Growing a platform for everyday gardeners to learn, engage, and inspire.
05/2022 - 07/2022
Gardenstead launched in 2017 as an inclusive, online community for gardening enthusiasts of all kinds, all over the world. After accumulating nearly 300,000 active social media users, they set their aim towards organically converting these users from free followers into members of their website and an eventual monetized product.
I was one of four designers on the team tasked with researching, planning, and designing an innovative product that Gardenstead could implement in the near future.
Rachel Millman, UX/UI Designer
Katelyn Thornton, UX/UI Designer
Crystal Tompkins, UX Designer
Andi Manes, UX Designer
ANALYZE, RESEARCH, + PREPARE
First thing's first: we had to learn about the company, their current user base, and what exactly they want to accomplish within the timeline of our project. We gained this initial information from a series of intake calls with the Gardenstead team, including their head of marketing and CEO.
"Our goal has always been to connect gardeners, foster and share knowledge, and make gardening resources available to everyone."
Gardenstead's vision is to expand its offerings as a company to engage more of their users with the website, and ultimately encourage these users to subscribe to a paid product. In particular, the CEO made it clear to us that they intend to move in the direction of monetized video content, though they hadn't yet verified if video content was something users would actually want.
After gaining a clearer understanding of what it is Gardenstead intends to accomplish - not only during this project but down the line as well - our design team defined the scope of this fast-paced project by establishing a clear timeline of milestones and deliverables to adhere to.
EMPATHIZE WITH USERS TO PLAN A SOLUTION
Heuristic Competitive Analyses
We began by identifying and evaluating some of the top competitors that exist in the problem space. We conducted these analyses based on three of Nielsen Norman Group's usability heuristics that we thought would be most valuable to investigate:
The three primary direct competitors we evaluated were The Plant Club, Planta, and Gardenista, while the three
indirect competitors we evaluated were Wondrium, Create Academy, and Skillshare.
Each of these companies has the same central goal: provide resources and an inspirational platform to their users.
Our next step in the design process was obtaining genuine user input to learn who the users actually are, past their statistical data like gender, age, and location.
To recruit participants, we created and posted a screener survey to be pinned to Gardenstead's multiple Facebook groups, giving us exposure to their hundreds of thousands of regular users.
We assumed that because of Gardenstead's substantial social media presence and the decent number of survey responses we received, that we would have no trouble scheduling interviews and gaining the qualitative data we'd need to move on.
Turns out, we were wrong.
Users were engaging with the survey, but not responding to our follow-up emails or messages. So, especially given the time constraints of this project, our team had to get crafty.
We collaborated to come up with a new strategy to recruit interviewees, because talking to users and gaining that primary input was a non-negotiable step in this project.
We determined that the users we wanted to interview did not necessarily have to be current Gardenstead users, they just had to be everyday gardeners engaged in an online community. So, we ended up sharing our survey to other similar Facebook groups, and successfully recruited 7 total interviewees.
Synthesizing the Data
After the interviews wrapped up, our design team came together to create an affinity map within a digital whiteboard, to input the highlights from each of our individual interviews and group them to uncover shared themes. This way, we could effectively draw conclusions about who our users are.
From our affinity mapping and primary research analysis, we gathered five primary insights that capture the average sentiments of users:
There is no willingness amongst users to pay for content if they feel they can find it for free;
Users prefer relevant, visually appealing, and easily scannable content;
Users want to find the most effective way to have a flourishing garden;
User spending varies based on their gardening type; and
Users are very frequently seeking inspiration.
From these insights, our team now had a better idea of who Gardenstead's users truly are and what they are (and aren't) looking for. To more concretely envision these users, we created 3 personas to represent the groups that Gardenstead aims to appeal to.
CREATING A SOLUTION TO BENEFIT REAL END USERS
Planning for the Sprint
With the discovery phase wrapped up, it was time to prepare for our upcoming 6-day design sprint. Given our team of 4 designers, we'd need to figure out how to divide and conquer responsibilities in this timeframe to output the best possible solution we could.
Right off the bat, we came together as a team to decide what exactly our solution would be for the users we've gotten to know. Taking into account all of our primary research, we decided that users were likely going to be more inclined to pay for convenience and a way to consume relevant, personalized content, rather than pay for the content itself.
WE DECIDED TO...
design a platform that generates personalized gardening content based on a user's preferences, and that allows users to create a personal library made up of content of their choosing.
The user would have the option to create a paid "plus" account with premium features aimed at allowing them to create an easily accessible, curated library of exactly what is relevant to them. There would be an option to create a free account as well, albeit with limited features.
We proceeded to map out the screens a user would encounter as they engage with this service to experience its benefits.
Now that we'd determined what screens the user would encounter as they move through this experience, we took to pen and paper to sketch out our initial ideas. As a team, we chose 3 critical screens to begin designing: the quiz page, the quiz results page, and the content library page.
Each member of our design team independently created sketches for these 3 screens, and we later reconvened to analyze and discuss the rationale behind our design choices.
Low Fidelity Designs
With our user flow finalized and a foundational structure for the product created, we moved on to transfer these designs to a digital setting. We divided our team into two groups in order to most effectively and efficiently create low fidelity versions of these designs and establish a base style guide to best manage our designs.
The wireframes our team put together were unpolished, but a great representation of how the end product would generally feel.
Simultaneously alongside the wireframes, we created a style guide to organize all of the various styles and components that would be implemented in the design. Gardenstead had some existing styles prior to the start of the project, and we kept all of those in consideration.
However, one major change we proposed to the Gardenstead team was their color palette; not only did the existing color palette fail to capture the lively, vibrant, successful feelings that the company brand aimed to portray, but several of the colors in the existing palette did not meet web accessibility standards.
We created a new color palette with an emphasis on the color green, with various shades and an accent color of gold. We felt this was a much better representation of Gardenstead's brand, and would also much better accommodate their clientele. We continued on to flesh out the style guide, which evolved as the design process moved along.
High Fidelity Prototype
As a well-equipped team, we came back together to take our low fidelity designs and style guide to create a high fidelity, interactive model of the solution we would bring to Gardenstead.
To rapidly create this prototype while ensuring that we deliver high quality results, each designer on our team took lead on designing 2 screens within the same shared Figma file. We collaborated to adhere to the style guide, add interactive elements, and create a second-to-none user experience.
VALIDATING THAT OUR DESIGN IS WHAT USERS WANT
We now needed to test out our product with real, human users before handing off our designs and discovery.
We conducted a total of 5 usability tests with 5 unique participants, who were recruited at the beginning of our design sprint.
Each test consisted of 2 primary tasks that participants were asked to complete:
Create a Gardenstead account.
Save something to your account that interests you.
While many users admired the UI and overall brand tone, some users experienced frustrations and did not interact with the product as intended:
The size of some icons and buttons being too small, and
The call-to-action buttons on the landing screen that lead to the quiz were frequently looked over by users, and failed to communicate the value of taking the quiz.
So, with these potentially experience-breaking concerns raised, we swiftly implemented changes to our designs based on this feedback. These changes included improved word choice within the quiz and calls-to-action, enlarged clickable icons to ensure accessibility, and further polishing of the UI to make sure we had the most pixel-perfect deliverable we could create within our project timeframe.
AN INCLUSIVE, BLOSSOMING PLATFORM
As we wrapped up the final phase of our project, we prepared to hand off our designs and our research to the Gardenstead team. We ultimately presented the project in its entirety and walked through the interactive prototype with the client, and explained our rationale for the proposed UX and UI changes we determined would be most beneficial to the company in achieving their business goals. Gardenstead was receptive to the feedback and enthusiastic about the work we completed within a relatively short project timeframe.
Since this project was completed on a contract basis, my design team for this project has handed off the responsibility of developing and actually implementing the designs to the Gardenstead team and their in-house engineers. We established a strong relationship between our designers and the project manager we worked with, and we look forward to this new offering being launched in the coming months.