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The Design Process - Trial, Error, and Iterative Learning in App and Web Design in Detroit

Plant groups on Facebook - 2021 - Christa Stephens - identity branding solutions
Plant groups on Facebook

That's why you start in chunks. During 2020, people began to collect things, pounds, pajamas, and plants. I was one of the vast majority of millennials that became a rapid, self-proclaimed "plant mom". I've always enjoyed greenery in my home but to the extent of 60 plus plants - ummm it may be a habit at this point. Like myself, there were droves of others that have found themselves with new best friends during the quarantine. Facebook groups like Michigan Connection and Gardening Tips for Beginners have upwards of 10k members and are continuously growing all with new members trying to understand how to take care of their news "babies".

What if there was an application that would guide this new population of plant parents with tips on plant care?

As a UX Researcher, brainstorming and asking HMW (How Might We) questions to empathize with potential users to understand what would they need. I didn't need to look far - I had Facebook at my fingertips with potential users to gain insights. Some users had issues with keeping a consistent watering schedule while others needed to know how often to feed each plant or if there were specific types of bugs to look out for. Gathering all of these insights was very helpful in the ideate stage of creating the application but I needed to define a target market. Was it just for Michigan planters and growers or anyone who owned a plant? Thank goodness the design stages are iterative because I needed to take a step back and truly define my audience.

AI Generated User Persona - "Erin" - Christa Stephens - social media company detroit
AI Generated User Persona - "Erin"

I realized that I was designing a plant app for three types of personas. 

Erin, a non-binary 22 y/o college student who lives off-campus in a major metropolitan area. They enjoy plants in their home because it gives a soothing experience away from school. They are able to spend an extra $20 on plants every other month. Because they are away for class during the day and working at night, not much time is spent taking care of the plants until the evenings and weekends. Just like class and work, Erin is able to keep everything on a schedule such as watering and feeding for plants, and plants rarely die. Erin would love to know where to buy more complementary plants.

Then we have Alex, a 42 y/o doctor who loves to garden. He makes time before his rotation to prune and water his outdoor and indoor garden. He is actively seeking help for someone to assist with his new plant hobby as he exclusively buys exotic plants. He spends upwards of $100 every other week on plants and he loves taking pictures of his plants doing yoga beside them to show on social media when he's not at work.

Lastly, we have Aisha - 35 y/o wife and mother. She enjoys spending time with her family and plants. Aisha owned plants before quarantine but she expanded on her collection rapidly when her company allowed her to work from home as she was promoted to senior management. She began to increase her spending on plants to $150 every other week while caring for some plants more than others. As plants die they are swiftly replaced because Aisha feels they are aesthetically pleasing. With redefining the target market, it allowed me to really understand who I was trying to reach and how I should design the app.

Ideation and Wireframing - Christa Stephens - web design detroit
Ideation and Wireframing

With this in mind, I started to get inspired by looking at Pinterest to start the prototyping process. I had a few ideas in mind already so when I saw something from Pinterest that was inspiring, I used that outline to evolve my own design. Keeping in mind the insights that I gained and the target audience I started with doing a brain dump on the sketch. Adding information for feeding and water schedules, insects to look out for, and even friends. After these things started to group under similar categories - like an affinity map I soon realized it was time to come to a lo-fi wireframe.

Beginning High Fidelity Wireframing - Christa Stephens - web design detroit

Using my sketches from the brain dump, I opened up Adobe XD and made my first artboard. Did I mention that I'm transitioning into UX Research and Digital Marketing from a Software Development path? Previously, I've used Canva for content creation when creating artifacts for clients or my yoga studio over the years but since I'm diving into the field, we're using Adobe. Cycling back to my sketches and the artboards, I found it a bit challenging to figure out the actual placement of what should be where. Would Jasmine find the genus name of the plant useful as Alex would? Would the colors of the app appeal to Jasmine? Were there too many sections within the app? Although I was really excited about my color palette (based off of user insight),

...I decided to iterate through the design process again to test my lo-fi prototype.

Bring the prototype back to the users (essentially a handful of people within the aforementioned Facebook groups willing to be my testers) which allowed me to create user tests, refine my prototype, and see where I potentially missed the mark. This phase of creating and editing a prototype based on user insights, then testing and cycling back happened quite a few times until the problem statement was met.

The end result was a hi-fi prototype that was tested on users in the Facebook groups. 

The insights that were gained let me know that I created an app that would assist a user with taking care of their plants along with a few complementary features. Although the design process may be slowing down, I do intend to carry this into production in the near future. I would love to see Plant Goals in both the App and Google Play Store.

*Name placed over pictures as these are prototypes

**Originally published April 30, 2021


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