ROLE: UX, UI & ixd
June 2020

Housegreen

Summary

Humans have been domesticating plants and taking care of them for food and pleasure since the early stages of homo sapiens history. Today, taking care of house plants still exists as a common habit for general public households. As the Generation Z population gradually enters the workforce, their interest and passion in plants can open up new opportunities in the plant care product and service market. At the same time, new technology in image processing had been advancing and being applied in different industries. This new technology has the potential to provide more expert and convenient solutions for consumers to take a better care of their house plants.

The origin

Housegreen takes on this challenge by addressing how might Gen Z achieve a successful plant care so that they can increase their indoor air quality, and more prominetly make an impact on the environment.

Role and challenge

Research: Nick and Mikias
Visual Design: Mikias

Some of the challenges we encountered while working on the project were:

— Air quality index measurement and what factors have the most impact on it
— Image processing accuracy and reliability
— Seamlessly integrating plant care with Internet of Things (IoT)
— Designing a consistent user experience and user interface for different IoTs

Design process

Beyond demographics data, our questionnaire had the following general categories to understand how Gen Z interact and take care of their house plants:

— Tracking plant health
— Plants treatment
— Plants’ value and emotions attached
— Interaction with plants

To get at people’s behaviors and pain points, we incorporated value sensitive design and journey mapping.

Stakeholders
values

Designers
values

Supported
values

Health

Control

Universal usability

Safety

Evolve

Health

Privacy

Sustainability

Sustainability

Control

Control

Reliability

Photo Credit - Jordan Mersha
Table 1.0 Stakeholders, Designer, and Explicitly supported values on IoTs

Insights

1. Lack of knowledge. While there is an increased interaction with plants, four out of five people use observation to assess their house plant's health, which 90% of the time fails due to plant diseases that are not visible to the naked eye. Plant owners' lack of professional knowledge, tools, and skills to flourish plants is a painpoint for the research audience and a reason to threaten house plants' health. Purchasing the wrong types of house plants is one of the main factors that contributes to the overall lack of knowledge.

2. Lack of emotional connection and authority. According to our research, most people use house plants as decoration rather than companions. Therefore, they lack the emotional connection for successful plant care. Additionally, the lack of authority is seen due to limited resources on active plant care and treatments, which leads to more plants being purchased and abandoned.

3. Current use of technology. We verified the use of technology surrounding house plants and found that two out of five people use their mobile devices to capture a photo of their plants to share on social media or for personal pleasure.

Design principles

1. Alleviate mental load
2. Support emotional connection
3. Achieve informational design

Outcome & visual design

When 90% of our lives are spent indoors, it raises the question of how we can make our indoors healthier and best suited for a living environment. The question becomes more prominent today during a pandemic as more people are working from home for the foreseeable future. After intensive ideations and iterations that had the insights and design principles as a base, we have designed a solution that seamlessly blends into the Gen Z lifestyle.

Keeping a plant can have many health benefits to the household, including increasing performance and reducing stress, improving indoor air quality, and helping make interiors more attractive. We found that for the average Gen Z when taking care of plants becomes part of other Internet of Things, it shifts from a chore to a routine. To alleviate mental load, Housegreen integrates plant care with IoTs, mainly air purifiers, and thermostats which collectively can produce a higher effect on indoor air quality.

Using image processing, Housegreen makes the experience of taking care of house plants intuitive by using smartphone cameras to scan for plant diseases. It builds an emotional connection by identifying the existing plant and allowing users to name their plants in the App. It also provides consistent plant health reports of scanned plants so that users know what is happening with their house plants at all times, which makes the relationship even more empathic.

The informational design was at the forefront of all our design decisions since each screen consisted of numerical and graphical information essential to the overall experience. The overall design incorporates the explicitly supported values of health, control, and sustainability by being part of other IoTs and providing intuitive UI controls.

Ultimately, Housegreen helps Gen Z in the active care of house plants and improving indoor air quality in the process, which over time could have a long lasting impact both on ones health and our green planet.

Learnings

I learned that not all solutions require a new way of achieving a goal. Sometimes creating a solution on top of something already working is the most usable and efficient solution. This lesson will help strengthen our design thinking and allows us to diverge even more in the design process for future projects.