Hardcover Quarterly Plans for mid-2023

Adam FortunaAvatar for Adam Fortuna

By Adam Fortuna

6 min read

One thing we’re hoping to do more of this year is share what we’re working on. Nearly every day we’re making progress on some parts of Hardcover. Not all of those are flashy exciting features, but they all help readers find amazing books – in their own ways.

With that in mind, we want to share what we’re working on and want to do during the next few months!

If we were an actual business and not a group of book friends building an app, these would be OKRs (Objectives and key results in corporate speak). Instead, we think of these are what we’re most excited about working on.

Some of these are things we hope to release soon. Others are areas we want to research more and figure out a plan for. With that in mind, let’s jump in!

#1. Ability to Edit Books and Editions ✅

Up until now, it hasn’t been possible for readers to modify books on the site. If we’re missing a piece of data in a book there was no way to fill that in. This is most evident for book covers, where often books will be missing a cover or have a low-quality image.

Last week on May 5th we launched our first round of librarian features that will allow readers to start helping improve the overall data across Hardcover. We’re looking for the first readers who will join us and become Hardcover Librarians.

#2. Book Button Improvements

Since the very beginning of Hardcover, the Book Button is the main way that readers interact with books across Hardcover. We show this button in search, in the feed, on the book page, on Airlists – everywhere.

From here you can do just about everything for a book:

  • Change your status for this book
  • Rate and review
  • Add to a list
  • Manage dates read
  • Manage privacy

Since we launched our iOS and Android apps, we wanted to improve the mobile experience and tackle a few other concerns.

Here’s a sneak peek of the new Book Button (v2)!

Book button v2

You’ll notice a few things right away.

On mobile, this will now be a drawer you can close by clicking outside of or dragging it down. This feels much more natural.

We’ve removed the ability to 👍/👎 a book. This feature was initially intended to help our algorithm. Only about 0.01% of 👍/👎’s were different than we’d expect based on rating alone, so we decided to remove this.

Setting your dates read has been moved from the modal to a separate screen that’s part of this flow. You’ll also be able to set which edition you read for each read-through, and we’ll show an icon based on the format of that edition (audio, ebook or book). This is one of the most-requested features and I’m excited to see what people think of it!

With how often readers engage with this button, we want to get it right.

#3. Improve Search

Search is one of the most important parts of Hardcover. Every time you hear about a book and want to look it up you rely on search to take you there quickly.

Being able to search by author is currently the #1 most requested feature on Feature Request Board.

Our search right now is… OK. To get technical, it uses a SQL ilike query to combined with a similarity score to sort the results. This means that if you type “Harry Potter”, you’ll see results that contain exactly that string well before you see “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, since “Harry Potter Fanfiction” is more similar to what you searched for.

It’s also not as blazing fast as we’d like it to be. In fact, it’s slowing down as we add more books. It also doesn’t allow you to search by author’s name.

We have a few plans to improve this.

First, we’re redesigning search. We’ve gone through dozens of prototypes to figure out what works. A dropdown in the header? Should the text field be at the top or the bottom on mobile? What about a modal?

Right now we’re working on a new search that I can’t wait to start using. Here’s a sneak peek of what this looks like on desktop.

You’ll notice a few things about this immediately:

We decided to go with a modal rather than a drop-down. As soon as we decided we wanted to show authors, having this as a dropdown became too cluttered. We kept closing the drop-down on accident.

You’ll be able to open it from any page by clicking on the link in the header, or by entering cmd/ctrl + k on any page. The speed you can navigate around using this is incredible.

We’re also adding Ask Jules to search! If you have a question that search doesn’t feel like the right approach for, you can Ask Jules.

And perhaps most importantly, we’re switching from Postgres search to Algolia. This should lead to MUCH better ordering of the results. Not only will you be able to include the author’s name in book searches, but this will also automatically get better as more people search and interact with results.

As icing on the cake, it’ll also be faster. 🚀

#4. New Book Page

Last year we talked to a bunch of readers to understand what they’d want from the book page. Here’s a bit of what we heard:

I want to quickly see if the book sounds interesting enough to mark it as want to read.

I want to see what series this book is a part of. I don’t always want to commit to a long series.

I want to quickly see what my friends thought of this book.

And so much more. We took all of that feedback and put together what we think will be the best book page for any book website. It’ll also give us room to grow into new features later (like Discussions, Characters, Fanclubs, and more community features).

Here’s a look at the prototype we’re currently excited to share.

Prototype of the new book page

We’re using a color from the cover to create a gradient background to help each book page be unique. The rating chart is an idea copied heavily inspired by Letterboxd, our spiritual motivation for Hardcover.

Each is also completely redesigned and some of these tabs we’ve decided to combine since this screenshot was taken. We’re using this as an opportunity to bring in so much more about this book into the book page:

  • Most requested data up front: series info, match percentage, page and audio length, your status, description and a (new) one-sentence headline for each book.
  • Prompts and lists this book appears on
  • Reviews are sorted by reader similarity to YOU, allowing you to see reviews by readers with similar tastes.
  • Showcasing reviews with media (TikTok, YouTube) and reviews by bloggers.

We’re adapting this page for mobile in a way that will make it clear when you’re on a subpage under a book. For example, here’s how a single could look.

There are a lot of pages that we’re redesigning as part of this, but it’s exciting.

#5 Working in Public More

We’ve been having so much fun building Hardcover lately we’ve often forgotten to share that enthusiasm with the community. For that, I’d like to apologize. Hardcover is a community project, and it’ll only succeed with a thriving community excited to be a part of it.

With that in mind, we’re going to try to share the journey much more.

Weekly Hardcover Live sessions where Ste and Adam dig into a feature or specific concept and discuss ways to improve it. We do these each Monday at 12 PST, 3pm EST. You can watch these live, or see the recorded videos after the fact. We’ve been recording these for the last few months, but haven’t yet shared them outside of Discord. We plan to start listing these out in a way that’ll make it easy to watch and join.

We want to do more newsletter updates going forward. Lately, I’ve only sent newsletters after completing a feature. That’s not exactly the best cadence though.

We’ve absolutely loved having a Discord and want to find ways to integrate that more into Hardcover. Have you run a Discord community before? Or are you a Discord power user? If so I’d love to chat and ask you some questions about what’s worked and what hasn’t.

Feedback Welcome!

If you have thoughts on any of these prototypes, things we’re

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