Terra, which means land, is an iOS app that allows users to discover plants native to their region. Native plants are easier to grow and offer a habitat for native bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects.
ROLE UX Researcher, UX Designer, UI Designer
PROJECT LENGTH 9 weeks
TOOLS Figma, InVision, Principle, Otter, Google Forms, Pen, Paper
I was inspired by a project where the designer Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg created an outdoor art installation by optimizing a garden for native pollinating insects, like bees and butterflies, to highlight the problematic decline in their populations. This made me want to dig deeper to understand the importance of these pollinators and the effects of their declining populations. It also made me wonder if there could be a human-centered solution to this problem.
Before I started my research process, I chose to narrow down my scope by focusing on one human-centered aspect of this problem space. Since the central piece is the garden and since humans can make an impact through their own private gardens, I decided to zero in on North American home gardeners – a geographical area and a demographic I can easily investigate.
Commercially-farmed plants, which are prevalent in most North American households, are not a source of food for native pollinators, like bees and butterflies, and therefore, are causing a decline in their populations.
With that problem statement in mind, I started thinking divergently by asking design questions that will help me start my ideation process.
How might we introduce native plants to North American home gardens in order to increase the habitat for native pollinators?
Part of my process involved writing down my assumptions regarding this problem. I then summarized them in this hypothesis that will, in turn, guide my research.
Providing North American home gardeners with access to native plants will lead to higher success rates in home gardens, which will increase the habitat for native pollinating insects.
It’s time to put my hypothesis to test by digging deeper into the problem.
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of food we eat exists because of the efforts of pollinators
was the estimated value in 2009 of the crop benefits from native insect pollination in the United States
as much fruit is produced by plants primarily pollinated by native pollinators
The quantitative research above was followed by qualitative primary research in the form of interviews and a questionnaire that I conducted over the phone, Zoom, and Google Forms.
To better understand the frustrations, goals, and behaviors of potential users, I planned to interview some participants to learn more about their gardening practices. The purpose of these interviews is to uncover potential opportunities that could benefit the users and their gardens while also creating habitat for native pollinating insects.
Located in North America
Access to an outdoor space
After interviewing 5 participants that fit the above criteria, I gathered valuable insight that can be grouped into the following 3 themes.
The lack of an easily accessible and trusted plant care resource poses challenges to home gardeners.
Home gardeners are drawn to aesthetically pleasing plants.
Being able to grow edible plants is an important incentive for people to start gardening.
The first theme was the most widespread pattern amongst the participants’ experiences with gardening so I chose to focus my ideation process on plant survival needs.
To help keep the user at the center of this design intervention I created this primary user persona by combining the insights and findings from my research.
LOCATION Queens, NY
OCCUPATION Web Developer
Michael recently moved into a new home with a backyard that he plans on transforming into a home garden. He noticed that some plants that already exist in his backyard were doing better than others, which is making him look into what plants will thrive in the climate that he lives in. However, the amount of information he is finding online can be overwhelming and it does not specifically apply to his garden's conditions.
• Finds it difficult to keep all his plants alive due to conflicting information he receives from his gardener friends and information he finds online.
• Can’t tell what plants are ideal for the climate he lives in.
• Overwhelmed by the amount of information he finds online regarding plants and their needs.
• Likes his garden to be aesthetically pleasing.
• Aims to grow plants that can thrive in his environment.
• Wants to inspire others to get into gardening.
Now that I have a better understanding of my primary user's story, I was able to immerse myself in his experience with plants and gardening, which allowed me to write multiple user stories that build on his motivations and behavior.
After authoring numerous user stories, I was able to group some of them under the epic of “Plant Discovery” which highlights the opportunity of “offering plants that can survive the local climate i.e. native plants” that was identified in the experience map above.
To find plants that will thrive in the user’s climate.
As a beginner home gardener, I want to share my location so that plant suggestions are relevant and specific to my region.
Using the above task, I created this task flow diagram to guide me in developing wireframes for my product. This diagram highlights how a user can discover plants specific to their region.
I put together a UI inspiration board to reference layouts, components, and functionalities from other apps. Then I used pen and paper to sketch some ideas for my wireframes.
After multiple rounds of sketching, I identified the best ideas and translated them into digital wireframes using Figma. This includes:
• Minimalist splash screen focusing on the message
• Educational onboarding process
• Home feed that encourages discovery
• Lists curated by experts
Once I digitized my wireframes, I conducted 2 rounds of user testing to help me uncover insight into the usability of my low fidelity prototype. My observations during these testing sessions revealed a lot about user behavior, in addition to usability problems, that allowed me to redesign a better experience. I kicked off my testing sessions by giving users the below scenario and tasks:
You are Michael, a North American homeowner who is interested in transforming his backyard into a garden. You noticed that some plants that already exist in your backyard were doing better than others, which is making you look into what plants will thrive in the climate you live in but the amount of information you found online is overwhelming and does not specifically apply to your specific environmental conditions. You found this app online that helps you find plants appropriate to your climate based on your location.
Browse Perennials native to your region and learn more about Tickseed.
Save the Tickseed page to your collection.
Users chose to skip the numbered steps in the onboarding process.
I opted instead for an educational and conversational approach, which proved to be more engaging.
Users reported that the Plant of the Day feature will bring them back to the app so they can check what’s being featured every day. They also asked to see a tab bar for navigation purposes.
This made me realize that a curatorial approach rather than a catalog will be more engaging. I also added a tab bar for easier access to navigation.
I developed a visual identity to start bringing my app to life. I started this process by compiling a list of adjectives that embodies the brand.
Using these keywords I looked for visual inspiration that defines the look and feel of my product. That inspiration allowed me to extract colors that eventually became the brand colors after multiple rounds of refinement.
I used Syncopate Bold for its liveliness and authority, which demands the user’s attention and communicates a sense of urgency without appearing too alarmist. DM Sans’s legibility at smaller text sizes makes it ideal for body text and its friendly attitude brings visual balance when coupled with the bold headings. These two fonts combined bring the user excitement into the plant discovery experience while maintaining an inviting tone that keeps the user returning to the app.
For the logo, I used the brand font, Syncopate Regular, in combination with a symbol that resembles the sun, which is an essential source of food for plants. The cropping and the placement of both components of the logo make for a playful relation between the two – it seems as if the sun is rising or setting behind Terra (the land).
After establishing my branding for Terra, I injected my app with the proper fonts and colors to bring my greyscale wireframes to a high-fidelity prototype.
I was given the challenge of redesigning my app for an alternate platform of my choice. I put myself again in Michael’s shoes to understand what other platform he might use and it became clear that an iPad version of my app makes the most sense. Michael will most probably think about using Terra when he’s at home or spending time in his garden. The iPad offers him a larger display than his phone and more mobility than a laptop or desktop computer. Below are examples of how some screens look when viewed in either portrait or landscape mode.
This is where Michael, the user, will first encounter Terra. I took this as an opportunity to define the brand voice and to introduce the user to the key narrative of my digital intervention.
To start thinking about how to grow and improve upon this product, I considered the impact of my digital solution if 100 million people used it.
100 million users is a major milestone. At that point, I would start considering retention strategies such as:
• Selling plant care products like indicators placed in the soil to notify home gardeners of watering needs.
• Subscription kits that allow users to receive a “surprise” native plant with the necessary tools on a quarterly basis.
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