Boomerang, an app for urban gardeners

Boomerang is an app that help urban gardener to share knowledge among each other. The idea is simple, rather than looking for information online, people can reach out for help by sending voice quests to other gardeners living in the same city. Inspired by agriculture oral tradition, the app fosters knowledge sharing and creates an opportunity for story telling in a playful way. The quest travels among anonymous users until 10 people have replied. The answers are collected in a playlist and shared between all the participants.

Project by Erica Coria from the Master’s programme in Interaction Design at Malmö University, 2016.

DESIGN PROCESS: Empathise and Define

The project took off from a personal interest in urban farming and sustainability. My goal was to look for a design opportunity to support urban gardeners in their practices. The project started with a research around:

  • analysis of existing products that target urban gardeners
  • interviews to members of 2 local communities, one being an established organisation dedicated to hydroponic agriculture, and the other being a group of neighbors which share a vegetable garden in the city
  • interview and workshop with a people with different skills and interest in urban farming.

Many of the existing digital products support users to take care of their plants by using sensors that monitor the plant status and send notifications. In some cases the system has a higher degree of automation, such as in FarmBot. The interviews, though, revealed that what people most valued in their activities was the process of learning by doing, the therapeutic aspect connected with growing and the social ties. The design therefore needed to focus on these qualities, rather than efficiency. Some of the insights gained from the interviews were:

  • the existing knowledge is vast but fragmented
  • the preferred way for knowledge acquisition is through direct contact to “senior” members or family/friends, in a spirit of mutual hemp
  • finding relevant information in relation to the climate, cultivation technique and experience level was sometime challenging
  • farming is an activity that occurs over long time and learning is mainly based on hands-on experience, accumulated over years of experience.

Ideation, prototyping and testing

Personas has been created to condense the reseach phase and inform the ideation. Prototypes has been created to test different aspects of the idea. For instance, the core idea of the Boomerang app has been tested with a quick prototype which used the voice message functionality of whatsapp to simulate the app experience, followed by interviews and an online survey to collect users feedback. Use scenarios have been used to test the concept and explore together with the users possible features to be added.
Wireframes and task flows has been created to translate the concept idea into the Boomerang app design.

BOOMERANG proposes a new approach to seek for information, which aims to provide relevant knowledge and leave space for a creative appropriation by the user.