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Type:  Intelligent Device Design for Plant Conversation


Role:  Product Manager, User Researcher, UX/UI designer


Timeline: March - May 2016


Team: Weilun Huang,Nuomeng Zhang, Meng Wan, Tong Yang


Planty is an Internet-connected planter that allows a user to monitor and care plants by a mobile app. It is designed for inexperienced plants growers who need the assistance of plant conservation. Planty is an intelligent device that links users with their plants at any time. Unlike the automatic watering device, our product focus on the interaction between people and plants. 

It is the project for my CUC junior year Co-production Program. This design concept also won the 7th UXD Award, hosted by DDF•UXPA(User Experience Professional Association).


The idea of Planty originates with my team member Meng Wan. While working in Meng Wan’s internship company, her boss asked her to take care of the plants in the office. Without any experience, she just watered all the kinds of plants once a week. A few months later, most of the plants died. When she told me about her upset experience, we hit it off instantly, as I have the same problem that I can’t grow my succulent well in my dormitory. 


We knew that plants are complicated, our aim is to find an expert to really understand how to make them thrive and grow. So what if technology could be used to automate the intelligence of a horticulturist so we didn't need to be physically present at all times?

When plants are in a bad condition, almost 70% planters don’t figure out the reasons. For the people who can not find the reasons, 42% people don’t ask for help and take measuresIt is because that they have little experience and cannot identify why their plants grow poorly. But over half of them ask for help. 

When planters go outside, 42% of people will ask friends or families for help to look after their plants. There is still 33% and 22% planters give more water to the plants and don’t care about their plants, respectively.


As we know that our product can’t serve every planters’ needs, after the conversations, we made personas to know “ who are the core users ”. It helps us address our value proposition clearly.


Put sticky notes on the wall   |   Group similar notes   |   Name each group   |   Vote for the most important groups


Core User

Our product core user is the person who wants a high participation of growing their plants but do not have much planting experience. 


Main Pain Point

For most planters, they forget to water their plants in time. However, planters cannot figure out the real reason why they grow their plants poorly. 


Decisive Factors

Glowing plants are delicate and complicated, only watering plants timely is not enough.


Core Feature

The planter cannot find correct answers why their plants died on the Internet is because the situations of the plant are different. As plants can not speak, the core feature of our product is to help plants to connect with their planters, by real-timely detecting the environment around plants.


Inexperienced plants growers who want a high participation of taking care their plants need a way to help them really understand their plants' states to grow their plants. Because glowing plants are delicate and complicated, it is not just watering them in time.



Instead of straightforward asking questions of our interviewees, I try to have a relaxing conversation with them—— my goal is for them to actually enjoy their hour with us. That’s making my user interviews go smoother and getting deeper, more nuanced insights. I talked with my teachers, families, and friends about their experience of growing plants. This helps us figure out our target users. Based on conversations I designed a questionnaire for a further research.

Questionnaire Analysis

We send a questionnaire on the Internet to get a deep insight into people’s habits of growing plants in daily life. This questionnaire includes 23 questions based on the interviews and personas we did before.We collected 300 samples, the conclusion guides us figure out our product’s value proposition. 

Most planters cannot water their plants in time. However, no matter they water plants punctually or not, around 80% of plants grow poorly. So glowing plants are delicate and complicated, it is not just watering them in time. 


System Diagram


Unlike the automatic watering device, Planty focus on the interaction between people and plants. To deepen the relationship between plants and users, my idea is to build a cute plant style and add the animation that users can play with and take care their plants on their phones at any time. I did a user test by a rapid paper prototype to inspire me to create the visual design. I use different colors and animations to show states of plants. For instance, the height and color of flowing water mean if the humidity for this plant is proper. 

Design and Test the Circuit


Our objective is making it as simple as possible. We used Arduino and started with something smaller and simple sensors(temperature/humidity/PH/light) that gave us the opportunity to test the idea of miniaturizing the technology and lowering the cost. We welded all the elements and put them into a pot, which made it easy to transfer plants.



Our first prototype was a rectangular shape. This form, however, is too shallow to grow taller plants. So in this version, we only provide smaller plants information like succulent plants. After we attended the 7th UXD competition we gathered usability feedback and did some drafts of the next version. 

Future Recommendation


· Larger cartridge capacity

· Add a light to adapt to cloudy weather

· More plants types

· Discuss with plant lovers

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