Do you have trouble keeping your plants alive? Do you come home one day, see them dying and feel guilty that it’s your fault? Then this app is for you.
Our team was given a unique opportunity to come up with a potential project for an investment client which also adds value to society. Along with my teammates, Shuhan and Nigel, we began to mind map ideas.
Starting out with this project, our team noticed significant opportunities to invest in elder care, urban farming and book-share. We chose elder care as our primary problem space and began work on it. However we were later given a green light for urban farming due to budget and resource constraints.
Although this was a significant shift in work we moved forward by pulling in the idea of care into the urban farming problem space. Our initial hypothesis and problem space with urban farming involved difficulty in maintenance, starting one from scratch and coordinating farm maintenance with others.
However as we began to conduct our user interviews we noticed that people in cities mostly kept personal plants at home rather and avoided the more high maintenance requirements of urban farming. We also tried to connect with urban farms in the city for contextual inquiry however they declined saying they are not in need of our services and we would need to pay to visit their farms. Based on the budget for our project, we didn’t look for more urban farms.
We wanted our research to be focused around the users and so we pivoted to problems faced by urban residents in maintaining plants within their apartments.
We initially started with user interviews to find out their pain points and needs. Next, we set about to begin contextual inquiry. However based on the user interviews we noticed that the timeline of the problem space extended over months so it would not be practical to follow the whole journey of them taking care of a plant. Due to this we decided to ask people stories about their plants. We went to home depot, the garden district and even an apartment to ask people stories regarding their plants.
Hannah and Her Journey
Based on all the observations we came up with our persona Hannah. We also developed a user journey map to better understand her problems.
Synthesis & Problem
After this we started synthesizing the insights using affinity mapping to determine which problem to focus on. From user interviews we found that important items for users were resources where they could get plant information, having ease of maintenance, being able to share plant progress and creating a positive impact through the plants. Contextual inquiry showed us similar insights and also included purchasing requirements that appeared to be another big concern.
Overall, we found a myriad of problems. As we began to synthesize we initially tried to focus on too many problems and the problem statement was too large making it hard to find a focus
We looked at our competitive matrix which we developed during out market research and noticed a significant opportunity in the social sector due to the lack of products and services. From our synthesis we noticed that social help was a big aspect in the problem space. So we decided to focus on it as our central problem and build the solution around it.
People who want to have connection with nature in the city tend to grow plants in their homes. Hannah likes to improve her quality of life with plants and share with her social circle.
How might we help Hannah meet this goal by offering the ability to seek help & information from her friends & family.
However we now had to figure out how to build the product and application and it was unclear and difficult to start from scratch since we had not build a plant application before.
We decided to check out the competition and look at our feature analysis to get inspiration. We also conducted a design studio to brainstorm ideas. Our main studios were based around water, social, maintenance, purchasing, plant, calendar and soil which we found are important based on user research. However we noticed that there are too many features and we can’t focus on all of them.
So we decided to do a MoSCoW to help us prioritize and determine what is most important right now. We focussed on what is essential for Hannah and low effort for the first MVP. Some of these features included being able to save plant information, asking questions to the community, setting up notifications and asking a friend to take care of your plant. Based on our prioritization we began to brainstorm wireframes and started conducting our first test.
After the design studio, we started out with a paper prototype. We wanted to test our concept and its usability so we sketched the designs on paper and tested with 3 users.
We built out a persistent navbar for Hannah for easy of navigation. We gave her a feed, accessed from the home icon, where she can see her community’s plants. The light bulb would lead Hannah to public posts where she can get garden inspirations from the community when starting out. She can add plants, accessed by the ‘+’ screen, so that she can keep track of them. When she has a question she would go to the ask screen, accessed by the ‘?’ to get help. She can also go to her account to view her garden. On the ask screen she would search based on filled in info. Once she gets a new plant she can set up a reminder schedule for it on the plant screen.
When doing usability testing users understood the general idea of the app and thought it was useful. Buy they had confusion navigating. They were not sure what certain icons meant. They also slowed down a lot on the plant page.
To solve users difficulties we decided to redesign the navbar. We removed the inspiration screen since users did not know what it was and they would more easily be able to find inspiration on their feed. We used people icon for the feed to give an intuitive sense of community. We added a young plant icon to symbolize a new plant. We changed the ‘?’ to an ‘i’ for information. To make the plant page simpler for users, we removed the calendar and put it on a different screen. We also removed plant scroll to reduce clutter.
Users had a much better experience with the app after the changes. They understood the purpose of the app and found it to be something they would use and enjoy. However they still had several navigation issues. Some had confusion about the ‘i’ icon because they thought it was only information about the app. When asked to go to their garden they would click on the plant instead of the account icon. Users also wanted some kind of confirmation that their activity was finished.
So we just took those concerns to heart and revised our design. We added a ‘+’ next to the young sapling. Since a lot of users mentioned some form of chat box to ask questions we made a chat box icon for the asks page. We also changed the account icon to a garden to give it a more personal feel. We eased users concerns for notifications by creating an active/inactive state on the activity icons and displaying exclamation alerts.
All users testing our 2nd iteration said they really enjoyed the app. They completed the tasks much faster and found it more intuitive. However it still took them a little while to figure out the purposes of certain icons or certain navigation paths. We felt this was because users were not as familiar with the icons
So on our third iteration we build in more explicit affordances to better communicate the use and navigation. We also created an on-boarding experience to help users get familiarized with the app. So here, on the left, is our on-boarding screen which Hannah will see after the splash screen. It will give her a quick run down of the app’s features. Next to it is the calendar screen where she can set up a schedule for her plants. At the end you see the ask screen where Hannah can ask questions which was a significant need expressed during user interviews.
On our next testing iteration we were pleased to know that KPIs showed a 100% task completion rate and a significant decrease in the error rate.
Please see the video above for our prototype. Here are some of the task we asked users to perform:
- You go to the store and see a plant you like but since you haven’t bought it before you feel unsure. Ask your friends about the plant.
- You bought the plant and take it home. Add it to your app garden and set a watering schedule for it.
- You notice your plant is dying and are very worried. Ask the app about your cactus.
- It’s been a few days and your garden is doing well. Check to see if you need to do anything for your plants today.
- Your boss calls you and tells you that you have to go to Chicago next week. Your neighbor Mary helped you once before when you had to travel. Send your garden information to your neighbor Mary so she can take care of your plants while your gone
On testing our 3rd iteration we found that users completed the tasks much faster. However they still forgot some things as they went through the tasks. For our next steps we would like to incorporate progressive onboarding for better learnability. We want to add a feature to visually track the plant growth and progress, a want mentioned by several users. We’ll be reaching out to possible partners for a team up and of course continue to increase the fidelity and functionality of the prototype.