Search and Identify Plants App by Patagonia

The challenge this time was to explore a new problem / opportunity for an existing brand in a mobile platform that would be chosen by my time, conformed by Kevin Cudahy and Justin Lam.

We wanted to create something meaningful, focusing our design skills to contribute to the world in someway. We needed to define and validate a desirable role for the app and how it would meet the needs of the users. Once we had the chance to talk and share our personal interests, we were thrilled with the idea of creating a product for one of the coolest companies in the world: Patagonia.

The Research

All of us had heard about Patagonia and the quality of their amazing outdoor jackets. However, Patagonia was something more than a successful e-Commerce. Our enthusiasm was increasing with each new discovery about how this company was changing the world since decades ago. The strong commitment that this brand has with the planet Earth made us feel absolutely fascinated.

Patagonia, Inc. is an American clothing company founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973 that sells and showcases mainly sustainable outdoor clothing. Based in Ventura, California, Patagonia is part of several environmental movements and is a certified B Corp, meaning the company is committed to combatting public concerns (in this case environmental) alongside the profit motive.

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” — Patagonia Statement

Patagonia Brand Facts

Competitive Analysis

In order to continue reinforcing the Patagonia statement, we started exploring other apps that were connecting somehow their users with the environment. Behind this decision, there was a strong conviction about how Patagonia brand could influent to users to be more connected with their environment through an learning experience.

This initial part of the discovery phase was executed with the aim of understanding and defining an existing problem that could be generated during a outdoor activity. Our techniques included comprehensive competitive analysis, app layout analysis from direct competitors, heuristic analysis, surveys, interviews and personas among others.

We narrowed our competitors to those focusing directly on apps that helped users recognize wildlife or natural elements like plants and flowers, where there was a ton of incredible opportunities since some of these apps were poorly executed, or they did not achieve a high performance.

Feature Analysis from other nature-friendly apps

Screeners & Surveys

Once we investigated our competitors, we proceeded to know the insights of real users interested in outdoor activities through a Screener / Survey. The first survey gave us a total of 71 responses in approximately 4 days. This fantastic result was due to publishing in different social channels unconnected from our personal circles, which helped build a more solid bottom line.

User Interviews

We collected all the survey responses, and we centered in the individuals interested in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, biking and mountain climbing because they will help us to collect useful data in order to acquire relevant information for building our persona. This type of audience was mandatory for validating our ideas and assumptions in order to defend our ideation.

A total of 5 remote interviews were conducted via hangouts and by phone. All of our users were male, educated, and all of them were employed.

Here some notable quotes from our interviewees:

“Explore new things, keep in contact with the nature to run away from the city makes me feel more human. “ — Daniel, Software Engineer

“I like the idea to feel the nature, I feel connection exploring, seeing different things such animals, flowers, etc. Also, I like to teach this to my kids”. — Bo, Interactive Director

“Flowers are beautiful, I would love to know more about them but I guess I would check at home” — John, UX Designer

The Opportunity

Patagonia has no native mobile or wearable apps and their e-Commerce inventory is limited to their responsive website. This is an opportunity for Patagonia to further their mission as an innovator in environmental literacy, giving users the ability to connect with nature and learn about their surroundings in a very direct way.

Synthesis: What We Discovered

After synthesize all the data we had enough evidence to support the idea to create an app focused in an environmental learning experience. Patagonia is focusing its marketing not on its products, but instead on the passions of its customers.

Affinity Diagram
Key Insights

Our Problem Statement

With thousands of plants around us, I feel overwhelmed. My environmental literacy is disappointing considering my love of nature and the outdoors. I would love to know more about the flora in my area and be able to identify plants when I see them on my explorations.

Planta is an app that instantly identifies flowers, leaves and plants from photos stored in a built-in database. The first iteration will focus on New York State.

Planta Badges: The Discount Strategy

In addition to a structured data base that will provide to the explorer a positive encounter with different elements from the biodiversity, we would add the fun factor that users mentioned during the interviews. The Planta Badges will help to Patagonia to engage with users and potential customers that will earn a badge every time they collect a certain amount of plants & flowers in their app account. This action will end in a discount coupon as reward for participating on this learning experience.

According with the reputable blog of marketing Convince&Convert, with the rapid development of technology including the invention of the internet, coupons have also changed over time, becoming predominantly distributed through online channels. Online coupons and promotion codes drive incremental spending. Numerous researches reveals that users of consumers coupons respond favorably and enjoy being able to easily search for deals from their favorite brands.

Patagonia has high-end and expensive products, with this initiative we could help to boost their online sales through this ap but the most important, we want turn occasional users and customers into fans. Patagonia is focused on promoting the ideas, passions and beliefs that their customers hold dear, that also relate to the Patagonia brand.

Persona: Meeting Lena

Our key demographic statistical is a young man / woman, married, college educated, tech savvy and making $40-$70K annually. They live mostly in coastal cities like Portland, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Durham North Carolina, but Denver, Colorado is the brand’s epicenter.

Lena is awesome!

The Design

With all the information gathered and synthesized, we had enough evidence to start building the app.

Can We Build It?

After our research and an initial consulting with developers, we found that PLANTA could be built using Google Cloud Vision and Google Maps API technology within 4–6 months.

Google Cloud Vision API, a powerful image analysis that enables developers to understand the content of an image by encapsulating powerful machine learning models.

The Google Maps JavaScript API is a powerful, popular mapping API. It’s simple to use to add maps to your website, web or mobile application, and provides a wide range of services and utilities for data visualization, geo-localization, directions, and more.

Feature Prioritization

Our efforts were focused to build a solid MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to be able to address in the future the following tasks:

  • Ability to identify flora through image recognition
  • Ability to identify flora through a search/filter function of the database
  • Ability to unlock Patagonia coupons after completing certain tasks through a game
  • Users will be able to read articles on how to properly forage & protect their environment

User Flow

In order to show all the main features of this app, the user flow starts from the user search a plant using filters until user finds the information needed, tap in the plant description page, add to his collection and once this task is done the system shows that you have gained a badge for collecting your first plant.

Badge collection User Flow

Sketches & Wireframes

We conducted different sessions of rapid prototyping during our design studio to put all our ideas together. All the team was trilled with the idea of designing a system to identify elements from our biodiversity in real time. This app would be designed for iPhone 6 since the survey results showed that it was the most popular platform among our users.

Some of our initial sketches for PLANTA
One of my first mid-fidelity wireframes for PLANTA in a green scheme palette

In order to maintain the connection between Patagonia and Planta, we applied the Patagonia color scheme to ensure users recognized the brand through our app.

User Testing

A total of 4 usability testing sessions with different users were organized. Our users were delighted with the clean design and the badge program. We detected that users liked the design, however they were struggling with different issues related to the interface, among others:

I am not sure where should look for this leave. I don’t see the search box — John, Developer

The badge screen is very cool, I want more badges! — Mike, UXDI Student

What is “Protect” and “Forage”? I am not sure… — Lindsay, UXDI Student


In our first iteration, we focused on the most critical issues. Some of them needed immediate action to guarantee a correct navigation:

Browser — Home screen
  1. Added standard iOS chevrons to help the user navigate the interface.
  2. Added the leaf icon in the secondary nav to differentiate from the “Browse” icon in the bottom nav.
  3. Added helpful text to suggest search options to user — in line with the Patagonia web search.
  4. Users confused zip code with number of plants. Changed location info to reflect place name rather than zip code.
Badges Screen

5. Removed chevron because the Badge page is in its own nav section.

6. Changed language for Badge criteria to make it more understandable.

7. Added banner for a Patagonia coupon to let users understand the reason for these badges.

My Planta Screen

8. Removed extra icons and added a highlight bar to signify your location in the app.

9. Increased font size and put leaves against a white background.

Final Prototype

*This prototype has been iterated several times since I published this article*

What I learned

User Needs And Business Goals Go Hand In Hand

Patagonia is an amazing company committed with the environment, but it is still a company that makes profit through sustainable products. It is important to fulfill the business objectives set out by our clients and add value to our project. Our ideation was continuously refining until we found the way to monetize the app introducing the badge game.

Do Not Break Conventions If You Don’t Need To

There are best practices and conventions that they exist for a reason. The interface was designed from the scratch and it was turning disproportionate minimalist. We can’t forget that an easy navigation is always one of the top goals of web design and usability. This statement helped us to recognize where we should focus our efforts creating the new Interface after the first user testing.

Next Steps

Short Term

  • Refine visual interface.
  • Improve interactions in the top nav.
  • Integrate “First Aid” information.

Long Term

  • Implement a scan element through camera, without having to take a picture.
  • Integrate the offline mode to allow user search without internet.
  • Develop a plan to escalate the database (how the results will show with X amount of plants).

Thanks for reading!

Product Designer at WW. @MIT_CSAIL HCI alumni. Women in Tech. VR, AR & AI enthusiast. Dan Dan Noodles Expert. Always Iterating

Product Designer at WW. @MIT_CSAIL HCI alumni. Women in Tech. VR, AR & AI enthusiast. Dan Dan Noodles Expert. Always Iterating