A major trend in education over the past few years is for classroom teachers to build a curated collection of book library in their room. Physical books still provide several advantages for early readers, and students having daily access to reading has significant effects on literacy skills. This change is an improvement over relying on periodic trips to a library. However, teachers struggle with losing books and knowing what book students are checking out.

Book Retriever set out to give teachers a tool to check-out books to students so they can track reading progress and reduce lost book rates. The original version of was a simple iOS app that didn’t have enough features and had reliability problems. Alliance Systems was brought in to re-envision the service as a browser-based application.

Alliance Systems Starts with the Model

Even though Book Retriever already existed as an app, we started the project with a fresh approach on the model. Alliance and Book Retriever went through an extensive discovery process to develop new business rules. We recommended that Book Retriever be transformed into a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. A SaaS model using a browser-based application presented many advantages.
  • Teachers wanted a better and feature-rich experience. This required a bigger screen found on computers and tablets.

  • A browser-based platform would be easier to expand and maintain without having to deploy to different mobile platforms.

  • In addition to the platform benefits, the SaaS model would allow for recurring revenue and upsells for advanced tiers.

Production Begins with a Branding Refresh

As the product was vastly changing, the team dived into a complete branding refresh. Different names for the platform were discussed, but we decided to stick with Book Retriever. There was an established userbase with the iOS app and the Book Retriever name still felt relevant. The old logo and branding elements were completely scrapped.
A completely new branding packaged was developed including logo, mark, colors and imagery. The target market was clear. The teachers using the platform would largely be female school teachers between the ages of 25-40. Students would be exposed to the platform as well, so it was important the branding fit for them as well.
  • Mark was designed as a hand-drawn illustration to convey approachability and fun. This mark was important as it serves as the identifying icon in app stores.

  • Font was selected for its clean setting with rounded corners. The corners give the font a bit of playfulness that works for the customer persona.
Purple and color were chosen based on profiles. The purple leans feminine but is not overwhelming. The blue is a great accent that works well as a spot color.
Marketing images, styles and slogans were carefully chosen to be friendly, show the excitment of children learning to read, and to clearly explain the product benefits.

Custom MVP Platform is Developed

The Book Retriever MVP platform was composed of two development tracks. The first was the core browser-based platform. The development team began by working on bulding the database infrastructure and front-end views. The backend end of the application included the integration of several different severs and processes to manage book data integrations, image management and code base. Each of these integrations had to tie together into one API. The front-end team worked with the UI/UX team to develop wireframes and UI comps to turn into real working screens.

The second track was to design and develop mobile apps for the book scanning. It was determined that to scan the book barcodes effectively, a mobile app that utilizes the device’s camera was necessary. The app was developed for iOS, Android and Kindle devices. The mobile app ties into the main platform API and includes the ability for the device to be locked into student mode. This mode gives the teacher the ability to turn a device over to their students so the students can scan themselves and not touch other parts of the application.


  • Integration with book data API that queries over 6 million records

  • CDN development so book covers load quickly

  • Scalable framework to allow for large growth in users

  • Mobile App development for iOS, Android, and Kindle devices

  • Completely custom UI for application and mobile apps.

  • Single-Sign-On (SSO) integration with third-party services

Success from MVP Launch to Expanded Platform

The Minimal Viable Product (MVP) launch of Book Retriever was a huge success. Old users were transitioned to the new platform including a migration of their old libraries and new users joined daily. Alliance Systems later expanded the platform to include an advanced version for entire districts and schools that included Single-Sign-On methods. The feedback from users was incredibly positive. Teachers loved the web-based versions as it was easier to manage their library and the new features gave them new teaching tools.

Alliance and Book Retriever set out to make the lives of teachers easier and reduce the number of lost books. A survey of users found that most teachers went from losing an average of 20% of their book to under 5% by using the platform. But not only did the platform save teachers money, the survey produced feedback that students were more engaged in reading. The platform’s easy to use UI and rich features makes the checkout process fun for students and easier to match students with the right book. Book Retriever is making a real impact on literacy.