Harlequin partnered with our team at Iversoft to create Book Breaks — an iOS and Android app that gives romance lovers access to hundreds of free serialized stories by their favourite authors.

As a household name in publishing and an industry leader in digital adoption, Harlequin understands the importance of ensuring that their brand is as strong online as it is in print.

So, in 2015, they partnered with our team at Iversoft to create Book Breaks — an iOS and Android app that gives romance lovers access to hundreds of free serialized stories by their favourite authors.

New stories are added regularly to keep readers coming back, and users can discover what to read next by selecting a mood category or how much time they want to read.

After years of bringing joy to a growing base of dedicated readers, Harlequin recognized the need to keep pace with new versions of iOS and Android by updating their app. Rather than sticking with the minor fixes many companies limit themselves to, they decided to use the opportunity to increase functionality and generate more revenue.

Their goals? Improve user experience, increase engagement, and introduce monetization.

User Experience

By far, the biggest predictor of user retention in an app is user experience. If features are even slightly difficult to find or understand, well, people have no shortage of other options to kill time. Knowing this, Harlequin wanted UX/UI (user experience and user interface) to be the centrepiece of their update.

However, great functional-design is like world-class cooking; you know when you’re experiencing it, but it doesn’t mean you can do it yourself. I think we’ve all scraped enough burnt bits from our food to know there are certain things we should leave to the professionals.

In need of Michelin-level development skills, Harlequin asked us to cook them up a new version of Book Breaks, optimized for current UX/UI standards. We achieved a cleaner look and feel by moving the navigation bar, clarifying wording, updating content, and redesigning search results.

We were also able to leverage Apple’s Auto Layout updates to better optimize the UI for a variety of screen sizes and improve scalability.

In short, the app is prettier, looks better on more screens, and is easier to update in the future.


Clean, functional design is vital, but it won’t hold a user’s attention for long. Even if you have the Mona Lisa of apps, people could only stare so long before getting bored and asking, ‘what’s next?’

Only one thing keeps users coming back day after day: fresh content.

While Harlequin has always been good at keeping Book Breaks up-to-date, they were spending too much time doing it. We were able to give them more time back in their day by automating random selections of featured content to refresh every 2-3 days.

This automated content can be overridden when they want to promote something specific or feature themed content over the holidays.

To ensure users know when new content is posted, we also created automated push notifications. Like automated content, their push notifications can be sent manually when the Harlequin team wants to alert users of something that isn’t triggered by a change in the app.


At a time when more people expect free downloads but deeply resent ads, finding ways to monetize your app while retaining users can feel like an unwinnable game.

Harlequin initially avoided this challenge in the first version of Book Breaks by forgoing monetization. Instead, they used the app as a top funnel tool to capture information, which was then used to guide readers to products on their website and other eCommerce platforms.

This is a great strategy when you’re launching something new, because it gives early adopters a chance to test the waters without interruption. But as your user base grows and begins to see the value of your app, leaving it un-monetized only cheats your company out of additional revenue.

In the updated version, Harlequin wanted to use data on what users are reading to promote the sale of relevant eBooks within the app. Now when a reader finds a story that interests them, the app suggests paid ebooks by the same (or a similar) author, giving readers a way to instantly fill the void left by their recently finished story.

An easy win!

Want an app users and investors love? Contact us to chat about the best strategy for your goals!

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