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Plant This App

Plant This App

Flow, Prototype & Testing

This project was a study for developing user flow to drive a fast turn around prototype. The prototype was to test upper level features (horizontal flow instead of detailed vertical flow).

Developed an idea to address the problem of food waste. One way to reduce fresh food waste is to grow your own food (sustainable).

  • Increased interest in home-based growing as people become more socially aware of the effects of wasting food
  • Approximately 40% of food meant to be sold eventually ends up in the trash
  • America has enough food waste to fill up about 91 Empire State Buildings per year
  • Every ton of food waste produces 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions

Plant This is an app that will help individuals lead a sustainable lifestyle; specifically, it is for home-based growing and gardening.
It aims to make a user’s gardening experience easy and enjoyable. Not only is it for the typical gardener, but it is user-friendly for those who don’t have any gardening skills. Features include:

  • gardening walkthroughs
  • tools for sharing user-generated content
  • resource management
  • research capabilities (soil and water testing, geography, planning, growing, etc)
  • tracking/visualizing data

After sketching, a horizontal feature set was created (through an open card sort).

feature set image

Personas were developed to represent 3 core users: Expert, Intermediate, Beginner.

expert persona image
intermediate persona image
beginner persona image

  1. John forgot the watering time for his plants again, so he downloaded the app and registered. He adds 3 kinds of plants to his growing archive and makes a nutrient and watering schedule for each of plants, setting a reminder for himself.
  2. Every time John buys pesticide, fertilizer, or a new plant pot, he records the bill in the archive so he has a record of how much he has spent on his gardening.
  3. After two weeks of plant care, John took photos of his plants and used a growth index to track the growth of his plants. Eventually, with the app, he is provided a complete growth archive for each plant.

Using the scenarios and personas, rough wireframes were created. Through rapid iteration and review, wireframes were finalized and the prototyping process started (using Axure).

wirframe iamge wirframe iamge wirframe iamge

Below is a link to the mid-fi prototype. It is hosted through Axure Share.

Plant This Prototype
(opens in new window, desktop view)

  1. Plant Killer
    • Has none to very little gardening skills
    • Has little knowledge of what to do in plant care
    • Would like a way to figure out where to start in gardening and have a guide during gardening
  2. Green Thumb
    • Is mostly an expert at gardening
    • Is knowledgeable at plant care
    • Would like a way to keep track of gardening data

The test plan focuses on the core functionality: researching plants, entering data, and finding social inspiration. Both test task flows have the user perform the key interaction loop: researching a plant, adding it to their personal database (My Plants), looking for images, and entering expense data into the app. Plant killer uses a more focused search to find a plant that is hardy enough to survive someone with little to no gardening skills. Green thumb focuses more on plant detail data: researching nutrient schedules, and tracking expenses. Findings will be used to perform another round of iteration on the prototype before transitioning to a hi-fi prototype where the focus will be on micro interactions and the visual layer.


The tests were performed in person by the researcher and data was later accumulated, discussed, and analyzed.

Protocol - Informed Consent & Test

Hello, thank you for meeting with me today. I am working on a team project to create a horticulture and gardening app called GardenGrower, which mainly focuses on home-based growing. The purpose of this app is to make the user’s gardening experience easier. This includes features like resource management, gardening walkthroughs, researching plants, tracking plant growth data, and connecting with others in the gardening community. The purpose of conducting this test is for my team to investigate the app’s usability with its target users. This test will allow us to identify any problems with the app and hopefully figure out solutions to them. The test will be documented by taking notes and recording. There are no right or wrong ways to carry out an activity. I just want to observe what you do and hear what you have to say. It is highly encouraged you speak out loud on your thoughts and describe what you’re doing as you perform the activities because it will help us analyze our findings. You may be asked questions before, during, or after performing the activity. This test should take no longer than 30 minutes.

This activity is voluntary, and you have the right to not demonstrate any activity or answer any question; you are free to stop the testing at any time for any reason. Please note that your responses and actions in this test will be confidential and used only for this class assignment. Your first name will be used to identify you, but if you wish, you can opt to use a pseudonym rather than your real name. Also, I want to remind you that this is testing the app itself, not you, the user. It is okay to make mistakes because looking for mistakes is one reason why we are testing. Lastly, you can’t hurt our feelings in any way if you feel, say, or think negatively about anything in this test.

Do you have any questions or concerns before we begin testing?

Plant Killer Tasks
  1. Can you show me how you would look for a plant that needs partial light, easy care, and does not get too big?
  2. Can you add a plant from the previous results to your My Plants page?
  3. Can you find pictures of plants from other users?
Green Thumb Tasks
  1. Can you find a plant from your local area and add it to your My Plants page?
  2. Can you look for predefined nutrient schedules for the plant you just added?
  3. Can you add an expense for the plant you previously added to your My Plants page?
Questions to ask users between tasks
  1. How easy/hard did that task seem?
  2. Was there anything about the task that was challenging or confusing?
  3. Was there anything about the task that felt really easy or enjoyable?
  4. Was there any language or were there labels that you had trouble understanding?
**Throughout tasks, ask any other questions that may arise.**

  1. What was your favorite thing about the app you used today?
  2. What was your least favorite thing about the app you used today?
  3. Is there anything you found particularly valuable about the app or the information it presented you?
  4. Was there anything missing? Was there any additional information or functionality you would have liked to have while completing these tasks?
  5. How does the app make you feel? If the app was a person, how would you describe its personality?
  6. Do you think you would use this app it was in the app store today? Why or how do you think it would help you in gardening?

That concludes the test. Thank you for your time and for meeting with me. Your help will certainly make the app better. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Subject Information

Subject 1
Name: Kevin A.
Age: 46
Occupation: Sales Manager
Gender: M
User type: Green Thumb
Other information: Subject has a background in cultivation and maintains a medium to large home garden (vegetables). After the introduction and consent, he said “This is very exciting. I have been thinking about how great it would be to track my spending and details around my backyard”

Subject 2
Name: Mark
Age: 27
Occupation: Pediatric ICU Nurse
Gender: M
User type: Plant killer
Other information: Subject has no gardening background but is interested in learning how to plant his own garden in his backyard. He thought it was interesting that there will be an app to help out newbies like him and also help those who already do gardening like his mother. He is tech-savvy and familiar with using apps, computers/laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

Subject 3
Name: Sophie
Age: 26
Occupation: Consultant
Gender: F
User type: Green Thumb
Other information: Subject has some experience in gardening for two years, she is used to recording her gardening notes as memo with her iphone, after she went through the tasks, she thought that this app made gardening a simpler but more colorful thing in her life since it’s very handy to record anything about her plants as well as to search for information she needs anytime.


Kevin A succeeded in completing all three tasks in 2 minutes and 18 seconds. The instructions were provided in a written format with breaks denoted where the researcher provided required prompts from the script. There was confusion surrounding the camera button at the top right corner of the screen (which is currently disabled and not part of our test task flows). When selecting a fertilizer schedule, he expressed a desire for more information on each schedule, or another layout that provides more details for advanced users. He had difficulty reading some elements of text on the device, resulting in questions surrounding a feature to allow users to adjust the font size.

Mark was successful in completing the three tasks given in 4 minutes due to his curious nature of exploring something new. It probably would have taken less than that if he was not exploring the app on his own while the test was being conducted. The subject was surprised by the appearance of the prototype at first because he has not experienced something like this before. For the first task, he noted that there was no trait for sunlight, which in the task he was asked to “look for a plant that needs partial light, easy care, and does not get too big”. He also questioned the “too big” part because there was no trait for size on the Search By Plant Details Page. He had no problem with the second task. Lastly, in the third task, he easily identified and went to the Community Page, but then asked if “Trending Media” was what he was supposed to click on and see.

Sophie completed 3 tasks within 3 minutes or so. When she successfully added a local area plant to her plants, the box which said “has been added to your My Plant, do you want to view My Plant or return” popped out, there were 2 things she concerned, one is that she thought there should be an info box which reconfirms if a user is going to add a plant to her plant list, the other one is that she was confused with the word ”My Plant”, when she clicked view MyPlant button, she expected to see the specific list of her plants added, not My Plant page, because that can be easily achieved just by directly clicking the button MyPlant below. About the task 2, she thought it can be accessed in My Plant page since that kind of page is what she thought to be used to manage all personal stuff, but finally we finished it in growing - plant detail page, so this process may need to be refined.

Users are exploratory. Kevin A spent another minute and fifteen seconds exploring the app prototype after completing the test task flow. The app needs more features and more accurate content representations. The next iteration will need to address the visual layer, test users were not familiar with software prototypes and were distracted by the current simplified style. Through the testing we found that users wanted to see detailed pages on plants prior to deciding if they would add them to their personal database (My Plants). The flow needs to be adjusted to allow users to quickly find plant detail pages that offer a birds eye view and an option for more detailed data. These flows will have to be developed using sketchboard. A common observation was that the feedback was mostly positive. Most test users felt the app lacked depth, but was promising and exciting.