I read a lot of books and track them on Goodreads. My friends post reviews, but I don’t know how; I can only figure out how to give star ratings to my books. Can you help me figure out the Goodreads interface?
Goodreads, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, is a great place for readers to keep track of what they want to read and what they’ve read (or listened to: It works just fine with audiobooks too). Connect with friends and others who have similar tastes and you get a stream of their reviews too, which can be a great way to discover new books too. But the actual user experience on the site is poor, at best. It just doesn’t get much attention from the corporate team, so the UI can be more than a bit confusing.
And that’s putting it mildly.
Anyway, rather than complain about it, I will say that if you have a smartphone or tablet, you might want to check out the Goodreads app as that’s a different user experience (though also not as intuitive as you might like). I use the Web interface so I can gain the benefit of my big screen and here are the steps I went through to review the book The Dreaming Tree by Matthew Mather…
To start out, on the site you’ll hopefully have lists of books you want to read, books you’re reading (or singular if, unlike me, you read one book at a time!), and books you’ve already read. Go to “Currently Reading” in the “My Books” area and here’s approximately what you’ll see:
Obviously, we’re going to be reading different books! You can see here that I’ve logged 167 books read, am reading 4 simultaneously (more or less, Slow Horses is an audio book I’m listening to in my car) and have 24 on my Want to Read list.
The second book down on my list is The Dreaming Tree, so that’s what I want to review. To start, I can change it from “currently-reading” to “read”. That’s done by clicking on the tiny  link just below the Shelves entry. A mini-menu pops up:
I’ve added two additional categories here for my own purposes: bailed, and put-aside-pick-up-later, since sometimes I start a book then just put it aside for a few weeks – or months! – before I pick it up to finish. For this title, however, it’s a simple jump from currently-reading to read. A click and it’s done.
Now here’s one of the places where Goodreads is confusing: You would think that clicking on the star rating would pop open a window where you can actually enter your review. It doesn’t. In fact, it just lets you, well, add a star rating:
To get to the spot where you can actually enter your review (and change your star rating as needed) you actually want to click on the tiny “edit” link at the end of this entry.
Confusing? Yes. But in my case it gets even more befuddling once I get to the review page:
How am I marked as reading the Audio CD library edition? That’s not right!
Fortunately to fix it is straightforward: A click on “Change edition“, which reveals that there are a lot of darn editions of The Dreaming Tree:
Is it normal for a book to have so many versions? Seems confusing to us readers, but… presumably the publisher knows what they’re doing here. I’ll switch to the Hardcover edition, which is what I read, by clicking on the corresponding “Switch to This Edition“.
Which is super confusing because now I don’t go back to the Review page, I end up here:
Can you find the ‘write a review’ link here? It’s a button near the bottom left. Why do I have to go through such a confusing journey to get to type in my review? Well, that’s a good question. 🙂
In any case, click on “Write a review” and, finally, I’m back on the screen where I can enter my review of the book:
I’m a big fan of not having spoilers but if you want to talk about something that could ruin the book for someone who hasn’t finished it yet, notice the “Hide entire review because of spoilers” checkbox. And use it!
Otherwise, take your time and I encourage you to write a thoughtful review of the books you read because they can be tremendously helpful for other readers and if it’s good, don’t you want more people to enjoy it? Conversely, if it’s awful, don’t you want to effectively warn friends away from the book before they waste their time too?
Once done, click “Save” and… the review is up and shared:
That’s it. Now if you were paying really close attention earlier, you’ll know that this particular book by Matthew Mather has received a total of 33 reviews. Which means the odds of the author reading my review are pretty darn high, which is cool! More importantly, my hope is that others will read my review and opt to check out this latest techno-thriller from Mather!
And that’s how you struggle through the chaos that is Goodreads’ user interface. My general approach is to click around until I find the area I seek, which isn’t a great UI experience, but… it eventually works. Usually. Now, get back to your reading!