Research, Prototype, User Testing
2 months - Aug 2016 - Oct 2016
Whether developing the habit of watering plants regularly, making a decision to purchase a plant in a store, or learning how to care for a plant so that it will thrive, Plant Care App sets users up for success. Users can choose plants to match their environment and lifestyle while intuitively accessing knowledge and gaining confidence for growing that will last a them lifetime.
Numerous studies have shown growing plants indoors has emotional, psychological and physical benefits. Many people are interested in growing plants, yet they are not taking the steps to start acquiring plants and caring for them. How do we empower people to start and sustain a healthy life-long relationship with plants?
PLANTS HELP TO CONTROL HUMIDITY
Most people in urban environments spend the majority of their time indoors. The modern interior is a mixture of construction materials and synthetic furnishings which release harmful substances. These pollutants are then perpetuated by central heating and air conditioning, re-circulating increasingly contaminated air.
A natural way to counteract this effect is by growing indoor plants which purify the air while providing numerous other benefits as well. Plants tend to control the level of humidity within the optimum range, an often overlooked factor to human health. Plants in hospital recovery rooms can also help patients heal faster.
PLANTS DECREASE STRESS AND INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY
Plants absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen can decrease stress while increasing concentration and productivity by as much as 15%. People who spend time around plants tend to have better relationships with others due to measurable increases in feelings of compassion.
The act of cultivating plants reduces stress and even has a therapeutic effect for those who have undergone trauma. The act of nurturing channels stress and provides a way to work through traumatic events and improve their mental health.
With all these reports of indoor plants benefiting health and wellness, why is it not more common to have houseplants? Is there a way to encourage people to grow plants and assist them in maintaining this healthy practice long term?
The majority of current competitor apps and platforms are created for experienced growers, and as a result are either too broad in scope or too vague in direction.
None of the apps have a discovery feature, in essence functioning only to a more limited degree with only a users current knowledge of types of plants available at the start.
Interview subjects are growing plants predominantly for beauty and occasionally for function. They are trying to troubleshoot when something goes wrong usually by referencing a book, occasionally going online, or asking others for advice and insight.
They seem motivated by experiences that have influenced them in the the past and by the search for similar experiences, particularly beauty and transformation.
INDOOR PLANTS FOR GREATEST INDIVIDUAL BENEFITS
While the act of gardening itself is beneficial, whether indoors or outdoors, the decision was to focus on indoor plants, empowering users to grow plants indoors where they spend the most time, and where the presence of plants will have the most personal impact. Indoor gardening also presents a few different considerations compared to outdoor gardening. Narrowing the breadth of information that users sort through makes the overall experience less overwhelming.
EMPOWERING BEGINNER & INTERMEDIATE GROWERS
While users of any growing level can benefit from using this app and growers will always be a beginner when learning to care for different plant species, the focus of this app was also narrowed to beginner and intermediate levels. These are users who like the idea of growing plants, but are intimidated by the amount of information they don’t know or are too busy to independently acquire this information. These users are the ones seeking the most guidance and support as they improve their knowledge and skills.
MOBILE APP FOR ACCESSIBILITY
The goal is to create a platform that integrates with the user's busy lifestyle and encourages growing plants in all the indoor spaces where they are living and working. Taking a page from other approachable and accessible, lifestyle integrated apps, the user interface integrates inspiration from commonly used relationship apps and lifestyle behavior tracking apps. Much more than just a database, Plant Care App is a companion app focused on plant matching and discovery, plant care, as well as integrated learning customized to the users’ environment and lifestyle preferences.
MEET THE PERSONA
28 years old
Works at a tech startup...yup
"Minimum input for maximum output"
Behaviors & Habits
Terry grows a variety of houseplants and herbs. His parents used to grow some vegetables and flowers in their garden in the suburbs. Terry now lives and works in a city and does not have much outdoor space to grow plants. Having the experience of eating very fresh produce, he attempts to recreate his past experiences by purchasing fresh food from farmers markets, or using a grocery delivery company and adding his own home grown herbs when he cooks.
He occasionally has guests over for dinner parties and enjoys the way plants brighten up his apartment. He leads a social, active lifestyle, and has limited time to take care of his plants. He takes weekend trips and occasionally travels for 1 to 2 weeks at a time.
He also has a cat, Mo.
Stories, Scenarios & Frustrations
He researches plants online, sometimes purchasing his plants online. Seeing his small growing collection, his friends sometimes give him plants as gifts. Terry sometimes does not know how to care for the gifted plant which can lead to the plant dying or not growing well at all. With his traveling, he has left his plants in the care of his housemate, but the plants suffer a little since his housemate is not as familiar with plant care. Sometimes a plant is beyond saving when he returns from his trip. Terry is busy so he delays repotting and fertilizing his plants or doing the maintenance needed to keep the plants growing optimally. He sometimes forgets to water certain plants and constantly feels bad when a plant is on the verge of dying. He is often perplexed as to why a plant has stopped growing well.
Needs, Problems & Goals
Needs an easy way to find information on how to take care of his plants. A way to decide quickly and efficiently if the plant will grow well in his apartment. An intuitive and comprehensive solution to troubleshooting care for his plant if something goes wrong. A way to keep his plants healthy while he is away from home or traveling.
EDUCATING USERS vs. ADDING A LIGHT SENSOR FEATURE
While a light sensor to gauge the level of light available for growing plants was a pleasant surprise to most users, the minimum viable product did not require this advanced function. A simple solution was to inform users about differences in light depending on the direction the window is facing in order to make an educated estimate for the light available at that location.
INTEGRATING OTHER SOCIAL PLATFORMS vs. ADDING A SOCIAL FEATURE
A social feature was not deemed necessary after initial rounds of user testing for a minimum viable product. From a troubleshooting standpoint it seemed more necessary for experienced growers with more obscure issues difficult to solve with a simple search. From a social sharing standpoint, an integrated forum feature within the app was unnecessary at this point. A simple solution was to share to other social platforms like Instagram or Facebook.
LEARNING AT YOUR OWN PACE
The app's default sets up plant care routines at a basic sustainable level. There is the option for users to learn more about growing to help plants thrive as they use the app.
Information and learning opportunities are integrated into the app where users may encounter unfamiliar information or terms, and now have the option to learn more at their own natural pace.
ON-BOARDING IN SECTIONS
To make the customization of the app experience perceptibly less tedious, on-boarding was separated into two sections, for the initial app set up and later on when adding individual indoor gardens within the home or other indoor location.
WATERING IS A FREQUENT TASK
Watering is the most frequent plant care action, and there are many watering methods a grower may use. The floating action button hovering over every garden page makes recording this common task accessible and easy.
DISCOVERIES IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND
Many growers have the experience of buying a plant and watching it it wither and die in a week. There is a fear that the new is unpredictable, and thus the big world of indoor plants out there remains untouched. The discovery feature takes a page from Instagram a social visual app and Hinge, a relationship matchmaker app, helping users find and learn about different plants that they would be able to grow without having to worry about whether their environment or lifestyle would suit the plant.
The search feature gives users the option to search for plants suitable for a specific indoor garden location, by specific preference filters, or by name or image if they already own the plant or are considering acquiring the plant. Once the plant page is selected, the app can also highlight suitability of the plant to the users lifestyle and make suggestions to improve the compatibility of their environment to the plants’ needs if necessary.
WATERING IS A FREQUENT ACTION
Watering is the most frequent plant care action, and there are many watering methods a grower may use. The floating action button hovering over every garden page makes logging this common task accessible and easy.
Another helpful feature to explore would be simply sharing your garden and it's care needs with a "plant sitter" when traveling for longer periods of time. A complex list of explanations is no longer necessary.
MED-HI FIDELITY: PLANT PAGE & NOTES/TAGS
VISUAL NOTE TAKING
Rather than offer beginner users a blank page for their notes, Plant Care App takes a page from Clue, the menstrual cycle tracking app, allowing users to track observations and actions they have performed with a tap of an icon while also offering the option to learn more about other observations they can make and extra tasks they can perform to help their plant thrive.