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UX CASE STUDY

Plant Bounty

Role:
UX Designer
User Researcher

Tools:
Figma , UX pin , Adobe illustrator Blender 

Time Frame:
4 Weeks

Contributors:
1 UX Researcher
1 UX Designer

About:
Plant bounty is an android app aimed to facilitate indoor gardening

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INTRODUCTION


Plant Bounty is a digital solution I developed after studying the indoor and home-gardening habits of over 50 users. I took the role of sole user experience designer in this project with inputs from various design mentors .

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original illustrations designed using illustrator - Ganesh

What was the inspiration behind plant bounty ?

Well! time for a backstory , I used to be an avid gardener and had close to 12 plants in my home during my sophomore year , however as I started working on internships and full time jobs I lost track of my gardening schedules and one fine day , after I returned from an office trip ,  I was shocked to see that most of my plants had dried up. Unfortunately , I couldn't save all my plants in time. That was the backstory , I hate to end stories on a sad note so I hope that this digital solution serves as the happy ending that this story deserves.

DESIGN PROCESS

User Research

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Secondary Research


Collected data and insights to deepen my understanding of the problem space

Narrowed down the scope of the problem space and defined primary goal

Conducted offline and online surveys

Identified Target Segments

Conducted User Interviews

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Analysis and Ideation

Analyzed information collected from User Research

Defined user personas

Defined and studied Customer Journey Map

Plant

Deeply studied the pain point , needs and goals

Created an affinity map to organize info and ideate features

Confirmed features with potential users

4 Iterative design and Development

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Designed Wireframes

Storyboarding

Studied Various Cultural theories including Hofstede's to make culturally relevant designs

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Visual Design and Prototyping

5 Iterative Usability Testing

Iteratively connected with users during visual design and prototyping to improve features

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Retrospective

Future Considerations

Improving my Design Process

Future Enhancements

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SECONDARY RESEARCH

The idea of indoor or home gardening is essentially growing plants indoors, such as on the balcony, rooftops, or in small spaces around the house. More and more people in densely populated urban areas are resorting to indoor or home gardening However indoor gardening can prove to be a daunting task for anyone, from selecting the right soil base, fertilizer,  and watering schedules, different plants have different requirements. All such requirements have to be met to make sure the plant grows well.

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60%

.In 2016, the IKEA Life at Home Report found that 60% of people around the world grow vegetables or flowers indoors.

Taking Care of Plants Isn’t Easy ,  Among plant owners, almost 50% agree that the most difficult part of caring for their plants is remembering to water them enough , Because of the difficulties of owning and caring for plants, there are unfortunately times when you accidentally kill your plant. Curiously, disappointment is the most frequent emotion (41%) that consumers feel when this happens over more intense feelings like depression or guilt

.SAD

NEUTRAL

GUILTY

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DISAPPOINTED

GOAL

Through this case study, I intended to study the various issues involved in indoor gardening through user research and develop a digital application that will help consumers take better care of their indoor plants

USER RESEARCH

I started the user research with a mixed-method survey. The survey was conducted in both online and offline modes. The survey included several quantitative-type questions

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Survey Recipients :

.TO WHOM :      

Users who were planning to start an indoor garden.     
Those who were already tending to  house plants.

.AGE GROUP :     19 to 61

.PROFESSION :   Disparate Professions

.GENDER :           Male, female and non-binary 

Sample Size :  51
 

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Survey Questionnaire

1 “How many plants do you own and what are they? Please categorize them as well.”

2 “How long have you been gardening?”

3 “Have any of your plants died or did not grow as expected? If yes do you think it could have been avoided“

4 “What would you say is the biggest factor that influenced the death / improper growth of your plants?”

5 “How do you decide which plant to grow and where do you usually research about the plant requirements?

6 “What has been the most reliable source of information for you so far?”

7 “Do you research plants on the internet? If yes, how reliable are they?

8 “What do you consider as the biggest support/help for your gardening endeavors”?

Findings from User Surveys

The survey was followed by extensive user interviews. I identified two overlapping user segments from the survey results. The following two segments of users were the most likely ones to face problems with indoor gardening amidst all the segments.

User Segment - The Amateur Gardener with little to no experience

This segment includes budding gardeners who are starting with their first gardening task. They do not have any prior practical experience with indoor/home gardening, albeit a few high school botany classes. 

User Segment - The experienced gardener with hectic work schedules

This segments includes users who have some experience with growing plants but they find it difficult to tend to their plants regularly owing to their work schedules. They also find it difficult to find tips to improve on their current gardening practices

   USER INTERVIEWS

I conducted user interviews with archetypes from each of the aforementioned user segments to gain valuable insights into their gardening habits and goals. The Following excerpts* are from various user interviews. I have included those excerpts which reflect the needs and pain points of the majority of users:

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I’ve always wanted to grow plants but I 'am afraid they will be hard to maintain. Moreover I 'am overwhelmed with the information on the internet , I 'am not sure which information on the internet is reliable and which is not. There are so many different websites each with a different set of gardening guidelines and I find this extremely jarring.

I would like to start of with easy to maintain and resilient plants before I go ahead with high maintenance plants but I’am not sure which plants are easier  to grow.

“I usually rely on local cultivators and my grandfather for tips on growing plants. Additionally, I have joined a Facebook page run by a dragon fruit plant expert. Their followers will discuss the varieties of dragon fruit, diseases, deficiency. Admin and some expert gardeners will clear the doubts of followers through videos or live sessions.”

I’ve constantly strived to expand my garden, but my hectic work schedule prevents me from doing it. I often mess up the watering and fertilizing cycles, and sometimes I miss fertilizing for months together.

" In one of my first ever gardening experiences,  aphids attacked my plants, the leaves started curling, and my plants were not growing further. Later I followed a tip in one of the Facebook pages I follow and made a home-pesticide   solution comprising oil, soap, baking soda, and water. This solution proved to be very helpful with aphid attacks. However, now and then, pests have been real trouble, and I wish I could be more vigilant of pest attacks and learn more about homemade pesticides.”

“Adjusting water levels and sunlight for different plants was challenging; for example, rubber plants will drop their leaves and die if exposed to excessive water.“

Key Findings From User Research

The opinion polls / charts below encapsulate some quantitative data collected from  user surveys. The below qualitative data were collected from users who own at least one house plant and/or plan to add more house plants.

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1

 What are the most common detriments to the growth of house plant.

2

 Where do users research about house plants when   they decide to grow them

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The major five findings from the user interviews and surveys are encapsulated below

A Man Watering Plants
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Users find it difficult to water the plants daily. Additionally they also find it difficult to REMEMBER the WATERING SCHEDULES of different house plants

Most users disregard PEST ATTACKS until its too late . Additionally MITES were found out to be one of the most common pests.

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Playing with Mobile Phone
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Most amateur gardeners tend to rely on DISPARATE WEBSITES for plant advice . they find the varied information from different websites to be extremely JARRING and INCONSISTENT

DISCUSSIONS  with Local cultivators neighbors and online discussion forums provide valuable insights

Group Discussion
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At the Aquarium
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Information on AQUARIUM PLANTS are hard to find

USER PERSONAS

A more detailed look into the needs , painpoints and thoughts of users belonging to each of the targeted segments (insights were derived from the user interviews)

SABIN - the Amateur Gardener with little to no experience

Young Man
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Name :    Sabin

Age :    26

Profession:   Student

Highest qualification:   B.E

Technology access:   Phone/laptop/smart TV

Sabin is a graduate student  studying in a reputed university. He is not an avid gardener but he has the desire for a beautiful indoor garden to improve the ambience of his otherwise dull dorm room . He lacks knowledge about gardening, but the idea of it does not overwhelm him

 NEEDS

•He wishes for an easy-to-maintain indoor garden that is easy on the pockets.

•To be able to gather all the necessary information related to the germination and maintenance of a desired house plant for beginners / amateurs.

•To be able to able to discuss with other individuals/locals to learn from their gardening experience and share his experience as well over social media

PAIN POINTS

• “Iam not able to find any consistent and reliable source of information online “

• “Iam new to the university and I have trouble interacting with the locals to enquire about the plants that grow well here. So I usually reach out to other gardneres over social media but they rarely respond back. “

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KIMBERLY - The experienced gardener with hectic work schedules

Kimberly is a software engineer working in the IT wing of a reputed banking institution. She is an avid gardener who grows plants (mostly veggies and herbs) on her balcony to spice up her cooking. She usually buys saplings from a local nursery and tends it to it. She recently moved to a new neighborhood and decided to buy some saplings for her new home

 NEEDS

•To be able to remember the watering schedules of different plants

• To be able to gather reliable information about the requirements of different plants

•To be able to able to discuss with other individuals/locals to learn from their gardening experience

PAIN POINTS

"I find it difficult to remember the watering schedules of different plants"

"I find inconsistent information on the internet about the plant requirements. I usually join dedicated online discussion communities to learn about the plant requirements and to exchange ideas. However such communities are rare and are specific to only a few plant species."

Business Woman
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Name :    Kimberly

Age :    32

Profession:   Software engineer

Highest qualification:   B.E

Technology access:   Phone/laptop/smart TV

    USER JOURNEY MAP 


Journey with kimberly as she takes you through her indoor gardening journey

Coffee break 
Start here
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1  Research

In this stage, she researchs on the internet about the plant she wants to grow.

She also enquires with the locals about the  plant species that are likely to flourish in that neighborhood

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She found inconsistent information from multiple websites.

She had difficulties conversing with the locals because she was not fluent in the local language

"If only there was an exhaustive and trusted , single source of information on indoor plants"    --  Deep thoughts

2 Procurement

She decides to buy a  plant from the local nursery. She also buys some soil and fertilizers

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She felt that the nursery owner was trying to trick her into buying fertilizers and soil that were not essential

"I wish I knew everything about this plant"   --  Deep thoughts

Indoor Flowerpots
3  Nurturing

She finds a spot for her plant near the window sill

 She fertilizes the plant regularly. However, due to her hectic work schedule, she forgets to water the plants quite often.

She notices that her plant is drying and is slowly dying. She frantically searches for help online and offline to revive her dying plant. She overwaters the plant to prevent it from drying up any further. The plant eventually dies

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She had trouble trying to remember to water. She also found it difficult to find people online/offline to help her revive her dying plant.

 

She tried to find a one-stop solution for all her plant requirements to save time but could not find anything reliable.

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"I should have been more careful with the watering schedules - Deep thoughts

4  Retrospective
End here
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She tries to find out the root cause for her plants' death and also plans to buy another one.

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She is disappointed with her previous experience and feels discouraged

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AFFINITY MAP

NOTE : Read the map from BOTTOM UP to know how I developed the features for plant bounty

“the proposed digital solution will include an option to set reminders for complicated watering schedules along with  clear guidelines for the watering requirements of each type of plant.”

“proposed digital solution will serve as a one stop solution for all guidelines on the climatic conditions, soil requirements, water requirements and pest control tips for the most commonly grown home-plants. This information will be carefully curated from various reliable online and offline resources”

the solution will also serve as a discussion platform for people to exchange tips and tricks for growing various types of plants with special recognitions to the most useful/liked comments

“The solution will include guidelines to take care of aquatic plants as well

Ideation of Features

"Users find it difficult to water the plants regularly. additionally they also find it difficult to remember the watering schedules of different house plants”

Most amateur gardeners tend to rely on disparate websites for plant advice . they find the varied information from different websites to be extremely jarring and inconsistent

Discussions with local cultivators, neighbors and online discussion forums provide valuable insights

Information on aquarium plants are hard to come by

Key Findings
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Most users disregard pest attacks until its too late . Additionally mites were found out to be one of the most common pests.

“I have to make sure not to over water and then on the flipside remembering to water when my depression acts up”

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“I tend to put all my different plant species in the same watering schedule although some of them might require more water than the others”

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“I tend to put all my different plant species in the same watering schedule although some of them might require more water than the others”

“I’am able to get information online about the benefits of plants but very little information about cultivation techniques”

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“Following guidelines from the internet is usually a hit or miss”

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“I usually get generic details through online searches, the specialized information has to be experimented on field.”

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“As a beginner I have failed a lot in propagating plant cuttings. Some of the reasons are overwatering, underwatering, nutrient deficiency, pest attack, rodents”

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“I tend to put all my different plant species in the same watering schedule although some of them might require more water than the others”

“I have joined a Facebook page run by a dragon fruit plant expert. there followers will discuss about the varieties of dragon fruit, diseases , deficiency .Admin and some expert gardeners will clear the doubts of followers through videos or live sessions”

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“I generally dislike websites, as they do not allow me to discuss with other users and verify with them whether the information provided on the website worked for them

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“ r/indoorgardeing  , This subreddit is a great source of information and I have been able to keep many plants alive  because of it.

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“We Usually ask the seller about the plant requirements but it mostly ends in a big disappointment , I prefer to reach out to friends and family for plant advice”

“ I found little to no information  about aquatic plants for my aquarium”

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“My wife added tadpoles, which ate the roots of the floating plants, and those plants died. Plants on the bottom also died, because they needed less light. With all plants dead, the fish also died”

Excerpts from user interviews and survey
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“I never knew indoor house plants were at risk of pest attacks but I learnt that the hard way”

  WIREFRAMES

 After sketching out the features in a sheet of paper , I designed the wireframes in figma while periodically connecting with users to confirm on the wireframe design.

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VISUAL DESIGN AND PROTOTYPING

Mobile screens
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Plant
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Prototype
Video
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ITERATIVE USABILITY TESTING

As opposed to ordinary usability testing, I decided to go ahead with “Iterative usability testing” using insights I derived from working in agile methodologies in my workplace. Iterative usability testing allowed me to identify design issues at early stages of visual design helping me avoid extensive backtracking to create an efficient, streamlined design process. Each Iteration included atleast 2 users with the final prototype being reviewed by around 10 users. The users were given Four main tasks given below.

4 Main Tasks

   a) Log in and complete you tasks on the main page and review the reminders in your plants added under My Plants” page

   b) Go to “My Plants” and add a new plant , set watering and fertilizing reminders for the same.

   c) Go to "chat room" and post a question , additionally sort and bookmark a question and view it under “My bookmarks”

   d) Search for a plant you would like to know about in the “plant repository” page

Drawing from my previous experiences as a software solutions engineer , I assigned severities to each of the usability issues identified to prioritize my work.

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Severity 4

Cosmetic problem only

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Severity 3

Minor Usability Problem

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Severity 2

Major Usability Problem

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Severity 1

Houston! We've a problem

original illustrations design using illustrator - Ganesh

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The Noteworthy usability issues and solutions

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 Severity 1   -  checkboxes were very close to each other                                 leading to selecting those

The spacing between the checkboxes were increased to accommodate

the dimensions of a thumb print

 Severity 2   -  The bottom navigation was less                                              prominent and not descriptive

The breath of the navigation bar was increased and the UI was changed to give users a more descriptive indication of the selected option

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 Severity 3   -  Users felt the “type your question”                                    bar was too big leading to and also                                    noted it’s close resemblance with the                                bottom navigation bar

The bar was replaced with a button on click of which the box to type the question will appear

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 Severity 4   -  Users were unsure of the purpose of the                                    circular progress on the main screen

Therefore the circular progress was updated to include the text “task completion percentage” and the background of the progress bar was extended to encompass the various tasks required to be completed

True to the title “Iterative usability testing” I'am still iterating the design to accomodate new enhancements and usability fixes to this very day as no design is fully perfect!

Pink Earth

CULTURAL DIMENSIONS

Visual Design Based on Hofstede's cultural dimensions


Did you know that Japanese websites have more information density and according to hofstede's cultural dimensions the high information density is because of greater cultural tolerance towards denser text. As a solutions engineer for Mizhou bank , one of the three japanese "mega banks" , I can personally attest to this fact to a certain degree.


Growing up in the middle east, later moving to culturally diverse India, and finally working with international clients in my corporate career made me more perceptive to such cultural differences that permeate our lives, including the products we use daily. 

Small Street in Japan
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As a UX designer, I thought about ways to reduce alienation and cultural bias in software that, by design, cuts across national and cultural boundaries.
In this project I attempted to study the various design theories in the field of culture and finally decided to use Hofstede's theory of cultural dimensions to make culturally targeted design interventions, 


 

My location of residence during this project was India therefore more than 80% of the respondents to my surveys and interviews and users involved in usability testing were Indians. During each iteration of the usability testing, I made design changes that were increasingly influenced by the cultural dimensions (specifically for Indian users) and recorded user feedback to verify the relevance of these dimensions. The table below indicates the scores for India across each of Hofstede's cultural dimension

Indian Architecture
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The above cultural dimensions partially influenced the design considerations for Plant bounty, these design were later verified by Indian users during the iterative usability testing. Most of the users preferred the designs that were influenced by the dimensions as opposed to the original design but there were a few exceptions, however, these were not large enough to disregard the importance of cultural dimensions in the interface design. Some of the noteworthy design considerations are listed below.


1   India scores really high in PDI index indicating they prefer low Information density and little information at first sight.To adhere to this preference set out trying to simplify the screens that had high information density. Example: On the plant information screen preparing guide, All tips were all encapsulated under a single accordion menu named "planting guide" as opposed to multiple menus in the initial design

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2  A high MAS score for India indicated a preference towards less scrolling, shallower information hierarchy and orientation towards goals.To adhere to this preference I avoided use of submenus and opted for shallower and smaller navigation menus.

Retrospect

Although I got valuable inputs from various UX researchers in my network to study the influence of cultural dimensions in design and incorporate it into my project, I still lack the profound academic knowledge in the field of 'Culture based UX design' to tackle such advanced topics. However this project served as my introduction to such topics and I intend to retrospect my designs further during my academic endeavours.
Something I would have done under longer time constraints would be ensuring the application adheres to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines .
This project served as my introduction to several UX and HCl topics including user research, mobile prototyping and translation of user needs and pain points into meaningful digital solutions.

FUTURE ENHANCEMENTS


Set Default reminders based on expert recommendations ?.  I discovered from user research that most users rely on advice from experts on the field to decide on their plant requirements. Some of the users follow plant experts on various social media platforms and post their questions to these experts, I intend to have a feature that will allow users to set default reminders for plants of each type based on values recommended by experts.

 

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