January 2018 - May 2018
When prototyping an experience, UX designers will often need to be aware of the interaction between technology and its environment. To monitor the environment, it is beneficial for UX designers to be able to integrate materials such as cardboard and physical computing devices such as sensors. The challenge is in the relationship between the two, and whether they work cohesively or separately.
For this project, our team’s goal was to prototype an experience that utilized technology and environment in unison. We were to use an Arduino or Adafruit Feather to assist us in our prototyping.
Sketching and Ideation
Our goals during our first brainstorming sessions were to decide on an experience that we wanted to prototype and to think of ways that the experience could be used in critical design.
We had several ideas of experiences to prototype, but in the end we decided on the experience of being a plant owner and taking care of the plant by monitoring water and sunlight intake. Our ideas to prototype this experience as critical design started with promoting mental health.
Later in the project, we pivoted to promoting physical health. We used our mental health sketches to influence our transition to promote physical health due to the stronger connection between physically caring for a plant and physically caring for yourself.
A few of our ideas for mental health as critical design included a “Mental Health Tip of the Day.” This would be displayed somewhere the user would see it frequently, such as a loading screen or home screen, and it would give advice to the user on how they could improve their mental health.
In this sketch, we were exploring the idea of creating a plant profile and care helper so that users would be able to connect more. This design was intending to change the way the user would view their plant as less of a physical object.
We conducted some basic secondary research to gain a better understanding of the benefits of owning plants as well as the possibilities for possible use cases. While we were narrowing down the scope of our project from just basic plant care, to mental health, and finally physical health, we found it useful to see how houseplants fit in to each personal experience and scenario.
We discovered that plants for mental health creates a sense of purpose and reduce anxiety. We also found that taking care of a plant can provide a sense of empowerment and confidence mostly due to the fact that it is a task that requires responsibility and provides reward for keeping it alive.
To better understand how other current applications and sensors were tackling similar problems to ours, we evaluated existing solutions based on their overall goal, level of interactivity, and important features. We looked at the mobile applications Koubachi and MyGarden and the plant sensor Chirp!
Koubachi is an app that helps users keep their plants alive. It also seems to have a virtual garden feature and a guide to helping users identify what type of plants they have. The main goal of the app is simply to make sure that the plants don’t die and it’s unclear how the app determines this information (i.e. user inputted?).
MyGarden allows you to connect with other gardeners and log your plant garden, thus like a social network for gardens. You can show what you are growing off to other gardeners which in turn may motivate users to keep good care of their plants.
Chirp! Is a plant watering alarm that senses when the plant needs water and alerts the user. The alarm is a “chirp” that the user must hear in order to remember to water the plant. The device is hackable so users can add other features like logging light and moisture data about the plant.
In our low-fidelity prototype, we wanted to determine the order or the screens of the app. We created a flow chart, but we still needed to decide the order of the three main screens.
First, we made a phone case out of cardboard and masking tape. This phone was open on the sides and the top. We designed it this way because we wanted to be able to slip pieces of paper from the left to the right and from the top to the bottom to imitate swiping and scrolling. Second, we sketched on three different orders of screens on three pieces of paper.
The first paper represents swiping left and right with the homescreen in the middle and the secondary screens on the left and right sides of the homescreen.
The second paper also represents swiping left and right, but with the homescreen on the left. To get to the secondary screens, the user swipes right.
The third paper represents swiping up and down with the homescreen on the top and access to the secondary screens by scrolling down.
To decide which order of screens to use, we got the opinion of different people. We showed them the prototype, asked them which one was their favorite, and asked them why they chose one over the others.
Overall, the people we asked chose the flow with the home screen on the left. They chose it because it was familiar, similar to how users swipe to see more pictures on Instagram and to how users navigate between pages of the homescreens on their phones.
Prototyping with Arduino and Adafruit Feather
The purpose of prototyping Arduino and Adafruit Feather prototypes was to prototype the sensors which checked the temperature and humidity levels of the soil.
We used the (1) Arduino prototype as a first iteration of the temperature and humidity sensor, and the (2) Adafruit Feather prototype is the last iteration with prongs that insert into the soil and sends SMS messages when the temperature or humidity was too high or low. Click See More to watch this prototype run.
Our final solution involved many prototypes, but put together they symbolized the holistic experience. We had (1) an app that the user could open to check on the status of their plant’s health, (2) a physical prototype that pairs a real plant with the mobile app, and (3) a notification system that alerts the user when their plant needs water or sunlight.