Well, like many things in life, it sprung from the loins of a rant. To be precise, a rant that I indulged in at a local garden center. I just couldn’t understand why gardening shops and greenhouses don’t show you their products in context. Why couldn’t I see what this dinky little plant in a 3″ pot would look like in two years time or gauge how awful would it look once its showy flowers fall? And while I was on the topic, why botanical gardens (like the lovely Van Dusen or UBC Garden) don’t share more useful information; you know, beyond some Latin name that I won’t remember let alone pronounce. Why isn’t there such a thing as a plant showroom for us neophytes?
You see, I’m not what the Canadians call a keener (great word by the way). While I appreciate a nicely designed garden and probably spend a little too much time rearranging plants around my yard, I’m simply not going to read gardening magazines, scrutinize leaf blades, keep a planting journal or become an armchair botanist. It’s just not going to happen. Plus, having checked out a number of books about suitable plants for my neck of the woods, it’s been near impossible reconciling what is recommended in books with what’s actually in stock at a retailer.
So what on earth does this have to do with user experience design? Well, can you imagine if this happened with any other retail product? It’s a bit of a hyperbole but what if after scouring all the stores you still couldn’t find the makeup advertised in a fashion magazine and had to send off for some mascara seeds in the mail? Or, unable to source a tech gadget featured in gizmodo, you would have to weld your own from spare parts you begged off a neighbor? (My god, the whole spirit of capitalism would implode).
And let’s say you do wind up stumbling across that plant that was talked up in This Old House and now lies before you at your local retailer. By then you’ve long since forgotten what was so great about it, and you’ll probably end up planting it in the exact wrong spot where it will either plot its evil takeover or die a slow miserable death.
And thus was born the rant-turned-idea that QR codes could be linked up to living demonstration gardens. And that the whole experience would be designed just so. It could beautify, educate and encourage exploration. It could promote native plants that are well-equipped to deal with your local conditions without extra babying. It could showcase what crops are suitable for the climate and season. Challenging conditions, like summer drought or boggy northern exposures or dry shade, could be solved for and demonstrated. And the information could be served up in multiple ways depending on preference and context. And perhaps on the back end, a way to facilitate purchases (or trading/bartering) should something be to your liking. Isn’t that the whole notion behind “frictionless” commerce?
It just so happened right around the same time I was notified of the Greenest City Grant and mentioned it (and ranted my rant) to my partner in crime at Periscope UX. Next thing you know, we threw together some words, submitted it, and miracles of miracles! we just received our grant.