While working as a contract product designer with Monsanto, I partnered with a mobile team building a plant breeding app. The team had done great work getting the basic app off the ground, but it only supported single pollination workflows. It also had some structure concerns in that app made it hard for a user to switch facilities and manage their work. My goal coming in was to enable more diverse experiments through the app, and make navigating within the app easier so the right pollination could be done at the right location.
To get my bearings I interviewed the product team to gain insights into what the app enabled users to accomplish. I then worked through those use cases within the app as part of a heuristic evaluation. The app was structed with "tasks up front", meaning the app used the task as the root (bad pun) for navigating around. After talking with users we learned that they would select a facilty first, then a room, then begin processing the plants in that room. The app was restructured to support this mental model, and gave us more flexibility in how to bubble up the correct tasks per room.
One unique part of this project was the use of QR codes and scanners. The workflow for a breeder was relatively open ended - they walk into a room with plants and start spreading the love. Our app used QR codes to scan pairs of plants for any planned experiments. If an experiment existed, we would show the tasks. However, breeders don't always follow the guides and wanted the ability to scan and pollinate anyway. The app took on the role of guide, more than director, and it was interesting to accommodate the loose workflow.
I provided the team with a set of wireframes and flow charts outlining both the structure and layout of different screens. These changes were implemented quickly by some iOS wizards, and we were able to conduct a usability test. I facilitated a day-long test with breeders and facility managers, as well as product owners and stakeholders. The outcome of our test revealed areas that needed better clarity, but also validated some key changes made to the app structre and facility selection.
For the purposes of this scase study I created a white-label called "Bredbox". The name Bredbox is a play on words as "Bred" is the past tense of breed, as in breeding plants. A breadbox is a container for keeping loaves of bread fresh and protected. The screens and branding are not indicitive of the actual product built.
The fruit of my work resulted in an application that clarified which plants should be bred, encouraged a consistent process for prepping plants, and offered more robust features for different user groups to complete work within this same app.
The app aimed to help plant breeding teams keep track of their controlled environment pollinations by capturing samples, pollination events, harvests, and other activities within greenhouses. Due to the transactional nature of product design work at Monsanto, I did not work with the team long enough to see it's implementation.