Maddy Cha

Plant Pals

persuasive design
user research
ui/ux design

Allissa Chan
Christopher Reyes
Kade Stewart

Fall 2018


Plant Pals

My group decided to create a persuasive intervention focusing on the issue of procrastination and stress-culture in academic settings. Through literature review, user testing, paper and digital prototyping, we came up with an application demo for Plant Pals, a to-do list using a virtual pet aspect as an added extrinsic motivator.

Interactive Demo


Literature Review

We started off the process by looking at a few different studies and papers with similar material to what we were considering including in our application.


User Research

In order to further our understanding of the space, we sent out a survey asking people about their task tracking habits in terms of whether or not they use an outside resource, what they find important in terms of features, and how effective they find their current method.

We found these to be our most salient takeaways from our survey results.

  • people who use apps are very picky about features

  • tend to group tasks by categories (primarily classes)

  • planned breaks dependent on completing goals/ checkpoints


Paper Prototyping

After our initial research, we decided we had enough information to start creating some paper prototypes that would allow us to user test as well as visualize our idea.


Low-Fi Digital Prototyping

After getting basic feedback from a few of our peers, we worked on integrated all of the aspects of our task adding features more hammered down to test more concretely. We worked on low-fi screens for the plant, the to-do list, as well as the garden area of the application.


User Testing

We asked a couple of our classmates and peers to walkthrough how they would go from screen to screen and what features they appreciated in our low-fi mockups.


  • task screen

    • “I would first click on add new task and presumably a scrolly function would allow me to choose the date and time in which I would need to complete it”

    • liked idea of scrolling to reveal the add new task function

  • plant screen

    • initially thought that the to-do list was just to help figure out how to take care of plant

    • “might be better to have plant grow based on commitment to completing tasks and breaks rather than have it based on how many are completed”

    • thought it would be nice if instead of having one plant grow infinitely to have new plants after completing a lot of having new plants on a weekly/monthly schedule (which is in line with what we had planned to do)

  • garden screen

    • likes the idea of having a garden screen where you can view past plants

From our user testing sessions, we found that users liked the ease of adding tasks as well as the options to add date/time information and categorize. They preferred to enter in time estimations through a short/medium/long scale as opposed to entering in the exact time. Additionally, users preferred having the application suggest specific breaks rather than time-based breaks, which went hand-in-hand with our literature review findings.

Additionally, although it was not a focus of our research, people seemed to appreciate the minimalist style of our current progress.

Style Exploration

We decided to go with a vector-based illustration style as it would allow us to quickly iterate and animate different assets such as the virtual pets as well as items. We started testing different color palettes and typographic styles that we could implement in further screen refinements.


Mid-Fi Prototyping

To more accurately user test, we decided to flesh out the visual style for the screens. As users in our previous testing sessions noted that they enjoyed the minimalistic style of the low-fi digital prototypes, we decided to stay true to that sort of approach.

We used a light muted green color and kept a white background to make sure that the plant would stand out, regardless of the colors. We wanted to try to simulate how the application would work in terms of completing tasks/breaks and how the user would be rewarded for these accomplishments.


User Testing

To test our progress, we gathered up participants of our past user testing sessions to get a better understanding of how people may use our application and whether or not there were any specific pain points.

We ended up testing our participants in group settings. The summary results of these sessions can be found below.

General Interface/ Design

  • touch area is too small

  • text could be too small

Participant Group 1

  • liked plant pet

    • concerned about only getting random items, would prefer to be able to pick (not a super big concern though)

    • would like to be able to customize plant (yes)

  • liked the idea of scheduling in breaks

    • can you edit (e.g. delete breaks) if you think the task won't require them?

      • can you add your own break suggestions

    • task vs breaks effect on plant growth was a little confusing, so we definitely need good onboarding/ explanations for whatever system we go with

  • notifications can be annoying (especially if you're completing several tasks at once), have some way to customize

    • did still like ability to have reminders though

  • thought end of day summary was interesting but also concerned about what happens if you don't complete any tasks (explained)

  • - when would it show up? (Especially if you're completing tasks throughout the day/ past e.g. midnight) -> just when you open app in the morning?

  • general visual stuff:

    • text is a little small/ hard to read

Participant Group 2

  • change from garden, to-do, plant nav to the back to tasks nav (on summary page) creates disconnect

    • maybe present it more like a pop-up like the task completion?

  • color of plant background makes it seem like a separate part of the app

  • “do you have to complete the break to get rid of the pop-up after doing a task

  • thinks plant is cute but weird that it doesn’t really do anything between pages (fix w/ animation, etc.)

    • make it smile or dance or something if u tap on it?

  • maybe give scenery or fun background for plant

  • task adding box seems depressing/too formal since it is all gray

Interaction Prototyping

Taking our user testing results into account, we worked on creating a final interactive demo that touched on the concerns of our peers. Main pain points seemed to revolve around the order of some of the screens during the interaction, the size of elements on the page, and further development of sections to avoid confusion.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 1.06.51 PM.png

Finally, our team unified the overall visual design and interactions as well as simulated a sensical user flow for a public demo based on how our user testing participants went through the application.



One of the biggest takeaways I found through this project was the process of extracting salient points from user testing sessions. This project gave me further evidence for the effectiveness of proper user testing (especially with consistent participants) and how it impacts design decisions.

As for next steps, our team is definitely interested in furthering the connection between breaks and tasks through researching and surveying specific activities while gaining a better understanding of how extrinsic motivators can help to bolster existing internal ones.