Native is an app to help users create their ideal landscape and take the guesswork out of its care.

I was standing in my yard, staring at a tree branch of crumbling leaves wondering, “Is this little guy getting too much sun? Does it have a disease? Did I not water it enough? How much water does it even need?” Tending to plants has never been my forte, and my first jaunt into homeownership forced me to tackle lawn care alongside the home’s endless maintenance demands. I decided to build an app that would assist fellow non-gardeners to care for their landscaping by boiling down a seemingly complex world into an easily manageable activity.

The process began with a survey sent out to find tech-savvy homeowners and renters that desire beautiful landscaping with minimal upkeep. In-person interviews were conducted with survey respondents who demonstrated a DIY attitude and a desire to alter their landscaping. Interview participants unanimously mentioned that they look for low-maintenance plants and shared a fear that a new plant would end up needing more care than expected. Being able to diagnose problems and remembering when to care for their plants was also a common thread. One participant voiced a desire for scheduled reminders to keep them on top of the task. Their interviews were charted into two user personas, Elegant Erik and Nurturing Nisa.

The research led to the formulation of an app that would help users find native, naturally low-maintenance plants for their garden, troubleshoot plant problems and illnesses, and provide resources for the novice gardener. It would also cross-reference the plants contained in a person’s garden with local weather feeds to create a personalized care calendar showing them when to water, fertilize, or perform general maintenance.

After a competitive analysis of other plant sites and apps was prepared and key features were chosen through the development of user stories, the navigation and sitemap were built through card sorting. The card sort helped to create the category names of My Plants, Plant Finder, and Plant Doctor. It also heavily revised how the Care Calendar was treated and what items would be housed in My Plants.

The original sitemap sketch evolved heavily by the time it was drawn digitally. Analyzing how users might operate the app by mocking up user flows led to an additional optimization of the sitemap. The Inspiration Gallery and Disease/Pest Gallery were slated as feature bloat and cut, only to be brought back if requested by users. The former Condition Info category would become integrated into a user’s profile and transformed into a resources section to allow for more useful gardening tips.

After initial wireframe sketches were built using Balsamiq, a reconsideration of time constraints and reexamination of the user flows led to another iteration of the product. Instead of being a site accessible online/app, it would be a native app for the initial launch. This change in scope rid the need for a login since users’ data for their location, yards, and wishlists wouldn’t need to be stored externally. Allowing users to build their own plant groupings was dismissed as well, putting the feature on hold pending user demand. The Care Calendar was also reconfigured to be fully automated and even more convenient for the user. If field tests return with a user desire to edit and add calendar entries, the function could be reintegrated.

A portion of the app’s features was built into a prototype using InVision and tested on potential users.

Currently, the app is in the design phase. More screens to come…