ASU Garden
Commons Interface

OVERVIEW

The Garden Commons is a community urban garden located on ASU campus. Susan Norton, the Sustainability Practices program manager, expressed specific interest in motivating people to engage with the garden more. Her vision is to transform the space into a sustainable and mindfulness one. My team and I took upon this task as it was an opportunity to think outside of conventional interfaces, on how to direct the crowd towards the garden. Our main challenge would be just that.

DURATION

8 weeks

(SCHOOL PROJECT + CLIENT BASED)

PROJECT TEAM

Cristina Martinez - Human Systems Engineering student
Aaron Wang, Y Nguyen, Adhvik Madhav - User Experience students
Daniel Winstanley - Technical Communications student
Susan Norton - Sustainable Practices Manager, Our Client
Prof. Andrew Mara - Interdisciplinary and communications head at ASU, Project Mentor

PROCESS

We defined success as increasing visitors to the garden. Our goal is to represent the space as a place of gathering and mindfulness. We followed an unconventional approach for this project. My team and I conducted user research together, and were split up to work on our own versions of the design solution.  Given more time, I would have measured increase in user engagement.

PROBLEM STATEMENT

Why a website/app won't solve the problem.

It is quite evident that a simple website redesign isn't going to increase the number of people knowing about the garden when the website itself is hardly known. The website itself has some significant usability issues which we will uncover in the usability test.

" How do we increase people engagement with the garden, inform them of its existence, and attract passersby's attention? "

Possible solutions

In terms of providing information and directing people to specific locations, we sketched three solutions with varying levels of interactivity.

Billboards

  • Cheapest way to advertise. Visible even at distances.

  • Billboard advertising has a very low conversion rate.

  • Limited information can be displayed.

Interactive kiosk

  • Gives users a way to find out more about the garden.

  • Easily accessible and can contain many features.

  • Slightly expensive, may not fit within budget.

Location updates

  • Does not cost the organization anything as users will have their phones.

  • Requires location services. Users may not always have it on, may feel uncomfortable being tracked.

FINAL DESIGN

Based on our User research and Ideation, we developed our final interface for an interactive kiosk.

VIEW PROTOTYPE

Influence of the homepage

The homepage of the kiosk is like a virtual gateway to the garden.  Here are some of the design considerations I took while sketching the homepage,

  • It needs to have a navigation feature showing how to get to the destination.

  • The kiosk needs to be welcoming.

  • A photo grid showing the crop variety and events conducted.

  • The main tasks on the kiosk are readily available via a sliding carousel on the homepage. The slides can be seen below.

Booking and registering for events

My proposed design has a simple navbar that takes you directly to the events tab to book the garden for your own events, or register for upcoming events.

Presently, booking is done via email exchange. As a result, Susan spends quite a lot of time going through her emails and the probability of overlooking one is quite high.

E-commerce tab

The garden presently donates all its organic produce to kitchen halls on campus, and to certain food organizations. By acting as a market, the garden can generate some income to support its operations. This idea is still in its early stages and is being discussed with Susan.

Nonetheless, I came up with a process similar to an e-commerce website like amazon pantry or Walmart. Payments will be made in person at the garden itself.

High-fidelity prototypes

Navigating to the garden

The homepage provides instant directions to the garden, along with estimated time of arrival. The path is set to walking by default.

Booking the space has never been easier.

Users can navigate to the Events tab where they register for upcoming events, or book the garden to host their own. This reduces the dependency on email and centralizes all requests.

Purchasing organic produce

As discussed in the sketching phase, this feature ma prove to be extremely useful to the garden. Users can add their items to cart and checkout.

USER RESEARCH

User Survey

In order to gauge general interest in the garden, as well as to schedule faculty members for user interviews, we emailed professors of various related departments invitations to take a flash survey. 6 faculty members responded to the survey, with 4 agreeing to an interview.

User Interviews

The follow-up interviews were held either in person or through the use of the Zoom meeting app. The interview was designed to be semi-structured and featured numerous open-ended questions which helped establish an open dialog with the interviewee.

" I think the garden is a great venue to share and discuss sustainability topics. "

" I love spending time outdoors, teaching at the garden gives me a chance to get out of the classroom. "

" For me, parking is a big issue. I takes me 30 min to reach campus. The parking near the garden isn't always empty. "

" The website doesn't show me what type of events take place there, or what grows there. "

" There isn't enough infrastructure at the moment. The heat and space are worrying. "

Themes

To identify recurring ideas/thought processes, we decided to go through the interview responses a number of times. This would help us understand our future user’s expectations when they interact with the garden.

Identified themes,

Great place for gathering

Several participants mentioned this idea in one context or another. Whether the garden is used for classroom, event, or other recreational purposes, it has the potential to gather crowds.

Resources at the garden are limited

The garden is still under development, so this issue may be corrected over time. But, participants did mention an increase in classroom space, equipment, and the variety of plants grown could positively impact the garden.

Space is a concern

According to Susan Norton, the garden can hold about 20 working participants, or 40 spectators. A class may well exceed this limit.

Users likely already have an interest in sustainability

Rather than the garden getting users into sustainability, sustainability gets the users to the garden.

The key takeaways are,

  • There is definitely a lot of interest in using the garden as a outdoor classroom or a place of gathering.

  • The garden is an ideal location to practice sustainable horticulture and grow organic produce.

  • Currently it lacks infrastructure like parking, tables, protection from heat, etc.

  • The website does a poor job of reflecting the garden's vision, and is difficult to find.

  • People would like to know what kind of plants grow there, events that take place. The interface is not welcoming.

IDEATION & SKETCHING

Personas

From our research, we distilled that there are broadly two ways that people want to interact with the garden. Host an event where people can gather and socialize. And conduct classes outdoors so that students feel more connected to their surroundings. We personalized these groups in the form of discernible human-shaped personas.

Concept sketches

The key takeaways are,

  • Users want to be able to book the space with ease.

  • They would like to see past events and register for future ones.

  • The kiosk should be welcoming and have relevant information available immediately.

  • It should serve as a viable replacement to the website.

WHAT I
LEARNED

Due to severe time constraints and the pandemic making all classes virtual, our project ended with the design phase. Our final deliverable was a report containing the high-fidelity prototypes.

If given more time, I would have loved to,

  • Discuss the installation of the kiosk with Susan. If it was financially feasible. Else the interface would have migrated to a tablet.
  • Test the prototype and measure the increase in number of people attending events.

  • Measure the success of the kiosk: if my idea would actually be able to increase engagement with the garden, and bring stable revenue.

Insights

  • I enjoyed working on this project as it was a step apart from a traditional redesign. Working with students from other majors was a bonus, I could rely on their knowledge in areas I myself wasn't confident in.

  • I just wish we didn't have to work on the design phase individually. With no one to counter my design decisions, it felt disjoint from a real client based project.
  • We spent quite a lot of time on research, having weekly stand-ups in front of the class. Picking up ideas and methodologies from other groups definitely influenced the latter half of the project.