Canadian Bookshelf

In 2010, Turner-Riggs Workspace came to LiFT with a challenging business idea. They wanted to create a simple online destination site that would showcase every book written by Canadians: roughly 80,000 books in their estimation! In showcasing the books, they wanted to foster the existing communities that were already discussing these books and also provide quick access to purchase books. The site launched with 40,000 listed books, and continues to grow towards the goal of listing every Canadian book.

This project’s focus was not on selling books but rather on the enjoyment and community around books. These objectives were somewhat liberating as there was less of a priority on the buying call-to-action.


As is the case with many of our projects Haig immediately raised concerns that there was no brand for the project. We needed a brand that would be strong enough to carry the new website where it desired to go and resonate with all types of users. We often run into this situation where the identity takes a backseat to the business goals of a project, which is a huge risk for a variety of reasons that you can read more about if you’re interested in diving deeper.

Knowing there there was a huge community around discussing books and creating reading lists, we needed to incorporate a friction-less method for balancing the presentation of the curated book content and fostering the community to drive user-generated content.


This project was slightly different in that Turner-Riggs had worked through much of the high level strategy as a necessary component of their business plan and funding proposal. That said, we are comfortable embracing an existing strategy, iterating upon it and unpacking the details to get down to an appropriate scope of features for the project.

Turner-Riggs really wanted to make the site feel big and convey the massive amount of content offered on the website, but not at the expense of the user experience. It’s our practice to minimize and simplify most patterns for navigating through content but in this case it was a worthy reason for taking the approach of conveying the density of the content available, while still making it easy to navigate and find what visitors are looking for. In their minds, the site is a massive library of content, much like a New York Public Library rather than a local public library that you might find in smaller towns.

Brand Identity

As mentioned above, establishing the brand was a critical first step in the success of this project. It was not part of the initial project scope but the Turner-Riggs folks were open to the discussion and realized the importance of that solid first layer of foundation that the rest of the overall experience would be built upon. We began the process with a familiar first step of generating multiple mood boards to explore aspects of the brand identity that would be suitable for this audience. The direction was to create a brand that conveyed the dimensions of information stored over time via books and express the intangible elements of books being experienced outside it’s traditional 2d manifestation.

UX + Interface Design

From the assessment and research we knew that the book detail pages were going to be packed with information. Knowing that all of the book detail information would indicate the complexity of the organization above it we worked from the ground up and started with the book detail page. The view is comprised of elements that had to meet the needs of librarians using the site as a daily reference and encouraging public users to leverage the site for engaging in conversation about the book. Because of their daily use it was very important to incorporate the traditional cataloging systems that librarians are familiar with when finding books in a massive library collection.

The homepage design embraced a balanced approach to highlighting book content in relationship to the desire to also introduce the regular blog posts coming from the Canadian Bookshelf staff and user activity around specific titles. Multiple image carousels were used on the home page to confine the core book content to the section “above the fold” and subsequently placed the blog post feature in a prominent position in the 2nd tier of content on the page.

The navigation
was organized into four key content sections to browse by:
Category / Author / Recommended Reading / Blog


The original editorial program has ramped up nicely over the summer as well so you can see that part of the site rounding out a bit as well and we now have more than 40,000 books on the site. Thought you guys might like to see how well the interface design is working with all of these bits and pieces coming together.
Awesome job. – Craig Riggs


For this project, the client already had a development partner (mugoweb) arranged that they had worked with before. LiFT provided fully functional HTML page templates integrated with jQuery. The dev team then integrated the templates with the back end database and server architecture.