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A social e-reader app. Meet you in the margins.

When a team of Harvard historians approached us with an idea for improving the quality of online discourse, we jumped at the chance to team up. Threadable is a new way to engage with books: imagine an e-book where you read alongside expert guides, within small reading circles. We'll keep updating, but for now, here's where things stand on the road from idea to prototype to App Store.

What We Did

  • Research & Strategy
  • Product Definition & Design
  • Brand Design
  • App Development
  • Web Development
  • User Testing

What We Made

Screenshots of the Threadable app UI
October 2020

What could Threadable be?

We imagine a product where people can leapfrog from book to book, reading across texts and across time for deeper understanding. Inspired by synapses, cityscapes, and libraries, the Upstatement and Threadable teams are ready to shape this concept into a digital product. To kick off the research process, we designed what a future marketing site would look like if this product already existed. In focus groups, we learned what appealed to our target audience with little more than a headline, a description, and the question: “Would you download this app?”

Early marketing website research designs
December 2020

Three ideas

Through workshops, focus groups, and research, we’ve narrowed the universe of possible functionality down to three ideas:

  • You can read a book with groups of friends, like a virtual reading circle.
  • You can read a book with expert commentary, like a director’s cut.
  • You can read in “thread mode” where passages from multiple texts are strung together to form a new narrative.

Let’s make a giant prototype and see what works.

Zoomed out view of the Figma prototype
February 2021

Sharpening the focus

We’ve whittled our prototype down to just reading with small circles of friends. This smaller feature set is enough to go to market and continue iterating. Someday the app could include everything we envisioned, but for now, we’re going to focus on just the viable, desirable, and feasible.

Three early UI screens on mobile
March 2021

What even is a page?

The ability to open a book and turn a page is table stakes. That seemingly simple interaction has prompted numerous questions and driven a lot of our technical research. What file format are e-books in? What counts as a “page”? How do we teach users to turn pages in an otherwise vertically-scrolling UI? How do we hyphenate text? How do we show reading progress? How do we make this e-reader better than existing products that have had years to evolve? TAP OR SWIPE TO TURN THE PAGE? We’re making lots of documents, and we’re starting to find answers.

Threadable research documents and an early book page design
April 2021

To TestFlight we go

After months of research, designing, and coding, we’re finally ready to push our app to TestFlight. This will prepare us for an eventual App Store release and gives us a way of doing deeper user testing. Meanwhile, the Threadable team has been growing their library of books. Some of the most compelling, relevant books in the public domain are now readable on the app.

A decorative grid of public domain book covers
July 2021

App Store or bust

We’re quietly deploying regularly to the App Store as we iterate through sprints. We’re using this time to refine what we have and are starting to plan for the next batch of work on our roadmap. We only have a few reviews for now, but five stars is still five stars. ★

Screenshots of Theadable in the App Store

We also helped Threadable stand up a basic landing page to test messaging and gather e-mail addresses of people who might be interested in doing some user testing with us.

Threadable landing page
September 2021

Adding guided commentary

What if a historian could be in the margins of Twelve Years a Slave with you and your friends, offering context and perspective? We’re starting to build the next major area of work: layering guided commentary on top of reading circles. To power this, we’re improving our custom backend admin, which leverages the same tech as the native app. It’s where guides can write and manage their profiles and commentary, and it also surfaces user analytics.

Screenshots of the Threadable custom admin
November 2021

Preparing for a marketing push

We’re taking a close look at competitors and are expressing Threadable’s unique offering on a marketing site (a big upgrade from our early landing page). Threadable will use the new site to speak to three key audiences: readers, guides, and publishers. The site will promote app adoption for readers, and will be an entry point for guides and publishers who want to join the platform.

The Threadable marketing site homepage

Check back for updates. For now, download the app and let us know what you think.

Download Threadable

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