The Garden Mum

The Design Challenge

A garden, no matter how small it is, requires a lot of care and maintenance ​to keep the plants healthy and happy. Nurturing a plant is like nurturing a child: it needs time, attention, nutrition and healing when sick. A gardener needs the correct information and knowledge at the right time, for plant identification, problem diagnosis and solutions and a detailed planting guide on how to grow different plants in different weather and climatic conditions. 

 

The challenge I tackle in this project is to:
 

Design a mobile (iphone) application for providing accurate plant , weed and insect identification along with automated detailed planting guide and maintenance tasks for each plant. 

Key Drivers of the Challenge

  1. Identification: The users mentioned that they had a very hard time identifying a plant, a weed or an insect. It was difficult to tell whether an unknown plant in their garden was actually a good plant or a weed. It was also difficult to identify insects, bugs etc. that were present on the plants.
     

  2. Plant Health Diagnosis + Solutions: The users also had a tough time finding out what was wrong with their plant. If the plant looked unhappy: Was it lack of nutrition? Was it a disease? Was it an insect infestation? Was the soil being too acidic?
     

  3. Planting Guide + Plant Care Tasks + Notifications: The users found it cumbersome and difficult to keep track of the various phases and the various tasks that were required for the plants to grow and thrive. For example, answers to questions like were difficult to track manually:

    What is the fertilizing schedule for plant A? What is the watering schedule for plant B? When is the right time to prepare the soil bed for plant C? Is it still too cold to sow the seeds for plant D?
     

The Design Process

The various phases followed in the design process and the activities in each phase are illustrated in the image below:

Research

This phase was broken down into the following four activities:

Research

Planning

Research Goals

Types Of Research

Research Participants

Research Timeline

Research

Conducting

Primary Research

Secondary Research

Market Research

Competitive Analysis

Research

Data Collection

Audio Recordings

Detailed Notes

Research Debrief

 

Common User Behavior

Pain Points

Unmet Needs

  1. Research Goals:

    • To understand my users in the role of a gardener and their activities and experiences in the field

    • To understand and study the pain points and unmet needs of the users in their existing process of gardening
       

  2. Types of Research:

    • Empathy Based Primary User Research

    • Secondary Research

    • Competitive / Market Research
       

  3. Research Participants: 

    • Passionate Gardeners who grow various flowering, non flowering, fruit bearing and vegetable crops mostly in different seasons
       

  4. Primary Research:

    • In person interviews in the garden of the users. Walk and Talk!
       

  5. Secondary Research: ​​

    • Study competitor products and websites that provide similar functionalities as the challenge
       

  6.  Research Debrief

    • Organized the primary research data and drew some commonalities, unmet needs and pain points from the same

    • Organized and categorized the secondary research data into strengths and weaknesses for easy comparison

Commonalities between the Users

  1. All the three users are based in Northern California
     

  2. They all can speak, understand and write English fluently
     

  3. They are all passionate gardeners who regularly plant seasonal vegetables, fruits and other plants
     

  4. All the three users have a full time job and family commitments

Research Synthesis

Based on the data that was collected out of the research, an empathy map, a persona and a storyboard were created.

“Remembering the schedules of each plant for watering, fertilizing, pruning is hard when done manually!”

Persona

Empathy Map

Empathy map was created based on the data collected from the research. Direct quotations and statements helped to develop empathy towards the users and their requirements.

“I have to go hunting for information! Combing through several articles, videos and blogs is a time consuming task!”

“My spreadsheets and notes are all half baked products. I cannot keep them updated throughout the entire year.”

Define

How Might We..?

As a very first step towards defining the problem, I came up around fifteen HMW statements based on the results of the research. The top four that I found the most interesting and of greater value are noted here:
 

  1. How might we make the identification of plants, weeds and insects efficient, easy and accurate?
     

  2. How might we provide automated and detailed tasks and notifications and planting guide to the user for each plant in his garden for its care and healthy growth?
     

  3. How might we diagnose the problem(s) with a plant efficiently and accurately?
     

  4. How might we provide accurate and a variety of solutions for the problems the plant is facing?
     

Ideation

I took the first two HMW questions into ideation. 

Crazy 8 technique: With each ideation round lasting for 5 minutes, each idea in a round was sketched in around 40 seconds. With each round, I kept on iterating & improving the previous ideas or came up with totally different ideas.

Story boarding

Information Architecture

Site Map

Next, I initiated the process of structuring and organizing the data the site. The site map evolved and changed as I worked on the wireframes and the high fidelity design. The latest version of the site map is presented below:

Interaction Design

User Flow

The story boarding gave away the user flow of this particular task at hand.

Task: Identify a plant you have in your garden and obtain a planting guide, care tasks and schedule + notifications for the same.

 

The user flow evolved and changed as I worked on the wireframes and the high fidelity design. The latest version of the user flow is presented here.

Wireframes

I referred back to the User Flow and the Site Map constantly throughout the process of creating the wireframes . As they started to develop, I had to go back and iterate over the site map, the user flow and make the necessary changes.

Here is the first iteration of the wireframes. This project being time bound to 80 hours, I could not iterate further on the wireframes. In stead, I iterated on the high fidelity designs couple of times in order to eventually have the design that best satisfied my users.

UI Design

By deeply empathizing with my users, it became very clear that their main source of information was:
 

  1. The books and botanical journals about plants that they issued from the library

  2. The plethora of information that they found from the internet in the form of blogs, videos and tutorials
     

I thought of it as a combination of the older technique of leafing through the pages of botanical journals and books, and the newer technique of querying the internet and receiving information more than one can handle.


For the visual design, I hence decided to go for a theme that reflected a scientific, trustworthy and a modern solution with a feel and the faint smell of those yellowed pages of the botanical journals and library books. The look and feel, even though nostalgic, the user experience of my product will be modern with most trustworthy and accurate the information made available with just a click.

What's in the name?

.....Quite a lot.....

From my research and interviews, my users told me that they often called up their mother back home and discussed gardening. They bonded through their conversations and translated the name of the plants back and forth in their mother tongue and English. Most of the times, the advice and the diagnosis of the problem by their mother was spot on! My users also told me that in gardening, it was the experience and the knowledge that mattered the most! Now, who has the most experience, knowledge and answers to all the questions? In other words, who knows everything? Mum (and Grand Mum)
er, I came up with the name - “The Garden Mum”

Branding and Identity

No Green


I deliberately chose a palette where there is no green. The application is about gardening and plants - however I have not chosen the color green with the basic color palette in order to make it unique and distinct from other gardening applications. Whatever green will be there - will be from the high quality plant pictures that the user clicks or are present in the database.
 

iPhone Application Design Standards

I have attempted to follow the iPhone application design standards. The standard is reflected in the following:

1. The font: The design standards recommended using the SF Pro fonts for the best clarity and readability in an iPhone application.

2. Navigation Bar: The links to navigate through the app i.e. to close the current state or to go back to the previous state are implemented as per the design standards. The page titles on the navigation bar are also given as per the standards

3. Tab Bar: The tab size, distance between them and the label font, size and color are as per the iPhone design standards.

4. Alerts: The two button alerts are designed as per the iPhone application design standard i.e. the text on the alert, the text on the buttons of the alerts etc.

High Fidelity Designs

Application Screens

High Fidelity Prototype

The Garden Mum - Other Features

I had a chance to create detailed design flows for the problems associated with managing tasks and schedules for the plants in the garden. Along with that, I could touch upon a little of the identification feature while adding the plant to the garden.

However there are many other important product features that I had thought through but did not get a chance to design them in the form of screens. In the details below, I have pointed out those product feature highlights that provide solutions to most of the unmet needs and pain points for my users, and which I could not elaborate further in the form of user flows, wireframes and high fidelity screens.

Usability Testing


Task

Use The Garden Mum application to obtain a complete planting guide, care tasks and notifications for a plant in your garden.
 

Testing Goals

To gather data that will serve as an input for the successive design iterations and design decisions to make the design align closely with the end-user’s expectations and requirements.

    1.  To have a list of the user feedback associated to:

      1. Persona pain points that were attempted to be addressed via this design version

      2. Persona unmet needs that were attempted to be addressed via this design version

      3. New user pain points that surface during testing

      4. New user needs that surface during testing

    2. To find out how was the user’s overall experience of using this website with respect to features, interactions, content etc. to complete the task at hand:

      1. Extraordinary: A list of things the user found extraordinary

      2. Normal: A list of things that the user found normal (as in seen in every other clothing website)

      3. Frustrating, Confusing: A list of things that the user found frustrating, confusing or plainly did not like it.

    3. To obtain the end user’s perspective on the application’s LEMErS

    4. To uncover any areas that were not considered as pain points or unmet needs or in general while making design decisions
       

Test Findings

Next Steps

  1. To incorporate the suggestions that were made by my users into the prototype and request next iteration of testing.
     

  2. To design the other features that this product has to offer and eventually becoming ready with the full blown design of the product in its entirety.

Summary

This challenge involved designing a brand new product from the scratch. I had to choose my area of interest and be mindful of the fact that I needed a user base who shared the interest as well as were available to participate in the entire process of design through research, usability testing, feedback and revisions. 

I could find passionate gardeners who served as my users. 

Empathizing with them, and conducting the activities in the Define phase, I could figure out the exact challenge that I was to solve for them. The entire process starting from research to usability testing and feedback was very detailed.

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