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Native Spotter

A photo scanning app to simplify plant care

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Overview

Problem

Mobile apps offer Plant ID options, but few expand on information about how to care for plants. Gardeners and plant enthusiasts want to identify plants to learn about: 

Care maintenance 

Disease diagnosis

Reduce costly water expenses

Goal

A responsive, interactive mobile app for beginner plant caretakers that specializes in drought-tolerant, low-maintenance native plants.

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Timeline

3 Months

Project Type

Independent School Project

My Role

UI Designer

UX Researcher

Tools

Sketch, InVision, Figma 

Zoom

Design Process

Click to scroll down to each section

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Research

Competitive Research

To understand current plant apps on the market with photo identification software, four competitors were analyzed based on the strengths and weaknesses of each platform’s primary features in plant care and database collection, locator tracker, and discussion forums.

Highlights

  • Personalized care calendars limited to SmartPlant

  • ​Community forums prioritized for asking experts

Common Features

  • Location finder by region or zip code

  • ​Comprehensive, curated plant catalog with filters​

  • Image recognition to identify plants and organisms

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User Interviews

Five one-to-one interviews were conducted with users of various plant care skill levels to understand:

Browse and purchase habits of indoor vs. outdoor plants

Users’ schedules and routines for plant upkeep patterns

Living conditions influence purchase decisions

Target Audience

Beginner and experienced gardeners aged 24-55, with interests in sustainable, low maintenance drought-tolerant native plants

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Define & Ideate

Affinity Map

Interview findings were organized into an affinity map based on users’ common motivations, experiences, and behavior patterns for choosing plants. Research identified themes among interviewees’ needs and pain points, used to create personas of the app’s intended targeted audience.

Key Takeaways

  • New plants selected away from aesthetics (drought tolerant, sun/shade, water usage, and little maintenance) 

  • Consult outside sources for purchase suggestions and to diagnose care problems

  • Guidance sought through photo identification, care reminders, Q & A, and recommended resources 

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Feature Prioritization

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Top Features Favored By Users

Reach out to a plant expert 

Personalized guidance and care specific questions

KPI

Percentage of users who started a new post on the community forum after viewing a plant overview 

Sync care tasks & reminders

Remain alert and organized with Google accounts

KPI

Percentage of users who visited the 'Care Calendar' directly from the plant overview page

'Scan a Photo’

ID unknown plants

KPI

Percentage of users who clicked on 'Add Plant' under My Plant Library

Features to Update

Features to Discard

Users leaned toward the search bar on the homepage then choose 'Search plants'

  • Add a description under the search bar to clear up labeling confusion

Users expressed difficulty completing care tasks for a specific unfamiliar plant

Plant database with encyclopedia index

  • New plant owners unfamiliar with plant names scanned a barcode or took a photo

Geolocation with price comparisons

  • Primary concerns more focused on care maintenance

How 'Native Spotter' is Unique Among its Competitors

Focus on image technology

  • Exclusively for California, native drought-tolerant plants

Custom plant care with timeline

  • Track water schedule for up to three plants without paid subscription

Personas

Initial user interviews and affinity map findings helped gain a clearer understanding of my target users and their needs. Primary and secondary personas were created, representing two different levels of interviewees’ plant care experience, goals, and motivations for purchasing plants.

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Primary Persona

User Journey

To optimize a seamless user experience for beginner plant owners, and identify app feature shortcomings early in the design process, I visualized Sara’s step-by-step process to complete a common plant care and locator task and define screens to achieve a specific goal.

User Flow

Putting myself in the shoes of the primary user, I mapped out a flow chart to illustrate a breakdown of actions taken.

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Problem Statement

Sara is a new plant owner who needs help identifying an unfamiliar native plant and schedules task reminders in her calendar to plan care maintenance in advance.

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Low Fidelity Wireframes

Usability Testing

Usability testing was conducted with a small group virtually to observe interviewees’ reactions and pain points with the design of the persona’s user flow and first prototype iteration.  Findings revealed improvements to prioritize in the app’s higher fidelity prototype design and user flow.

Participants were asked the following:

Scenario One

You begin researching a new houseplant, but the tag name does not provide any close results.

Task

Sign into your account and add a plant 

Scenario Two

You have a busy week ahead and need to plan your watering schedule to care for your new plant.

Task

Set a new reoccurring reminder in the Care Calendar

Key Takeaways

Task One

Two out of three users used the search bar to identify plants by name but consulted scanning a photo or barcode.

  • Database features better suited for seasoned plant owners.

Camera functions of interest- Cancel button to return to the homepage.

  • Hover and scan plants without taking photos or saving

Add a questionnaire during the sign-up process for a customized homepage that meets the needs of new/seasoned plant owners.

Task Two

Two out of three users preferred to sync care schedules to personal calendars, while one user found this feature confusing.

  • Assumed tasks were automatically populated. 

Chat with a live representative was favored by two users. 

  • Further clarification between calendar/chat features is needed. 

Temperature updates by zip code, distinguish between healthy/unhealthy plants, and revise calendar care tasks for sick plants.

Rainbow Spreadsheet

User feedback and observations were organized into a rainbow spreadsheet, identifying iterations to prioritize in the app’s redesign of high-fidelity prototypes.

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Key Takeaways

Confusion with page layout to initiate tasks (i.e. taking a new photo; identifying search bar and plant database feature; finding the pause feature in the calendar settings) 

Unclear if the care calendar showed tasks for one or all plants

Information Architecture

Card Sorting

Findings from the feature prioritization and persona user flows helped anticipate how the user would interact with the app. Content was sorted and organized into grouped categories using the open card sorting method.

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Site Map

The card sorting design results were used to create a sitemap to show a structured hierarchy with connections to each app’s screens.

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Build & Test

Usability Testing

Three usability tests were conducted to gain feedback on the app’s functionality and users’ ability to conduct task scenarios using high-fidelity prototypes via InVision.

Tasks

  • Identify a new plant with no barcode or label to learn about care tasks.

  • See plant care tasks to complete or are already done to schedule for the week ahead. 

  • Edit the ‘add fertilizer’ care task reminder in your Calendar to pause activity.

  • Reach out to the local community for help in identifying the cause of brown leaves.

  • Search and identify native plants by season.

Proposed Solutions

Key Takeaways

A second round of usability testing observed how users interacted with features in the app and sought to learn if user pain points in the newly revised designs had been resolved.

Findings Showed

Increase responsiveness and minimal confusion to identify a plant, and pause/snooze tasks in the care calendar.

01   Plant Database

Task

Search and identify native plants

Challenge

Users were hesitant to access the 'Plant Database' to search by plant name and gravitated towards 'Library' in the navigation bar than the plus icon.

Solution

Remove 'Search' function to focus on camera functions

Clearer site navigation labels for more direct access

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02   Care Calendar

Task

Identify which plant care tasks need to be completed or are already done for the week.

Challenge

Users expressed interest in clearer distinctions between which tasks belonged to specific plants when identifying plant tasks.

Solution

Adding photos of individual plants, with botanical name labels, that correspond to specific care tasks.

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03   Pause Feature in Care Calendar

Task

Edit 'add fertilizer' care task reminder in Calendar to pause activity while on vacation.

Challenge

​Users experienced confusion pausing a task in the Calendar settings, needing clarification between 'Date/Time' and 'Need a Break?' sections. 

Solution

Redesign page and content structure to refocus Snooze/Pause process by selecting from pre-populated options, or customize a start/end time frame.

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04   Take a New Photo

Task

Identify new plant received as a housewarming gift that had no barcode or label with name.

Challenge

Users didn't seem to make associations between the plus icon under 'My Plants' and taking new photos. 

Solution

Redesign the process with the addition of a camera icon in the navigation bar and remove the 'Search' feature to refocus on the camera function.

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05   Micro-Interaction to 'Add a New Plant'

Challenge

When reevaluating users' experiences with the camera feature to scan a new plant or barcode, I developed this UI animation storyboard concept to improve the targeted audience's ability to complete the photo identification task.

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Reflections

Challenges During Ideation

Concept One

Virtual chat with an expert for personalized recommendations

Reason: Users preferred to ask questions on a community forum

Concept Two

Interactive map to locate available inventory of native plants

Reason: Focus gravitated towards care assistance for already purchased plants

Concept Three

Digital encyclopedia and beginner plant guides

Reason: App refocused on taking new photos to identify unknown plant

What I Learned

01

Importance of continued prototype testing to gain feedback from the targeted audience to guide app adjustments

02

Ideation helped to focus app development of finding creative pro-active solutions while prioritizing user needs

What I Would Do Differently