Gardening and UX: A good mix?

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Having a hobby is to spend one’s leisure time in a relaxing and fruitful manner. It helps us take a break from the daily rush of life and gives us joy and a sort of satisfaction. Good hobbies can improve one’s personality and character. Furthermore, it helps in discovering our talents and abilities. People have different hobbies according to their area of interest. I realized that apart from dance & music, something that I was deeply fond of was gardening.

After making our dream home a reality, I wanted to add some colour to it and turned to gardening seriously.  Now, during weekends, I spend most of my time in the garden. The joy of watching flowers in their full bloom, the lush green leaves and the frequent visitors of my garden such as small birds, bees & butterflies fill my heart with a sense of achievement. It gives me immense pleasure to see the result of something that I did with my own hands. Over and above that, it is always a bliss to have my garden admired and appreciated by other people which makes me really proud.

A walk through my garden: Random clicks with my phone camera 

Gardening is an artistic effort, which means,  you can be as creative as you want. But it requires quite a bit of manual labour and patience on the part of the gardener. It is a gradual process and you might not see the result spontaneously. People negate gardening considering it as a mere hobby but the fact is that it is much more than a recreational activity. Can you imagine a world without plants, a world without any greenery?

It all started two years ago when I got some seeds of cosmos plant. These perennial plants that are so easy to care for produce beautiful flowers just like the other members of its family like sunflower, marigold & zinnias. I sowed multiple seeds in a pot as I did not know which one would germinate and grow as a plant.

Cosmos Seeds

After these seeds sprouted and became seedlings, I replanted them in an apt place where they would get ample sunlight & water to grow. A few weeks later, these seedlings grew into young saplings and started blooming. Now, in order to prolong flowering, we should deadhead the plants (remove the dead/faded flowers). This helps in faster flower development, aids branching and promotes bushier growth. We need to water these plants regularly and in moderation. Excessive watering and fertilizing can damage the whole plant.

Ta-da…! After going through all these processes of sowing, watering, fertilizing & deadheading, my plant came to its full swing.

Full grown cosmos plants

Now the question arises, how does all these help me professionally?

In UXD, ‘seeds’ are the outpourings of all the fabulous ideas of your team that come up during the iteration phase of product design. You have to initiate with as many ideas as possible and let it prosper.  With your intense effort, definitely, some of your ideas will grow into a brilliant product design!

As I mentioned earlier, excessive use of water and fertilizers isn’t a wise choice for your plants as we all know that too much of a good thing can be deleterious. It is similar to stuffing up lots of features in a single product causing frustration among users and eventually leading them to abandon the product. This extra information will overshadow the main feature of the product as well.

Now, what about deadheading the plants? I like to consider this stage of plants as the usability testing phase. In both instances, you want to make sure that all unwanted parts are removed so that the product/plant reaches its vitality.  In UX, your target users can help you with this. Collect feedback from users by conducting usability testing with your prototypes. Through this, we can understand how easily our users can use a product. It helps us gather information about the imperfections in our product design in terms of navigation, aesthetics, and functionality. If users find it difficult to use certain elements, features or functionalities, then you need to either redesign or remove it.

Finally, it is the time of fruitage. After the product development phase, when your client and the test users tell you that they really liked the product and that it is user-friendly, at that point all our hard work and effort gets its reward. It is similar to that instance when your garden got admired and appreciated by others. But it is not necessary that it should always end happily. Sometimes your design may fail to impress and you need to iterate again and that’s a time of self-evaluation, to see for yourself, where you have gone wrong. My cosmos plant might have decayed or withered. The reason might be known, unknown or abrupt. At such a point, I need to find out the exact problem and have to sow the seeds again keeping the previous mistakes in mind so that it won’t happen to my next set of plants.

These are the lessons I imbibed from my hobby and applied in my profession without losing its vigour and vitality. Sometimes it can be really productive if you link your passion with your profession as it deepens one’s interest in the field. Above all, it is really exciting to blend one’s talent, skill and creativity that you gain from one aspect of your life into another. That’s what I have understood being a ‘skilled UX Designer’ and ‘a creative gardener.’ 😉