Community to exchange surplus crops and build community around urban gardening
Pen and paper
Users + Audience
With a brief of "plants," we identified urban gardeners as a rapidly growing population and made them our target users.
Our initial research indicated that people are increasingly engaging with urban agriculture because of their interest in:
‣ access to quality produce
‣ building and strengthening their communities
Due to limited time, the initial scope of the project was to create a mobile app around companion planting (planting certain crops next to each other to promote growth). Upon doing further research, we quickly realized this concept was too narrow.
To broaden our scope and to get a better understanding of the existing mobile apps in this space, I conducted a competitive analysis to methodically identify redundancies + opportunities. Our competitors had:
1) No functional or user-friendly crop exchanges
2) Inconsistent participation in non-location-specific "communities"
3) Confusing information architecture + dated visual design
4) Too many features without one clear and unique value proposition
I interviewed customers + employees at a local nursery to get a better sense of the challenges urban gardeners go through.
This is where we discovered that companion planting was an already established technique in the community.
Taking a critical eye to our transcripts, we identified a few key pain points through affinity diagramming: a general lack of local community and users not knowing what to do with surplus crops.
With all this in mind, I created the following to help us clarify and focus our design:
Isolated urban growers need a way to connect to others because community helps them get excited about growing.
Creating access to local communities will allow growers to exchange surplus crops, find events and communal spaces, and share an excitement for growing produce.
To synthesize our insights and create empathy and focus moving forward, we made our primary persona, Ivy: a data-driven empathetic reference for all future design decisions.
After using the 6-8-5 technique to quickly ideate and visualize what the app might look like, I took feedback from my team and drew unrefined paper wireframes focused on the crop exchange and community features.
Before taking my designs into the computer, I conducted a closed card sort to get an understanding of how users expected content and features to be organized.
Users unanimously placed “Inbox” under “Profile," instead of "Exchanges" as we expected. We created access to the Inbox from both tabs in our mid-fidelity wireframes.
I then digitized my ideas in Sketch, prioritizing efficiency of use, minimalist design, and drew inspiration from tried and true existing design patterns.
Prototyping + Testing
It was important for us to test a working prototype with real users, so I mapped main user flows using InVision.
Using a screener survey, I sourced 5 active urban gardeners from around the country. I then conducted usability tests to see how intuitive Gathr's functions would be to a new user. The mid-fidelity prototype largely proved successful, as users were able to successfully complete the most important functions.
‣ 100% of users were able to add a new crop to their collection
‣ 100% of users successfully proposed an exchange with another user
‣ 80% of users were able to complete an exchange + leave a review
Multiple users expressed excitement about the app, asking for its release date and saying they would actually use it. Take a listen to this quote from a tester:
However, there were still definite areas for improvement. The following were our key findings:
‣ Users expected all cards to be clickable
‣ Users wanted the experience to be more friendly, casual
‣ Users expected there to be a “Most Wanted” list on other users' profiles
‣ Users were reticent to give out actual addresses
‣ Potential to expand user base to users with extra groceries, fruit trees, etc.
At this point, I made revisions based on the usability tests and feedback from the team. I then handed off to my amazing visual designer, Jasmin, who created mockups.
My desires don't matter - the users' do. 🧠
It’s a simple concept, but as a designer, it’s easy to get carried away with my grand ideas. However, I have just as many, if not more, biases than the next person, so it’s critical to understand the problem space to actually create a product that users would come back to.
Roles should be respected. 🤐
In a team, it’s essential to operate within my defined role to ensure efficiency and functionality for the project. I sometimes dipped my toes too much in the UI pool, but eventually I learned not to get bogged down in fonts and trying to reinvent the wheel, and to instead focus on making a delightful design.
With more time . . .
...my main focus would be on business strategy and creating revenue streams for this service. I would refine or build out undefined user flows; namely, the onboarding and verification process, what happens when a trade is proposed to the user, and how to make the “wishlist” feature more engaging.