HerbUX Project

Making plant education accessible and exciting

I love plants, and was so excited to be the primary UX designer for the HerbUX Project, aiming to make herbarium data easily accessible to the public online. In this ambitious project I was tasked with creating a proposal for a new interface rebuilding the plant specimen discovery mechanism from the ground up.

ROLE

UI Designer
UX Researcher

TIMELINE

March 2021 - Present

TOOLS

Figma
User Interviews
Linked Open Data

TEAM

Patrick Rasleigh
Rebecca Kartzinel, Ph.D.
Timothy Whitfeld, Ph.D.


SOME MUCH-NEEDED BACKGROUND

So… what exactly IS an herbarium?

Herbariums are physical collections of preserved plant specimens used for scientific study, representing a critical material history of ecological state and environmental change through time.

Herbarium specimens throughout the world have increasingly been digitized and made available online. The HerbUX project aims to design a prototype interface that increases access to these critical collections for non-expert audiences to be used in classrooms, museums, and other public spaces.

herbarium

RESEARCH

Getting to know the scope of our audience


Herbarium Specialists
Science Educators
Museum Specialists
Students

My team and I organized group interviews with three major subgroups– herbarium specialists, science educators, and museum specialists. I sent out a survey to our last subgroup, students, to collect over 400 responses from throughout Brown University and Providence, Rhode Island. From their responses we grouped common themes and identified the following painpoints:

PROBLEM 01

Pain Point 1

Big words are intimidating

Scientific names can be confusing and completely unintelligible by people without specialized knowledge, making it difficult for them to search and read existing databases.

PROBLEM 02

Pain Point 2

Lack of visual engagement

Visuals are integral for student engagement; educators pointed out the importance of working with specimen images rather than just spreadsheets of metadata.

PROBLEM 03

Pain Point 3

Lack of personal investment

Without a professional investment, people rarely have reason to be interested in or to care enough about plants to want to know more about them and their history.

PROBLEM STATEMENT + DESIGN PRINCIPLES

How might we make the search and discovery of digital
plant specimens more friendly and accessible?

  1. Make search & discovery functions GENEROUS instead of inhibitive
    • Undo technical jargon
    • Use common names instead of scientific names to minimize barrier of previous knowledge
    • Taking after Mitchell Whitelaw's article on generous interfaces, we want to make an application that actively gives information rather than withholding it
  2. Eye-catching and intuitive visual presentation
    • Prioritize visuals and graphics rather than text
    • Incorporate physical metaphor for intuitive interactivity, like sifting through sheets of paper to arrange specimens
  3. Facilitate personal connection
    • Place specimens in a broader context, offering supplementary information such as history and ubiquity across daily life as a gateway into plant education for students
Sorted Research Findings by Theme

IDEATION

After weighing our priorities and synthesizing our research, we decided to focus specifically on the direct needs of our student audience, and how educators could utilize our interface to facilitate their learning.


User Journey Map

Ongoing Project– Check back soon!

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