A mobile plant search engine inspired by native plant gardening


UX Designer


4 months

My interest in native gardening

I was first introduced to native gardening when I had the opportunity to work at a local farm in New York. During my time at the farm, I realized my connection to nature had faded over the years as I spent more and more hours attached to screens. This awareness sparked my desire to learn more about plants, an interest which would eventually lead to the birth of this search engine.

Why native plants? 

We are currently experiencing a climate crisis, and one element of the climate crisis is biodiversity loss. Due to human activity such as land development and pollution, ecosystems have been severely impacted and are rapidly declining. Learning about native plants is beneficial because it serves as a tool to aid us in cultivating an environment other native species can survive within.

The Solution

After extensive research, I iterated based on user feedback to develop an application which seamlessly integrates native plants into a user's learning experience.

What do we know already? 

  • Communities exist online
    From facebook groups to reddit forums, there are many places online where people can gather around the topic of native plants.
  • Information is available everywhere
    There are many resources available, including books, youtube videos, and websites. However, while there is a lot of information available, users are required to invest time in order to curate all of the information they may need.
  • Native gardening is growing traction
    The idea of transforming traditional green grass lawns into meadows is an idea that has gripped thousands of people through social media. Excitement is brewing.

Connecting to curious people

Surveying, interviewing, analyzing

In order to expand my understanding of the challenges people face in learning about native plants, I asked for people to participate in a survey. The survey results helped contextualize the experience and interest people had in native plants.

“What is your familiarity with native plants?”

From the survey participants, I selected and interviewed 5 individuals who had varying levels of exposure to native plants. These interviews became foundational knowledge, as they helped me think through what features should be prioritized within the app.

Image of affinity map made up of post its. There are larger yellow post its which have small post its of various colors surrounding them. The yellow post its are labeled personal context, community, resources, goals/future, good energy, stressors, and native plant knowledge. Smaller post its have notes from the interviews

Existing tools to learn about native plants

Geared around attracting native birds to your yard, Audubon provides a great database for users to familiarize with the wildlife each plants will bring into your life.

This search engine is malleable and offers location and various other filters, as well as the option to save items. While this website serves as an extensive database, the information offered for each plant is limited.

While conceptually brilliant, the app leads for more to be desired. An assortment of invasive and native plants are available on the app, but its organization and informational content is lacking.

How do we help users learn? 

Offer easy methods of recognition and comprehension

Throughout the user interviews, there was a consistent thread of uncertainity displayed by participants. They doubted their abilities to learn and recognize plant species and were also overwhelmed by the number of resources available online.

Develop intuitive navigation

One of the primary flaws present in competitor applications is the need for users to learn how to navigate their platforms.

How do we help users learn? 

Creating an integrated learning experience

Instead of creating an application solely focused on native plants, I decided that it would serve users best if native plants were naturally incorporated into their plant browsing experience. User intentions in learning about plants vary widely, so while I envision people utilizing my app to grow native gardens, this may not be the reality.

Testing in greyscale

Catching critical errors prior to high fidelity designing

I had five people test a rough black and white prototype I created in Figma. I chose to create a low fidelity draft to ensure that errors weren’t due to lack of comprehension of my handwriting.

Low fidelity wireframe

Reflecting on testing results; an overall positive response

Generally, test participants were pleased by the application and excited at its flexibility. There were still improvements to be made, but this round of testing reassured me that the application was going in the right direction.

  • “I can see myself using this to learn more about the things I see while on walks or hikes”
  • “It’s really easy to use! My mom would love this!"
  • ‍“The save feels like a ‘like’ button and is hard to see”
  • “I wish the filters were available in places beyond the search. It would be helpful to be able to filter through saved or native plants.”

Revising the high fidelity prototype

Drafting a script which addresses the red routes

My first round of usability tests revealed issues in both my prototype and the way I was testing my users. Due to the confusion caused by my test script, I'm not sure if this initial round of testing actually demonstrated to me all of the problems users were having with my app. However, I discovered errors that needed to be addressed.

Responding to user feedback

Users also requested for minor aesthetic adjustments, such as improvements to the plant identification screen. Revisions such as these were reminders for me to make a to do list while drafting so as to not forget the little adjustments to be made before presenting.