends, and reading scores.

Integrations

The app is integrated with Facebook and VK, which is a popular Russian social network. Integration with Russia's biggest ebook marketplaces LitRes and Book24 allows people to buy the book of choice right from the app.

Reader community

The in-app themed discussion club is a place where users can read reviews on books and share their ideas with the BookWA community. People can choose from multiple discussion threads: by genre (horror, classics, non-fiction, etc.), must-reads, eternal classics, or a waste of time.

Friends and newsfeed

Social networking functionality allows users to follow people with similar reading preferences, like their libraries, leave comments, participate in multi-thread discussions, and get in-app notifications.

All the updates are displayed in the newsfeed in real-time. The feed shows friends' reading choices and recommendations, comments, ratings, quotes of the day, and likes.

Testing

We tested the app in real-time with an active user base. A thousand users attracted to testing became the pioneers of the BookWA community and further developed the project.

Numbers

9
iterations of design
The app evolved from a book review generator to a trending social media.
1,000+
downloads
in a matter of the first two weeks.
17#
in the AppStore
The app was rated #17 in the Russian AppStore shortly after launch.
190,000
books
and still counting.

Review

Rocketech is developing an iOS mobile app for a new social network. Their team helped create a business model, performed user testing, and iterated on the design after receiving feedback.

I'd developed my business offline, but decided to go online by building an app. I connected with Rocketech and worked with them to build the app. We added more logic to make it a bit simpler and friendlier for the users. In regard to features I wanted to add, Rocketech gave me advice and corrected some of my decisions.

They helped me gather users for testing features and gathering feedback that we used to implement new features and modify the ones we'd already developed.

After the first step, I didn't have a clear direction, and Rocketech again went over the app with me. They helped me correctly implement new features, define and prioritize the aspects of the project. Their team advised me to move the subsidiary features to the next stages of development rather than spending money at that moment. This helped me manage the financing of the whole development process.

They did well with project management, they're clever, and the effectiveness is high. The team was communicative and always clear with timeframe and budget concerns

Dmitry Konstantinov
CEO, Bookwa

Results

We worked closely with the in-house team on each stage of the development cycle. The app underwent 9 iterations of design and multiple incarnations of mechanics and logic.
The team developed an iOS mobile app from scratch and tested it with an active user base.
Although the code base has grown more complex over time, the system remains stable and handles thousands of active users without the refactoring job.
2 years in the project, we continue to maintain the app in the support mode, improving its performance and usability.

Tell us what you have in mind

If you'd like to get in touch with us you can email us at info@rocketech.it, call us on +65 3159 3765, send us a message via our online form, or get answers in real time by simple briefing @RocketechHelloBot.
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