When the garden becomes your office... the joys of research!
At imby we have a mission.
We want to support people to improve their urban environments through gardening by encouraging them to enjoy whatever green space is available to them. Given we’re doing this through our mobile web app, as the UX designer at imby.bio tackling a completely offline activity like gardening with an online application creates a really interesting challenge for me.
You might be thinking, what exactly does a UX designer do? Well, essentially it’s my responsibility to ensure that our app allows people to achieve their goals in the easiest and most pleasurable way possible. I want to make sure the people using the app have the best User eXperience possible.
The experience we’re trying to improve extends well outside (quite literally) of using an app, a website or even a book for that matter. So to build something that was truly useful we needed to understand the complete experience and the context in which our app would be used. We needed to get outside and into the garden.
Well, not our garden exactly - the imby team have a range of gardening abilities; from the experts, to the experimental, to the novice (that’s me!), but regardless of how much our team gardened, we were already looking at it through imby eyes and biased to what we thought we wanted the app to be. We needed to talk to lots of individuals and start understanding the different ways in which people garden.
Now, this isn’t quite as simple as a few interview questions about gardening or asking, “what would you like from an app?”. As Henry Ford once said, “If I asked people what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”. Our research centred around going and seeing what people have been up to lately in their garden, seeing what people do in their garden, not just what they say about their garden. Gardening is very instinctual for a lot of people, there are a lot of things people do that they are not consciously aware of, so it was vital we conducted our research in the field (so to speak…)
After hours spent in people’s beautiful gardens (great perk of the job!) we had the fun job of interpreting everything we had learned. With plenty of observations, now we had to find commonalities between people’s experiences and decide where we thought imby could help, support and improve the experience… and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
We’re now in the final stages of building the first version or “beta” of our web app and have incorporated lots of the ideas that came from our research into the app. Now we need to find out if our interpretations of the research were right. Can the app really help people look after their plants and garden? Although we’ve tested the usability of the the application from the comfort of our office, it’s time to test it in context and that means getting back outside.
And this is where you can help! I really want to hear how the app is working in your garden (or balcony, or window sill, or pot) for you and your plants to see if my research has created an easy and pleasurable way to garden better.