A case study for a digital product that helps users learn how to grow their own food
GRO is an educational tool that takes the effort and confusion out of home growing produce to provide enjoyable experiences for beginners. GRO does all the research, planning, and scheduling in order to provide personalized recommendations to users.
GRO is a UX Design Project that I completed, from ideation to execution, during my UX Design Diploma Program at BrainStation.
For this project, I was given the opportunity to focus on an problem space that interested me. So, my first task was to find a problem.
Find a Problem
I noticed that I have had an interest in food gardening for many years, yet I have never followed through with it. So I did some research to see if this was also true for other people, turns out I’m not the only one. What is preventing so many people from home growing food, and how can I create a solution?
1. Learn about a new topic
2. Focus on a topic with positive implications (environment, physical and mental health)
3. Home growing food is a growing trend (National Gardening Survey, 2015 & 2019)
What are Current Deterrents?
What are Current Solutions?
There are several current solutions that provide gardening help. However, they currently aren't providing optimized experiences for beginners.
Features are not geared towards beginners
Information is overwhelming or confusing
Plant or climate data is not available for Canadian hardiness zones
Limited plant selection
Does not increase time efficiency for users
"If you try to create a product that is for everyone, you end of creating a product that is for no one."
- Everyone, All The Time
Define the Problem Space
Adults 18–35 who work an average 40 hour work week are unable to find the time and motivation to start growing their own food. The amount of time and effort that is currently required to learn to garden deters professionals from pursuing the activity, despite their interest.
Why This Target Audience?
Age group with the most rapid increase in home growing produce (National Gardening Survey 2015 & 2019)
Assumption: Younger adults are still figuring out their ideal routines and are open to new opportunities to change
40 Hour Work Week
Assumption: Likely to be too busy to spend time needed to learn, research and plan for a successful garden
Assumption: Likely to have enough free time to do the physical requirements of gardening (watering, plants etc.)
Interested in Food Gardening
Solution is not meant to entice currently uninterested individuals. It is meant to assist and motivate those who are already interested in gardening.
How Might We?
How might we create an educational tool that removes barriers and increases enjoyment for professionals who want to start growing their own food?
Primary Research Insights
I conducted an online survey and in-person interviews to gain insights into the motivations, challenges and behaviours of non-gardeners, that are interesting in gardening. The following is a summary of those insights.
Using insights from my interviews and survey responses, I created my primary persona.
Current Experience of Primary Persona
I outlined the current experience of my primary persona, starting with realizing that they have an interest in growing their own food. Currently, the experience often ends with the individual not following through with their interest.
Areas of Opportunity
1. Make the research and planning process less time consuming
2. Provide options that fit the individual user’s needs and limitations
3. Educate users without overwhelming them
What Are My Constraints?
Easy to understand education on how to plant and maintain crops based on users needs and abilities.
Once a user has signed up for the product, they will create their first customized garden plan so that they can receive information and reminders that they need to be successful.
Initial Task Flow
This task flow was later changed to reflect insights found through usability testing of the mid-fidelity prototype.
I had a good idea of what I wanted the app experience to be like for a user once they've set up their garden(s) in the app.
The task flow for a user to set up a garden plan, was something that took a little longer to figure out. My initial inspiration came from Pinterest - where gardens would be treated like "boards" and individual plants would be treated like "pins". A user could create new gardens and save plants to those gardens, much like a Pinterest user adding a pin to a board. A user could like on a garden and see what plants are saved to it, the same as with a board. However, gardens would have an additional feature, of being able to plan a garden layout with the plants saved to that garden. This is where my plan would later prove to be problematic.
Medium Fidelity Wireframes
Through four rounds of usability testing (five tests per round), several important changes were made.
Most Significant Change
1. Garden size was initially unlimited.
2. You could initially save an unlimited number of plants to a garden, since you save the plants before creating the layout.
1. The user would need to define the size of the garden before adding plants. With a maximum size of 20 feet (6 metres).
2. The plants would now be auto-populated into your garden layout based on which and how many plants are selected. If a user tries to add plants that don’t fit, a modal will pop-up letting the user know that they must remove plants before they can add the new plant.
Additional Change to Task Flow
Users can now choose to:
a. Start from scratch - selecting their own plants (and their quantities), which the app will auto-populate into a toscale layout of their garden
b. Start from a template - entering details about their needs and limitations, which the app will use to create a customized garden plan that the user can later edit
Why Add This Feature?
Selecting the option that allows the app to provide a customized garden suggestion, saves the user a lot of time. This option prevents them from needing to browse plants to find what works best for them, since many beginners don't know what to plant yet. For users that want to have more control over which plants are in their garden, they have the option to edit the suggested garden or create their own.
New Primary Task Flow
High Fidelity Prototype
Why Not Green?
1. 89% of gardening applications use green as their primary colour.
2. Plants and produce are more than just green.
Additional Design Decisions
1. Material Design Guidelines
2. Perceived Cuteness
3. Strategic Use of Brand Colours
4. Graphical Representations of Produce
Material Design Guidelines
For the scope of this project, I needed to create an app design that fit with my personal smartphone in order to demonstrate the end product on my phone. Since I have a Google Pixel, I chose to create an android app that follows material design guidelines. In order to include iPhone users in the future, I would alter this to create an agnostic design or I would create a second version of this design that follows Apple's Human Interface Guidelines.
Several psychological studies provide evidence that perceived cuteness increases an individual’s motivation to continuously care for something. Through further research, I discovered how to include elements of this into my design. That said, I would need to do my own user study to determine if including elements of perceived cuteness in my product actually impacts my users' motivation.
Strategic Use of Brand Colours
Considering the extensive amount of colour in the content, I wanted to ensure I was not overwhelming the user with colour. For this reason, you can see the brand’s primary and accent colours injected into the designs in a minimal and strategic way.
Illustrated Representations of Produce
In order to avoid influencing the users perception of any specific produce, illustrated representations were used. This way users can use the images as visual clues, but not comparative models for what the produce “should” look like. Additionally, this allows for the inclusion of perceived cuteness design techniques. Due to the short time frame, I did not create the graphics myself, however given more time, I would. The current produce illustrations were created by Freepik.
High Fidelity Prototype
Can be used on any device with a web browser
Larger screen possibilities for viewing garden layout plans
Includes additional features, such as blog articles and advice articles
Future users are more likely to find product when using a search engine to look for specific gardening advice (Due to relevant blog and advice articles on the site)
User can enjoy the benefits of the product without commiting to downloading an app
Approximately 50% of North Americans use iPhones. By providing an application that's available for iPhones as well as Androids, doubles the number of people that can use the product.
Access to Plant and Weather Data
Need access to plant and climate data
Need access to plant data for every location that a user could input into the application
Will likely need to begin with a focus on only one geographic zone (and thus the product is only available in that area), and then continue to acquire more data as product popularity grows
Amount of data needed for this high level of personalization and customization is likely to be expensive
Opportunity: as the number of users grow, there is a possibility for plant data to be collected from the app
Possibilities for Producing Revenue
Sponsored Products (Seeds, Equipment, Fertilizer etc.)
Building Our Own Line of Products
Selling Plant Data (If product produces useful data)
I believe providing inexperienced gardeners with an an easy to use educational tool will change the view of gardening from a confusing and effortful experience to one of enjoyment.
I will know this is true when I see a quantitative uptake in gardening and a decrease in reported challenges and constraints from individuals using my digital solution.
If you want to learn more about this project, please contact me.
Or check out one of my other projects by clicking the links below.