Urban Botanist

With the increase of urban living and little to no outdoor space, more people are looking to bring the garden inside. Not only are plants visually beautiful, connecting us to nature but they are good for our health. Horticulture reference can be overwhelming with jargon and tradition.

The Urban Botanist app allows the user to build a personal plant collection, offering reminders and guidelines to help make the plants flourish.

PLANT CARE APP

My Role: User Research, Product Design, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Branding, UI Design.


TASK

Create an app that acts as a gardening companion with tips and reminders on how to care for your plant. The key is to offer an approachable personalized experience, using common language, with a clean and fresh design.

4 week (20 hour/week) design sprint.

Research, Define, Design, Test were all allocated a week with a human centered design approach to reduce risk and uncertainty. 

APPROACH

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RESEARCH

Competitive analysis revealed numerous plant databases, plant identifiers, watering reminders and even magazine style apps with libraries of potential projects. Basic plant reminders offered little to keep the user engaged with the app on a long term basis, while project based feeds covered so many topics that they became overwhelming. The challenge was to find a middle ground that answered the needs of the indoor gardener with flexibility to personalize and provide information in a language the user could understand.

During the research phase I started collecting some references as discussed. I looked at plant apps as well as tracking apps. I will be returning to this once I get into the design phase, but this is helpful when generating ideas.

Secondary research confirmed the increased trend in gardening, with more than a third of millennials growing plant and herbs indoors. Projections estimate that by 2050 87.4% of the population will be living in urban areas and anxiety will be the number 1 health issue, outranking obesity. With the benefits of plants for relaxation and air purity, millennials are becoming the leading group in the horticulture business.

This research informed the user group I wished to target for the app; millennials aged 22-35.

Looking to uncover how and why millennials find out information about plant care, I conducted some empathy interviews with a small group of participants aged 22-35. These not only confirmed the growing interest but the pitfalls of indoor gardening. Key insights included;

  • Participants were more likely to look for care information when something goes wrong, otherwise they rely heavily on intuition and trial and error.

  • Participants enjoy discussing their plants, turning to experts at the nursery, youtube and internet searches for specific questions.

  • Participants want to care for these living things but aesthetics rule everything including placement and whether to save a sick plant.

 Secondary and Empathy research revealed three different levels of gardeners who all have slightly differing needs.

Secondary and Empathy research revealed three different levels of gardeners who all have slightly differing needs.

 

Informed by the research, three personas were created capturing the various stages of the user journey with gardening. While they shared many needs and frustrations, it became apparent that the app would need to have the flexibility to keep all users engaged.

  • The Beginner: Grateful when the plant stays alive.

  • The Novice: Has a number of plants, but relies heavily on guess work and looking up information when things go wrong.

  • The Hobbyist: Understands the needs of their plants through a lot of trial and error and enjoy sharing what they learned with others.


DEFINE

Reflecting on the research, I identified the following opportunities;

  • Care reminder tool to reduce cognitive load

  • Quick reference to when things go wrong to avoid frustrating searches

  • Use common language - people are not looking to learn scientific names in order to have a thriving plant

  • Plant Identifier; people don’t remember the name of the plants

  • Inspiration and guidance on plant placement; room & lighting conditions

  • Tips, tricks and tutorials on gardening basics to improve skill level

  • Include a social aspect; people like talking about their plants

  • Badges for plant care/plant, ownership/expert level

  • Link to expert advice, local nurseries and plant suppliers

The challenge in this design sprint was to focus my attention on a realistic first release. By creating a list of ideal features, I prioritized each one until I settled on an achievable goal; building your personal plant collection linked to reminders, suggested care and inspirational resources.

I worked on the visualizing these features by developing a site map, task flow and user flow simultaneously in order to form a better overview and understanding of how all of the components would work together.

SITEMAP.png
 Task flow for adding a plant to the users collections would help define the wireframe screens and my usability testing.

Task flow for adding a plant to the users collections would help define the wireframe screens and my usability testing.


During the research phase, I also started mood boarding reference from both plant and task tracking apps, looking at design patterns for inspiration.

The time restraint meant focusing on the task flow of adding a new plant to the users collection and informing the key screens for the sprint. Working quickly with pencil and paper, I was able to get an overview of the app and make changes both to the flow and visual language, looking to create a balance between the flow, visual nature of the app and educational aspect.

Faced with designing my first app, I began by referencing the iOS style guide of the iphone X to create a solid base to work from. This allowed me to place the navigation with confidence.

DESIGN

 Pencil and paper wireframes allow for freedom to experiment and adjust designs quickly; not becoming fixed on one idea.

Pencil and paper wireframes allow for freedom to experiment and adjust designs quickly; not becoming fixed on one idea.

 Hand drawn wireframes of login, my plants and plant schedule

Hand drawn wireframes of login, my plants and plant schedule

 Translation of wireframes from pencil/paper to digital in the Sketch app. Referencing the iOS style guide, I was able to set up key navigation quickly and with confidence.

Translation of wireframes from pencil/paper to digital in the Sketch app. Referencing the iOS style guide, I was able to set up key navigation quickly and with confidence.


Imagery was key and I wanted to continue this drive to create a calming and soothing experience; an antidote for the growing anxiety trends revealed in the research. The research also revealed the users desire to use gardening as interior design element which highlighted the lack of sophistication in the designs of the competitors.

Like a home, each user has their own unique collection and I wanted this to shine through. By keeping the colours relatively neutral and complimentary to various shades of green, I chose grey and blue as the brands colours.

BRAND &

UI DESIGN

 Organic, calm, soft and simplicity were key to the branding on Urban Botanist.

Organic, calm, soft and simplicity were key to the branding on Urban Botanist.

 Initial journal sketches

Initial journal sketches

 Further digital exploration with colour and shape

Further digital exploration with colour and shape

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 UI Kit based on the branding

UI Kit based on the branding

 

Rolling out the branding across the wireframes demonstrated that the plants colour and texture really shone through. This first version was used to create a high fidelity prototype in inVision for usability testing.

 UI rolled out across the task flow of adding a plant to the users personal collection.

UI rolled out across the task flow of adding a plant to the users personal collection.


Usability testing came late in the process due to the time restraint and priority to have a high-fidelity solution at the end of the sprint.

Focusing on my persona: the novice gardener (in the middle of the three), I conducted usability testing with a small group hoping to validate my design choices and highlight pain points in both the user flow and design.

The interviews were conducted in person, allowing me to observe their reactions and body language, in addition to the screen and words they spoke. The participants were asked to perform three tasks;

  • Add a new plant to their personal collection by taking a photo

  • Reviewing their care schedule and marking a task as complete

  • Locating a plant’s information to determine whether it was pet safe

From the raw data, an affinity map helped isolate the key issues that were were high in severity and frequency. 

TEST

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The testing revealed that the user liked the flexibility of adding a variety of reminders and recommendations specific to the plant. What was interesting while reviewing the plant care schedule and marking a task as complete, all of the users attempted to click on the task first before swiping. I had referenced this design pattern in many tools including mail, so was surprised by the results. Speaking to the participants further about this, it revealed they were looking for more information on the task and anticipated further details to pop up.

 

As more people look to incorporate plants in their homes, Urban Botanist offers a companion to guide the user through the care process, learning to keep plants alive and grow confidence in their skill level and try new things.

To complete the first release, I would look at building out the tutorials (including when things go wrong), achievement badges and user profiles.

Beyond this release, this project offers further development, allowing users to connect directly through an online community, creating an avenue for asking questions, sharing their experiences and forming supportive social networks. 

Most importantly there would be more testing. Ideally, testing would have started with the paper prototype in order to have faster iterations and evolution of the product. As it stands, when testing the high-fidelity prototype, I received some reluctance to comment on something at that stage.

CONCLUSION

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