Goodreads, pull yourself together (aka, how to improve this dysfunctional site)

As someone who uses Goodreads on a near-daily basis, I have a lot of appreciation for what it has to offer. It’s the easiest way for me to keep track of books I’ve read and books I want to read, as well as see reviews and reactions to any book I want. It’s a social media site dedicated entirely to books, which in itself is pretty darn cool.

But as a website, it is terrible. You would think as the biggest book tracking site in the world – and owned by Amazon, no less – it would run smoothly and flawlessly. But nope! This site easily has the worst user experience of any I’ve used. And yet I continue to use it because it’s the best option I have.

So today, I’ll be talking about all the ways that Goodreads needs to pull itself together. If anyone out there is reading this who has power over Goodreads…please, I’m begging you…fix your site.

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Improve the search function

Anyone who’s ever tried to search for a book on Goodreads knows the struggle of typing in the first few letters/words, waiting a few seconds for it to catch up, typing in one more letter, the search bar finally coming up with the book you’re looking for, then as it processes the new letter, the book disappears. And then sometimes the book just doesn’t come up at all?? It’s infuriating! In the year 2020, you’d think that search bars would not be difficult, but apparently that’s too much to ask for.

Add half stars

Look, sometimes you have to be exact in your ratings. Maybe a book is pretty amazing, but not quite up to a 5 star standard, so naturally you’d want to give it 4.5 stars, right? But Goodreads doesn’t allow that. I give half star ratings all the time, but I always round up in my Goodreads rating to boost the book’s average rating…but that means my average rating is way higher than it should be. And maybe you’re thinking “why not just change it to a scale of ten stars?” No. It’s completely different. Don’t ask me why but it is.

Show content warnings

My kingdom for a function to easily add and search for content warnings in book reviews. For the most part, reviewers are really good about including content warnings in their reviews, but it’s not always easy to find those content warnings. There are always sites like doesthedogdie.com, but it would be great to be able to see these things when searching for a book. If Goodreads can include things like quotes and trivia about a book, why not content warnings?

Make it easier to comment and create threads

For a social media site, Goodreads is truly terrible at the social aspect. If you’ve ever tried to have a conversation in the comments of a book review or status update, you know how dysfunctional it is. Replying to a comment is an ordeal, and the whole thing just looks messy and confusing. You can’t even @ people, which seems like a huge oversight. Whenever I get comments on Goodreads, I tend to not reply, because the alternative is so frustrating it makes me want to pull my hair out.

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Clean up the timeline

Let’s be real – I don’t need to see every time someone I follow adds a new friend or likes someone else’s status update. What I want to see is the books people are adding to their TBRs, new reviews, and reading progress, but there’s so much other information cluttering up the timeline that scrolling through is just confusing.

Add the option to input audiobook minutes for progress updates

When you update your reading progress of a book, it gives you two options: pages or percentage.

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Why isn’t minutes/hours an option for people who listen to audiobooks? We all know by now that audiobooks are real reading, so adding minutes as an update option seems logical.

Make it possible to sort or search by publisher

Maybe this one would be difficult to implement with all the shuffling that goes on within publishing houses, but COME ON, it can’t be that hard! If Goodreads allows you to sort your shelves by all of these different options…

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…WHY can’t they include the option to sort by publisher? Or even list books by each publisher? It makes zero cents. (Seriously, you can search by purchase location??)

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Make reviews easier to write

Every time I write a review and want to include special formatting, I have to methodically type in the <i> </i>ย around each line. And don’t even get me started about adding links and images. Writing reviews on this site is a hassle, which is frustrating when that’s one of the sites main functions. Why not have a formatting bar like every single other website out there? (Wow, I just italicized that with two keystrokes – thanks WordPress for being functional!) You can’t even save drafts of reviews if you start one and want to come back later. Why do they make this so difficult??

Improve the color & aesthetic in general

Is beige really the best we can come up with? Really, Goodreads? Really?

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The aesthetic hasn’t changed in the years that I’ve been using Goodreads – it looks like it was designed in the mid-2000s and they just decided to stick with that forever. It’s so…bleh. I wish I knew more about website design so I could critique it properly, but it just doesn’t look good.

Make the user experience smoother

This. site. is. so. slow. and. glitchy. Not only does it look like it’s from the mid-2000s, but it feels like that time period too, because it crashes or glitches all the time. Loading times take forever, notifications don’t go away after you click on them, etc. I honestly don’t understand how a site run by one of the biggest companies in the world can be this dysfunctional. (Staying on brand by throwing shade at Amazon as usual.)

Improve the mobile app….just *gestures* everywhere

If you thought using Goodreads on desktop is frustrating, just wait until you try the mobile app, which is barely usable at all! Not only is it somehow even slower and glitchier, but it has less than half of the functionality of desktop, which seems to defeat the purpose of having an app at all. Writing reviews is next to impossible, reading other people’s reviews is a pain – every single aspect of the desktop version of Goodreads is worse on the mobile app. I honestly only use it to add books to my TBR and update my reading progress because anything else is too much for me to handle.

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Are you as frustrated about Goodreads as I am? What would you do to improve Goodreads if you could?

x Margaret

goodreads | twitterย | indiebound

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69 thoughts on “Goodreads, pull yourself together (aka, how to improve this dysfunctional site)

  1. The search engine of Goodreads is terrible. I keep waiting for them to improve it, but nope. I’m so annoyed when what you described happens, and yes! The worst is when I type in everything correctly, and wait for the book to appear, and not only does it NOT appear, but instead something totally different does!? Meanwhile if I mistype even one letter, god forbid is show what I was looking for.

    Their comment function is so so SO old fashioned and such a bloody hassle to use. The reply function at least works (although, yes, it looks super messy) on the laptop, but in the app version? It does comment, but it doesn’t reply. So yes, the app is even worse, which is an accomplishment, so congrats, Goodreads, I guess.

    The feed is so annoying as well. All the likes and comments and new friends of my friends are really not something I want/need to see. I usually just give up on the feed altogether after like, 10 posts. It’s horrible.

    Great post! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It truly is terrible! Ugh yes, typing the title in perfectly and it still not coming up is the worst. Or when you get ONE letter wrong and something completely different pops up?? What’s with that??

      The reply function on mobile is an endless source of frustration for me. Congrats indeed, Goodreads, for being so bad at what you’re doing.

      Yeah, scrolling through Goodreads feed is not fun at all because of all the useless things that I don’t need to see. Social media sites are supposed to make you WANT to keep using them, but Goodreads does the opposite??

      Thanks so much! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good that your experience hasn’t been to bad! But yeah, what I wouldn’t give for half star ratings.

      Haha I’m glad you appreciated the hulk gif…it seemed to express the feelings I have when dealing with Goodreads perfectly ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! I thought I was the only one. I completely agree with everything you said. This site is constantly frustrating me. They should definitely invest in some upgrades. Do you think they will? I won’t hold my breath.

    Also, why can’t I ever win the book giveaways? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re definitely not the only one! Investing in upgrades would be such a good idea, but like you, I’m certainly not holding my breath. As another commenter mentioned, there isn’t much competition in that area, so it’s not like they have much of an incentive.

      Same!! I’ve entered so many giveaways and never won once, and I don’t know of anyone who has!

      Like

      1. I enter those contests a lot. As a writer aspiring to be published, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I LOVE free books. And yes, I’ve won a few in the past. But it’s been a long time.

        By the way, I love your blog. I look forward to your posts and always read them. There are not many blogs I can say that about.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. omg i love this post!!! i feel goodreads has about 1000000 things that they need to fix. the 2 most annoying ones for me are the cluttered feed (i wish i could choose whose goodreads activity i could see first in my feed, like on facebook), and the app, which is SO FRUSTRATING. it feels like every time i click on anything it tells me the page is unavailable ๐Ÿ˜ค

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wait, but can we talk about the fact for the LONGEST time, when you searched for Red, White & Royal Blue, the only thing that came up was the Bible? Because it made me despair and cackle all at once. Or the fact that sometimes it just pretends to wipe out my entire library and tell me I’ve never read a book in my life, but I’ve gotten so used to it, that I just patiently wait a few minutes and wow! look at that! they’re all still there!

    (also oh my gosh please keep throwing shade at Amazon forever)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HAH that’s amazing! I don’t think that ever happened to me, but I’ve had similar experiences with the Goodreads search bar, and it’s always entertaining to see what it comes up with. I think the Bible for RWRB is the best, though!
      Yuuuup, it’s always fun when it momentarily deletes everything in your library. Thanks, Goodreads! That’s exactly what I wanted!
      (don’t worry, I will always be throwing shade at Amazon ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

      Liked by 1 person

  5. i feel like goodreads is that one website that someone created in the early 2000s and then completely forgot about, so there hasnโ€™t been any updates in years. iโ€™m surprised thereโ€™s no glitter coming from the cursor or instant music playing when you enter the website, because pretty much everything else is so outdated.

    i think the only reason why they havenโ€™t bothered actually fixing the platform, is because they know thereโ€™s no competition. at the end of the day, people always come back to it, even if the website sucks. itโ€™s a shame, though, because i definitely would use it even *more* if the platform was better.

    as you pointed out, the search bars, the half stars, content warnings and the timeline all need to be improved. my biggest gripe is probably the reply function, though. i still have not figured it out, especially in mobile! i also wish there was a feature where you could just โ€œlikeโ€ someoneโ€™s comment, like in facebook and twitter, because i donโ€™t want to look like iโ€™m ignoring the person, but also sometimes i donโ€™t have anything to reply.

    (the fact i still have to see people i donโ€™t even followโ€™s updates on my timeline because someone i do follow has liked it. itโ€™s 2020 for godโ€™s sake).

    i will say, though, i do like the old school method that you have to go through when writing a review. the whole HTML thing is something i miss from my early internet days, but i also understand itโ€™s such an easy update and could make the life of people who actually write lengthy reviews on goodreads SO MUCH EASIER.

    since weโ€™re talking about improvements, iโ€™d love if i could directly go to someoneโ€™s review of that book when iโ€™m seeing their shelves. like, if i open someoneโ€™s shelf and see that theyโ€™ve read a certain book, i wish i could just click on the book from her shelf and go straight to *their* review. but, instead, i go to the general page of the book and have to search for their review in the midst of everybody elseโ€™s that i follow. i think it would be very useful and would make searching for specific reviews by specific creators much smoother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! The lack of competition for Goodreads apparently means that we’re stuck with this dysfunctional mess, which is annoying. And yep, I’m definitely surprised that they don’t have glitter text all over like in the 2000s ๐Ÿ˜‚

      I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how replying to comments works in the current format, since it makes no sense and is completely different between the desktop and mobile versions. Having a “like” function for comments would make total sense! But nope, Goodreads doesn’t like making sense.

      Ah, that makes sense that you’d like the old school HTML in reviews for nostalgic reasons ๐Ÿ™‚ Though somehow I doubt that’s the reason Goodreads keeps it like that…

      Oh that’s such a good point about seeing people’s reviews! Why isn’t there an option on each user’s profile to see all the reviews they’ve written?? Or easily click to their review from their shelf??? Well now I’m annoyed all over again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The search is the biggest one for me. Sometimes I type in half a title and the book shows up, but if I type the FULL title it disappears! That makes no sense!

    Also, I would love to see consistency with publishers, and see the publishing house listed along with the imprint. Sometimes I know “Dial” means “imprint of Penguin Random House,” but other times I have no idea who the publisher is because I don’t have every imprint of every house memorized.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, exactly! The search bar never gives you what you want, and it’s so frustrating.

      That’s such a good point about including the publishing house along with the imprint! I think very few people would have all the imprints of each publishing house memorized, so only listing the imprint seems like a strange choice.

      Like

  7. I was so sure that once Amazon bought this site the user experience would improve but … no. My biggest pet-peeve is their system of determining which reviews for a book to show. A lot of times (especially for hyped sequels) the top reviews aren’t even reviews, they’re just OMG LOOK AT THIS COVER I CAN’T WAIT TO READ THIIIIIIIS, except they never *did* read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. OMG we need to mail this post to Goodreads!! i swear, what would it take for them to do the bARE MINIMUM & make a few improvements to their site! we are b e g g i n g. is this just a big power move by them because they know that we don’t have many other sites to transfer to??

    ahhh, i agree with everything in this post! i stopped using half stars (which, in some ways, has been a good choice, & some ways a bad one) partly because goodreads doesn’t allow them, and i want my average ratings to be as accurate as possible. i also prefer my phone to my laptop, so having to deal with the stupid goodreads mobile app is literal hell. everything takes forever to load

    ah same i’m so bad at replying to gr comments too!! i feel really bad because most of the comments i get are nice. it just sucks that i can’t @ anyone, & i can only reply to comments *on desktop*—why can’t their comment section just be like Instagram’s?? also, when someone comments on your profile, why can’t you see it on the mobile app???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha exactly – getting the bare minimum to make a functional website sure would be nice for once. It really does feel like a power move, since there aren’t really any major alternatives to Goodreads that I know of!

      Not using half stars makes sense, especially if you want your average rating to be accurate. I just have so much trouble deciding on a rating ๐Ÿ˜ญ And yep, the app truly is hell!

      I know, replying to comments is so frustrating, and I hate when I have to just leave them unanswered! They really should model their comments after Instagram because that makes so much sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m actually pretty OK with Goodreads as it is, although implementing half-stars would be a huge improvement. Yes, the search is slow/buggy, but the bigger issue for me is their lag in indexing new titles. You’d think, being owned by Amazon, they’d have a better automated feed of new indie/small-press books.

    The one thing that does irk me is all lovers/haters who 5-star/1-star a book long before it’s written. I’ve had ARCs land in my lap 6-8 months before publication, so I realize that’s a challenge to manage that, but maybe they could implement some sort of linkage with sites like NetGalley and Edelweiss to put a verified stamp on reviews where they had legitimate access to the book. It wouldn’t cover print ARCs or files sent directly from the author/publisher, but it would be a start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear that you haven’t had major issues with Goodreads, at least! But yeah, the delay in putting in new titles is frustrating, especially when you hear about something and want to add it immediately so you don’t forget.

      And that’s such a good point about reviews! It would make total sense to have some way of verifying ARC reviews so that the average rating for a book that isn’t out yet isn’t skewed by all those 1 or 5 star ratings from people who haven’t read it. I would love to see that implemented…though I’m not holding my breath.

      Like

  10. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!
    Please can Goodreads get their stuff together?? It’s such a difficult system to use and especially when you are first learning about it and stuff.
    I understand that their database is huge now but some of the changes that you’ve mentioned would just be absolutely amazing.
    – Emma ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you agree! I’ve been using Goodreads for so long that I’m pretty much used to its bugs, but I can imagine that figuring it out for the first time would be so frustrating. And yes, I’m sure it’s not as easy to make these changes as I’m making it seem…but it would improve the site sooo much.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my god the Goodreads search bar – WHY does the book you’re looking for disappear when you type in one more letter?? Every time!! You can even word for word type the entire title and sometimes it doesn’t appear! It’s awful ๐Ÿ˜ญ

    And the constant stream of notifications when anyone adds a friend – why can’t you filter what type of updates you want to see?

    Oh, and the comment replies. Why, oh why, in 2020 do we still have a social network without comment threads?!!

    I really wish Goodreads wasn’t owned by Amazon, I feel like any other company could do a much better job with it. They are lazy at making websites – their own looks terrible! I think they believe that as long as it gets the traffic it doesn’t matter how it looks.

    Great (very relatable) discussion! ๐Ÿ˜„

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s truly so frustrating and I don’t understand!! I hate it when you type in the title perfectly and it just…doesn’t come up??

      It would make so much sense to filter what updates you see…but even then I don’t know why we have to see every time someone adds a friend ๐Ÿ˜’ And it’s truly wild to me that the comments are so dysfunctional in the year 2020!

      You’re probably right about that, since Amazon does not seem to care at all about Goodreads or books in general tbh. It’s incredibly annoying.

      Thanks so much! ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m laughing so hard my stomach hurts. Seriously, everything you said is 101% right.

    It would also be cool if there was an easy option to link back to one of your past reviews (like WordPress allows you to do with just a quick search when you want to link to a past post). That would be great for series reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I barely use goodreads. Honestly, i tend to forget it exists. Partly because it adds nothing to my life? Oh for sure I like to see all the books I read categorized all in one place, but beyond that, the features are too frustrating to spend my time on. I got the app last month and the three times I opened it, I got an error message :’) so I’ll just continue with my life until there are some updates haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re doing the smart thing ๐Ÿ˜‚ I feel like I need it to keep track of my reading, but it would be so nice if there were a more functional alternative. The app is so frustrating – I think your experience is pretty par for the course!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Yesssssss my biggest pet peeve is that you canโ€™t reply to comments on the mobile app?! You have to log in online like why? ๐Ÿ˜…
    Also the polls section can only be accessed through typing in polls online & not actually through the website WHO DESIGNED THISSS?!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. i love this post so much, margaret!!! i DESPISE the goodreads mobile app — i can’t even use it and i always just open goodreads on safari on my phone and use the desktop version ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ and jesus, the commenting is so so bad — it genuinely is like bad online forums 2010 without the nested/threaded comments. and yes, the review part is so frustrating too! formatting is so much work (and adding images is so much of a pain). i liked that they added a function to save review drafts, but it doesn’t work if it’s already published, and as someone who writes pre-reviews, it’s no good to me ๐Ÿ˜” anyways i love this post a lot, and i hope goodreads will listen to all of us begging users one day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is the most dysfunctional site! Using the desktop app on safari on your phone seems like a good solution…maybe I’ll have to do that ๐Ÿค” And yes UGH the comments are so outdated! And the formatting in reviews! I’m glad to hear you agree, and yep, hopefully Goodreads will listen to us ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿคž

      Like

  16. ahh yes I love this post SO much, yes to everything mentioned here! the commenting system really is the worst and I’m just so annoyed at how different the desktop and mobile apps are to use, I always find myself confused and lost and ugh, I don’t like it. Also YES, huge YES to trigger warnings being shown, that would be such a fantastic addition, and necessary, too. I’d love that.
    Thank you for sharing! Hopefully goodreads will listen someday ahah ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you agree!! Yep, the difference between the desktop and mobile versions of Goodreads is so frustrating. Adding trigger warnings would make so much sense – I really wish they would find a way to do that! Haha I hope so too… someday ๐Ÿคž

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post! I agree with all your points. The search function in particular is so frustrating, I have to type the entire title AND author’s name before it pops up!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Basically yes to everything here. The app is pure garbage, and I try not to use it. The search has always been terrible. I mean, I type the exact title in, and it brings me back titles *like* that, but not my book. That’s cool, GR. And the threads. Why can’t they be like every other social media site? I thought, though, that we could now save drafts of reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes yes yes! Ugh why doesn’t the search bar bring up the book you’re looking for when you type in the exact title?? And the lack of comments threads is so frustrating. I’ve heard that review drafts are possible now, but it’s never worked for me so I’m not sure if my Goodreads is just extra weird??

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I only use GR on a computer, so I wouldn’t know about the app…but all the rest is GOLD. The search engine (so to speak LOL) and lack of a half star option are my biggest pet peeves. Also! it’s been ages since it became impossible to add a link in your bio (WHY?????), so, even if you set it up back when it was still possible, you can’t update such bio anymore if you don’t want to do without the link.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hahaha! Yes, I think Goodreads is every book blogger’s frenemy. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. I WILL give you an answer to one of your pet peeves though—you can actually choose what to see in your timeline with the little Customize button at the top. Let me know if you need help finding it!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. audiobook minutes for progress updates! you’re so right!

    I wish there were more ways to search through your shelves, too. For example, I want to be able to look at only books that are on BOTH my YA shelf and my WLW shelf, or only books that are on my WLW shelf but NOT my YA shelf

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Hi Margaret, I found this post via Pages Unbound’s link up. I have always wondered what people don’t like about Goodreads, since I personally don’t have any issues using the website (the app is a different story, lol). But now I have a better understanding of various concerns. I agree I would love to see improvement of replying/commenting. I was going to mention that you can customize your feed, but I saw Nicole already explained that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for addressing this topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. The search feature is the worst part of the site, I think. Even if you put in the exact title, nothing shows up! I imagine Amazon has the capability to fix this, but, for some reason, they don’t seem to care.

    Liked by 1 person

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