GardenMate is a mobile application concept for Windows phone that has specific features for gardeners who want to maintain and track their gardens.
Key features include:
Reminders and notifications: Push notifications that remind you when to water, feed, and harvest your gardens.
Weather: Current weather and 5-day forecasts. Also, an almanac feature that helps growers gain insight into weather patterns.
Research: A rich catalog of various plant types and tools, to help users learn more about their gardens.
Social: Share the progress of your garden with friends and families.
Tips and Suggestions: Throughout the use of the application, users receive tips and suggestions to help them know when is the best time to plant, water, feed, or harvest their gardens. Recommendations are also included to help users discover new plants and gardening methods.
The inspiration for this app came from my wife, who was in the process of building a vegetable garden at the time. I saw that she was writing down notes to herself to help remind her to water and care for the garden and was spending a great deal of time researching and preparing the best possible growing conditions.
When interviewing her, and other amateur gardeners, it seemed like reminders were a core scenario, however there was an additional richness missing from their gardening experience.
Information and weather patterns were vital. For most amateur gardeners, understanding the subtle nuances of the plants you are trying to grow is key. Additionally, you have to be familiar with the region and geography that you're planting in. My wife, for instance, was relying on neighbors (we were new to the area) to get a sense of what fruits and vegetables would successfully grow in our garden.
After a few interviews, I reviewed my notes and began to sketch out some interfaces. At this point, I wasn't concerned with specific layout and design choices, but rather the core features that would prove useful for a gardening application.
In this sketch, I was playing around with the notion of a plant having an "emotive" quality. It would be perspiring and panting when it needed water, woozy when it was hungry, or big when it was time to harvest. Eventually, I abandoned these caricatures when I deemed that it was a bit out of touch with the Microsoft design language.
As part of the app story, we created a persona that we believed would be an ideal user of GardenMate. This helped us visualize user scenarios and ensure that we were crafting an application that met our users' needs.
The focus of this class was to create a functional prototype, so there was not a lot of time spent doing user research, competitive analysis, and design iterations. If this had been a real-world project, I would have spent more time interviewing hobbyist gardeners from different backgrounds, experiences, and regions. This would have helped me understand common problems in the space and, I'm confident, would have vastly changed my overall design direction.
The minimum required deliverable for this project was a medium-fidelity prototype. I decided to go above and beyond the requirement, because I wanted to learn Microsoft's design language. More often than not, you should keep your prototypes in medium-to-low fidelity. Because we were not planning to perform usability studies on the prototype, I decided there was an opportunity for me to explore the Microsoft design language and create a polished prototype.
To help with the visual fidelity, I created elaborate files in Photoshop, with multiple layer hierarchies, and exported numerous images. I then, imported those images into PowerPoint, which allowed me to layer and animate the images in a way that mimicked a real life application.
Again, this was way above the requirement for the project and I would not recommend this approach for most real-world projects, as it is unnecessarily time consuming and provides little value at the prototype stage.