An app designed to change behavior by helping aspiring home gardeners plan and manage their gardens.
Design an app that facilitates a behavior change in users.
Adobe XD, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Audition
Sketching, secondary research, interviewing, user research, concept testing, wireframing, UI design, prototyping, microinteractions, storytelling, video editing, iterative design
Behavior, Michael Chanover
4 weeks, Fall 2020
A video demonstration of Sprout.
With an open-ended project brief, I was excited to be able to orient this project in a direction that is personal and meaningful to me. I started by listing out 5 behaviors that I felt would bring impactful change to people's lives.
In this exercise, I identified why each behavior would be easy to change, hard to change, and important to change.
My initial list of possible behaviors to change with my design.
My classmates all voted on which of my behavior change concepts was their favorite. This helped me see where there was a greater need for a product that changes behavior, and it helped me narrow my ideas down. I ultimately chose the gardening concept, though it wasn't the most popular one, because it was an opportunity to explore a personal interest and passion of mine.
My classmates' votes on which concept to use.
First, I needed to understand more of the problem space. What are aspiring gardeners thinking? What are their hopes? Goals? Concerns? What is motivating them? These were all questions I asked to four interviewees, all of whom had indicated an interest in starting their own home garden. I found these interviewees after putting out a survey, shared online through my network. The interviews, which were conducted through Zoom were eye-opening, and I was able to see patterns emerge regarding the frustrations and things that hold people back.
My outline for these initial interviews.
My notes from these interviews.
HMW . . . ?
With the interviews shedding light on the mindset of aspiring gardeners who are struggling to get started, I had a solid direction for my project. From asking about their motivations and what has stopped them from pursuing their goal of having a garden, I learned that a concern about lack of knowledge and failure was a common thread between interviewees.
I realized that for my app to successfully change behavior, I needed to address these two things first and foremost. Which lead me to my "How Might We" statement below:
How might we help aspiring gardeners become knowledgeable and confident enough to start their own garden?
With this project's timeline in mind, I wanted to be smart about how I managed my time early on in the project – I didn't want to waste my time on something I might need to scrap later on.
Using my insights from my previous round of interviews, I came up with a list of possible features to implement in this app to play into the motivations of new gardeners and ameliorate their fears.
I went to potential users of my app and asked them to rate each concept that I presented to them on a scale from 1–10; 1 meant that they were not interested and 10 meant that they were very interested. I then asked them to give an explanation for their score.
I found testers by sending out a survey to students at my school. They would indicate interest and I'd follow up with a Zoom interview. These students represented many different perspectives and living situations, coming from different settings (urban, suburban, rural), home environments (apartments, townhomes, single family homes), and locations (both within and outside of the US).
My outline and notes sheet for the concept testing session.
The concept testing session proved to be extremely helpful. Results were relatively consistent, with the most highly rated features getting similar scores from all participants. There was some discrepancy on other features. For example, people were polarized on the addition of a social/community feature.
I decided to move forward with the concepts that were rated highly by all, which left me with 5 features to sketch out.
Sketches of my app concepts for changing behavior.
I was able to receive some feedback from my classmates on my sketches, which put me in a good position to move on to creating wireframes in Adobe XD. I worked to recreate some elements of my sketches, and modify other parts to implement some of the ideas suggested by my peers.
Left: app wireframes. Right: peer feedback.
I received helpful comments from the peer review session. Some classmates suggested that since some people may struggle with motivation to change their
behavior, I could try to identify a target audience that does have the proper interest and motivation, or try to gamify the experience to make it more fun.
I also received positive comments that affirmed that I was going in the right direction with some of the sketches I presented. People liked that this app could be
used by different people with different motivations and that maintaining a garden and changing behavior would reward the user for their efforts.
I also put my wireframes in front of user testers from my target audience. They shared similar concerns about the set up questionnaire, feeling that it needs to ask for more details to be effective. Testers felt that the planner, achievements, and seed guide features were the best.
The harvest calendar was liked, though testers felt like it was only a nice thing to have, but ultimately not 100% necessary for the behavior change. The “my garden” feature was the least successful one tested. Testers did not want to have to go to a separate page to get care instructions for each plant; they want them all in one place.
The next step was applying more details to the wireframes, as well as altering some of the weak spots that had been identified through user testing and peer feedback. I went through a couple of iterations making changes to the visual design of the app, as well.
Testing with potential users showed that the progress bar used in the questionnaire was better since it was more detailed than before. The questionnaire issues with regard to its lack of specificity still were not resolved by this design. The visual design style of the seed guide was better, but awkward due to the large empty space on top.
Next iteration of the wireframes.
I made changed based on feedback and created the designs shown below. I tested these as well, and learned that the new screens in the questionnaire make it much more effective. The color scheme being used is nice, but pink might put some people off due to being too feminine. The serif typeface has mixed results, with some liking it and others thinking it feels inappropriate in an app.
This other design also received mixed reviews. The rectangle with one curved corner was liked, but the some felt that the green shapes at the top of the screen were unnecessary. Others thought it was a nice addition that filled empty space.
With time left in the project going away quickly, I was starting to get concerned that the app didn't have a pleasing and appealing visual style. I had gone back and forth between designs with mixed reviews, so I decided to dedicate some time to the visual design of the app rather than the functionality of the features.
Testers preferred the design on the left. It didn’t have as much empty space and there were no unnecessary details cluttering the space.
The first iteration of the UI design.
UI design experiments with placement of text.
The Final Deliverable
Taking what I learned from the feedback on my earlier iterations, I made a lot of changes in the final version. Changes to the visual design included applying the layout chosen by testers to most other screens, as well as changing the fonts and colors used.
I also improved the initial questionnaire and redesigned the plant care instructions feature of the app to better meet the needs expressed by users (a clear and easy to follow list, with everything in one place).
Final version of the UI design.
WHAT I LEARNED
This is a project that really challenged me to grow as a designer, expanding my skillset across a range of subjects. Not only that, I think it was a turning point for me as designer in terms of my confidence. This project felt like a lot to take on solo, and in only 4 weeks, I was insecure at times that I could produce something that I'm proud of that truly addresses the needs I had identified.
I learned how to follow a modified design sprint format in this project, and I got to take a design through every stage of the design process. I was able to fine tune my ability to make judgements about how to manage my time and focus my energy, and I learned to break my habit of going too high fidelity, too fast.