Sensing the Best Way to Grow Plants
By Ruolin Chen, Diandre Sabale, Kriti Vidya
Growing plants at home is a sustainable practice that reduces the negative impacts on the environment in various ways. However, through our research we found that many people are deterred from trying to grow a plant at home or did not consider sustainability as a factor when choosing or caring for plants.This was mainly due to reasons like not knowing what to grow based on their environment or how to maintain the plant so that it stays healthy. We also found that apartment owners were more hesitant to grow plants at home than homeowners. Since most of the younger generations are currently living in apartments, we thought it would be a great idea to create a platform that suggests appropriate plants to grow for users and also simplifies plant care scheduling.
For the solution, it would consist of two parts which would be a sensor and a mobile application. The sensor would be able to detect what the plant needs such as water or more nutrients and it can be inserted into the plant pot. The sensor would also connect to the mobile app which would give the users reminders about when to do tasks like watering plants which makes it easier for them to maintain their plants. The sensor will use environmental data to determine when tasks should be done and the appropriate amount of resources to use to grow their plant sustainability. The mobile app would allow the user to check the status of their current plants and also help them find new plants to grow through the search or recommendation page. If the user is unsure of what to grow, they can go to the recommendation page and input factors like location or space to get personalized suggestions for sustainable plants.
Paper Prototype & Testing
Initial Paper Prototype
We created a paper prototype involving both a mobile application and a physical sensor for the plant. For the paper prototype, we focused on creating a screen for every important task that the users would mainly use the application for. The mobile application was the prime focus of the prototype. We also created a physical sensor but tried to make it relatively simple so that it was easier to utilize and understand so that it is more accessible.
Task # 1 Adding a plant to their account
The first task we focused on with designing is how a sure would be able to use our application to find a plant, add it to their account.
Task 2: Responding to plant task notifications
The second task that we focused on designing is how the sensor would connect to the application and alert the user that their plant is healthy or needs help. In order for the user to get these alters,, the user has to pair their sensor to the plant first.
After finishing the paper prototype, we were able to get our paper prototype evaluated two ways. One way was through the heuristic evaluation that we did in class. We also were able to have two college students that were living off campus and a younger student living with their family test our paper prototype.
From both of these evaluations we found out that one of the issues that users had was navigating the overall app. Within each page, users were comfortable with finding the information that they needed, but to go between pages or confirm which page they were on, users felt confused as there was unclear confirmation and ambiguous page icons used.
The other main issue that the user had with the original design was the sensor pairing process as they had stated that it felt awkward to them as compared to the usual bluetooth pairing they were used to. Our original model ended up having some extra steps and ambiguous instructions.
Otherwise, most users had small feedback about potential additions like separating information into their own pages or having space for information like FAQs or plant data. We decided to include these in the final project as well.
After these results, our final paper prototype is designed as listed below.
With these improvements to the paper prototype, we were confident that the workflow that users would follow was intuitive and clear. Thus, we were ready to begin on the high-fidelity digital mockup.
Based on our user research and paper prototype feedback, we have updated our design process to help users better understand how to use the prototype. Then, we created a high-fidelity prototype on Figma (link to design) to demo how users can complete certain tasks.
Task 1: Login/Sign up and add a plant to your account
After the user downloads Aplantment, they land on the homepage where it directs them to the log in and sign up page. They have access to the search and recommendation for plants even if they don’t have an account yet. The users are able to either search for a specific plant or get personalized recommendations for sustainable plants based on factors like location, the type of plant, how much space available, amount of sunlight, difficulty of taking care of the plant, temperature that the plant should handle and if the plant is pet-friendly. From the results page, the user is able to click on each of the plants. This leads them to a new page where they are able to see more information regarding the plant and what one needs to care for it properly. That is also when the user is able to add a plant to their collection. If the user is not signed in, it informs them that to sign in to add the plant to their collection. After logging in, they have the option to add a plant into their account so it appears on the homepage and it allows them to connect their plant to a physical sensor.
Some changes that we have made in the design process is that we moved the plant options to its own page and reduced the buttons on the dashboard because it was too busy and the buttons would be harder to click. The original connection process was inconsistent with other apps involving device connection, so we revamped it to involve easier actions and simpler instructions. The original dashboard for guest users was not very user-friendly. We changed it to have an opening message to encourage exploration.
Task 2: Responding to notifications about plant care
If the plant doesn’t have a sensor connected, the user is required to connect the sensor in order to receive alerts. Once it is connected and placed in the pot, the user would receive notifications if their plant is not doing well. After the user receives a notification, they can open the app which places them on the homepage where they are able to see all their plant’s statuses. The cards are in order of urgency, for example, needing water is identified as more urgent than connecting to the sensor. Each card would show the health status of their plant. In the prototype, Philodendron needs to be watered. The user taps on the orange button to find out more details about how to take care of the plant. Once the user does what the plant requires, the alert turns green on the phone and so does the sensor’s color to indicate that it is healthy once again.
The sensors change different colors based on the situation. When it is brand new and not turned on, it has no color. When it is read to connect the sensor will be blue. Once it is connected the color turns yellow. Once placed in the pot, the color will either turn green or red depending on if the plant is healthy or not.
There are so many factors that are contributing to environmental pollution and at a rapid rate. This is why it has become very important to become environmentally conscious in order to save our planet. One of the easiest ways for one to do it is to grow some sustainable plants at home. During our research, we found that many struggled to do this due to factors like not knowing what to grow or having a hard time maintaining their plants.
This is why we have come with a solution to this problem through a mobile application known as Aplantment. Through this application, the users are able to search or get personalized recommendations for sustainable plants. This application also works with a sensor where once the user connects the sensor to the application and places it in their plant pot, they are able to get alerts for tasks needed by the plant such as watering it. The sensor’s color changes to indicate whether it is healthy or not and this also reflected in the app on their dashboard where it displays the status of each plant in their collection.