This is a story about choices. That’s how I think about it. As a bootcamp student, you’re asked to come up with a new product for your UX/UI final project, and you’re given freedom to choose. Freedom to choose the topic, the methodology, the tools. The only think that’s given to you is a pretty tight one deadline: in 2 weeks, you must be able to come up with a final product.
And all of a sudden you understand that all that freedom comes with a price. As every other MVP ever built, there’s just not enough time to do everything you thought of, all those brilliant ideas you had. You must choose.
Luckily for you, there’s a way. A simple way, yet is not always take into account.
Ask your (future) users.
In this project, I followed the Design Thinking approach. To show the final result, I recorded a user flow consisting on:
- buying a plant
- learning how to take care of it
- sharing a problem the plant has and getting advice about it
After seeing the final result, let’s dig deeper into the process that led to it.
When I started working on my final project, I only had one idea in mind. A sentence I’ve been hearing from different people, in different contexts, over and over again.
“My plants always die”.
So I focused my research on understanding people’s main pain points related to plants. I sent a survey to everyone I knew and I posted it on plant-related forums. I got around 80 answers and some clear insights.
93% have plants at home or would like to have
So plant lovers all around, right? But:
Also, I got a lot of interesting information from the interviews. Plants seems to be almost a must for a lot of people, making their homes “feel warmer and more alive”. But while they’re enthusiastic when buying the plants, they’re also messy when taking care of them.
“Before buying the plants I already know I’m going to kill them”
The problem seems to be that plant buyers don’t get enough information about how tot take care of the plants when they buy them. Only 18% ask at the store, while 15% just waters them and see how they do.
“Just give me clear instructions, then I think I can manage”
On the other hand, 50% of the people do some research on the internet about the plant’s needs, but most of the times they wait until the plant has some kind of problem.
“When I look on the internet I’m never sure if the advice they give relates to my location or my plant’s problem. The more I look the more contradictory advices I get, so I end up doing nothing”
All this lack of clear information or the fact that is very time consuming to get to it leads to frustration feelings when the plant dies or doesn’t look very good.
“It’s sad for me if t the plant dies after putting all the effort.”
So from all the research information I gathered, I could see the problem I’d need to address was:
People who like plants need help taking care of them because they feel bad when their plants die.
It was time to put some order to all the research insights I got. A great tool to use is an affinity diagram. The affinity diagram helps you organize related facts into groups.
From those groups it’s easier to come up with features that you think your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should have. If in doubt about the importance of the features, I have found the MoSCoW method useful for categorizing them into Must, Should, Could and Won’t.
The main features that seemed to be aligned best with the research were:
- Help users when they’re choosing a plant. Give them recommendations based on location, plant’s placements and needs. Assume the user knows nothing about plants when giving them those suggestions.
- Provide clear, handy information about taking care of plants. It needs to be right there, don’t make users go and find it.
- Give users a community to turn to. A common complaint I heard on the interviews was “I always end up calling my mum when I have some trouble with plants”. Let’s encourage users to help each other and give them some reward when they do.
Ideate & test & again
The first step in the ideation process is usually to come up with some ideas, the more the better, by using a brainstorming technique like the Crazy 8’s. More useful when in a group, what I did instead was testing paper prototypes right away.
1) The store (“Help users when they’re choosing a plant”)
The first thing I worked on was the plant store. I couldn’t think about a new product and not find a way for it to make money, so what I decided was that Plant Hero would sell plants but would put emphasis on recommending the right plants depending on the users needs.
For doing that I would use:
- Filters: to show only certain plants depending on location and plant’s needs
- Easy, visual tips about the plant’s needs: water and sun icons would show at a glance what kind of plant you were looking at
- Familiar shop process: with standard components and steps, so it looked similar to buying other things people are used to buy online.
2) The Plant tutorials (“Information about taking care of plants”)
My research showed that people were enthusiastic when buying plants but then didn’t have much idea about how to take care of them. Some of the plants can survive a messy owner but most of them end up dying. So right after buying a plant, Plant Hero offers you some tips and tutorials for taking care of the plant you just bought.
3) The community (“Give users a community to turn to”)
I had an initial idea where people could check other people’s plants and rate them. The goal was to motivate people to take care of their plants and both the rater and the rated user would receive some rewards (points, discounts for the store…).
I made some prototypes and tested, but the results were not encouraging. People wondered why users with not-so-good looking plants would bother to post a picture of them. Also, if a small reward was involved, how easy would it be to cheat by taking pictures or plant’s that are not yours in order to get rewarded.
So I dropped the idea and instead designed a profile where you could share your plant’s pictures and any problems you had with them and get advice from other users.
To keep the idea of motivation through reward, I have an idea that would reward users that give good and useful advice to others.
The users that ask for help to the community have an option to show that a particular piece of advice from another user has been helpful to them. When they click on the “thanks” link, the user that gave the advice gets a small reward. I still need to work on it, my first idea is that it could be a small discount for the store. In that way, the reward could lead to another purchase at the store, keeping the user engaged.
The biggest lesson I learned while working on this project is that you need to careful consider which type of product you’re building, and why. Blinded by the popularity of native apps, I didn’t give enough thought to the idea that my product would probably work better as a responsive website. Studies show that people only use a handful of apps and uninstall apps regularly because they don’t use them anymore.
Usually people download and, most important, keep apps they use regularly. I can’t say that buying a plant, learning how to take care of them and posting doubts about it it’s a frequent activity a user might do.
Another learned lesson is that, if I ever want to design a native app again, I should be more aware of the Design Guidelines that already exist, be it the HIG or the Material Guidelines. I should try to use native components unless there is a very, very good reason not to do so.
I can’t wait to start on a new project and prove myself that those are lessons that I learned and I will be fully aware of them next time!
Thanks to Patricia Merino for letting me use her picture on the testing section
Credit for the illustrated icons: https://www.flaticon.com/authors/freepik
Credit to you, reader, and thank-you for your time reading this article!
I appreciate your feedback, be it a clap, a comment or a plant. They’re all welcome! 🙂