Connecting Seattle’s Urban Gardens Through One Volunteer Management Portal
The City of Seattle’s P-Patch program is an urban gardening program with 90 sites throughout the city. Each site has 15 - 29 plots of land onsite. Communication between urban gardening sites is fragmented, sparse, and not shared in one concentrated location. In addition, there is no means to share inter-site information with outside urban farming communities.
I addressed these problems by creating a portal through which information can be disseminated through all immediate and city wide P-Patches sites. Site events and tasks can be organized through one single digital platform.
I began this project with a questionnaire administered to P-Patch members via Facebook. To promote greater usefulness of survey I asked members open-ended questions for them to describe experiences in which they achieved optimal results in their goals as an organization and when they didn’t.
Based on answers to questionnaire I discovered the major pain-points were a lack of more efficient ways of P-Patch members to keep track of tasks and responsibilities, a need to consolidate means of communication (ie. social media, email), and a lack of cross site communication.
Based on the results of the questionnaire I determined, since organization and communication seemed to be the central pain point of P-Patch members and organizers, I performed an ethnographic study. This study was performed to give me insight on how members disseminated information to each other.
Through this process I discovered the day to day operations of the P-Patch. I discovered, outside of planting their own gardens, members use P-Patch to organize “work parties” where the P-Patch community designate days to perform operational and maintenance tasks. These tasks were administered verbally through clipboards.
After the findings of the ethnographic study I began to search the market for any applications that suited the needs of the problems I found with the survey or ethnographic study.
What I found was a large amount of applications that were good at identifying local urban gardens and informing users where they could track the location of their desired vegetables, but none of the applications (including the P-Patch mobile app) offered a solution to managing gardening tasks and sharing information.
To properly analyze the survey questionnaire, ethnographic study, and competitive analysis data I performed a card sorting exercise to extract key areas of focus for the product.
Card sorting produced the 5 main focus for the product:
Leadership task administration.
Volunteer tasks sign up.
P-Patch information dissemination.
Connectedness of individual P-Patch sites.
Per the survey questionnaire the majority age range for P-Patch gardeners is 50 - 65 years old. This gave me insight into the age I would be primarily designing for.
Per the survey questionnaire the primary two means of communication is facebook and email. Email was the predominant means of communication by the majority mature user. This observation, you will later see, was used as a key design factor in the task management feature.
Per the survey questionnaire the predominant device used by the organization was desktop. This observation directed my decision to exclusively design for desktop.
User Research Takeaways
Based on user information gathered during usability research I focused my initial product design focus on the following criteria:
Primary target of design will be 65 - 80 year old retirees, as they are the primary user of P-Patch.
Most P-Patch members were not tech advanced. They preferred the “straight forward” usability of email and facebook, which offered minimal paths to get to their destination. This information would be later used to determine initial layout in design.
MVP of the product would be task sign up and task assign features, and inter P-Patch social media platform.
Since most P-Patch members only used PC, the product would be soley designed for PC (unless there was a later change in user demographics).
Based on user research I formulated user personas to help guide my design decisions.
Based on user research and clear design direction given to me by the personas I began to construct a user journey to determine how the user might use the product.
I used storyboarding to help me find the instances where the product would be most useful.
When I sketched the hero’s user journey a narrative about the hero’s motivation, their steps to achieve their desired goal, and how they could be connected to other people to achieve their goal began to crystalize:
They would use other P-Patch’s knowledge to build upon their efficiencies.
They would use the platform to assign tasks quicker and more efficiently.
Stackholders and P-Patch users were initially impressed with my artistic ability and ability to tell the story of their pain points graphically. However, some stakeholders/P-Patch users later told me the user journey gave them an understanding of the vision for the design intent. Stakeholders were impressed that I had mapped out a user journey using a problem I witnessed during my onsite ethnographic study.
After this I was ready to start designing.
The personas influenced the initial design of the home page by suggesting the user would not want too many paths to their destination. I developed user flows in conjunction with the information architecture at the same time.
Based off initial user flow diagram design I began designing the home page of the site with as little paths to the user’s desired destination as possible. This design decision was made based on the user’s lack of tech use outside of emails. To avoid causing the user to go too deep into the site’s information architecture to achieve goals, I placed task sign up and add task features (for administrators) on the main page. Auxiliary features were placed within the information architecture.
Information architecture was developed to organize all of secondary tasks, (outside of add a task, create a task, newsfeed, and personal responsibility feed).
I performed a quick (touch) usability study with 5 P-Patch members using the above wireframes printed on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper. The 3 column layout was confusing to the user, as they had a difficult time navigating to the section needed to reach their destination.
This finding directed me to go back rethink the column design and redesign the home page with less elements to distract the user.
The client began requesting a green theme at this point. This threw a wrench in the design process, but I began incorporating green color palettes while user testing tints and hues.
User testing yielded the following changes in UI:
Feature column was reduced from 3 to 2.
After some task based testing, ask sign up and task add calendar was re-positioned in a more direct line of sight. Task based AB testing determined this feature was better accessed in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
A responsibility matrix was added to the design, but was later removed, after AB testing showed it visually slowed down the user from performing other tasks.
AB testing proved that smaller horizontal margins between the left news feed cards yielded faster task completion.