When a product is branded across platforms, it would be natural to assume (or at least anyone supporting good design would assume) that the platforms would compliment each other. While my Nook eReader is a few years old, and I quite enjoy the reading experience, I sometimes I don’t bring it with me and I find myself wanting to read books on my phone. Unfortunately, the Nook app is essentially a bookstore and not much more. There is almost no reason to want to use it if you don’t want to be sucked into spending money. Perhaps this is beneficial to Barnes & Noble but it offers much to be desired by users. It fails in several of Don Norman’s key design principles in The Design of Everyday Things.
The main problem that instantly arises for me in this app is several visibility issues. The first screen is my Nook library. Now I have purchased books from the Barnes & Noble website, I have a library with them, yet it is entirely unclear how to access my books. In the app library, I see some sample chapters that I selected a few days ago, so it appears that I’m logged into a Nook app account but in fact I’m not. I know that I have a lot more titles on my eReader but there’s almost no mapping to show how to sync my accounts. In fact, it seems that as far as the Nook app is concerned, I have no Nook account at all. However, if I would willingly give them my credit card info, I could have one!
It took some digging on my part to even realize that I wasn’t logged into my account. I had to actually click on a book to purchase before I was even offered the chance to create an account or login with an existing one. I didn’t even want to buy the book, but this was the only built in constraint that I could think of that might let me access my account. It seems almost as if the user is completely invisible until there is money to be made. There’s certainly an element of taught helplessness created by the app in that is it near impossible to link my devices. If it weren’t for this class and my decision to write this blog about the poor design of the app, I would probably just uninstall it to avoid having to deal with it.
Since the store is the main function of the app, it’s worth noting that it’s nice enough to look at and there appear to be many well priced eBooks. But I’m already disgruntled by the feeling that I am not viewed as a loyal customer by the designers but merely a consumer to be marketed to. In fact, when I first downloaded the app on my current phone, I would get annoying notifications every few days about buying stuff until I disabled the notices. (I incidentally chose to buy the Nook because I don’t like the Kindle “offers” model, I see enough ads everyday, I’m not looking to be forced to see more.)
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this app will ever be updated to create a better user experience. I understand that Amazon is the elephant in the digital room and that Barnes & Noble is more interested in sales than letting me read books I already own, but I’m still disappointed by the poor in-app reading experience.