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I've made a web app for people living in remote regions that helps share planting information between them and lets them build a planting calendar together for their community or location. It's called https://gardenerplanet.com/.

I would love to get some feedback on it. What makes this planting calendar unique is that it only lists crop varieties that were already grown successfully before within the area selected by the user. So the user will know that any listed plant variety inside the created planting calendar is guaranteed to grow well within that area. For a more in-depth explanation please read the Medium article I wrote about GardenerPlanet.com. I'd love to hear your opinion on this web app and about ways in which it can be improved.

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EDIT: Here's a better explanation on why this website is especially useful to gardeners from developing countries and remote regions. With developing countries i mean both second and third world countries.

Its not ment only to be used by people from developing countries. This app can be useful to every gardener on earth. But what i do want to point out with the title is that this app is especially useful for people living in developing countries and remote regions because it allows them to create a plant information knowledge hub for their specific location and in their own language.

As you may know most websites on the internet are in english, but only 17% of the world population speak english. That means that if you're a gardener from say Indonesia and you can't read english then you're going to have a hard time finding planting information in your language because only 0.6% of all websites are written in indonesian.

With this website a gardener from indonesia can create a garden journal about a specific crop variety in his own language which can then be used as a plantguide by other indonesian gardeners. It can also be used together with other garden journals from the region to create a planting calendar for that specific location. Such a planting calendar only includes crop varieties that were already grown successfully by other local gardeners before and all garden journals will be in their language.

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  • Hi Maurice, I am sure this will be very useful but this is a question and answer site. Can you phrase this as a question?
    – kevinskio
    Nov 25, 2022 at 22:05
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    @kevinskio i changed the last part of the question. Is it OK like this?
    – Maurice
    Nov 25, 2022 at 22:35
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    "webapp" and "developing countries or remote regions" -- is that really a good match? I've seen what the internet is like (when it is) in remote parts of Canada, and even not-so-remote parts of Czech Republic. How well does the webapp work when you're not on LTE or fast land line. How much data gets transferred back an forth during its use?
    – Dan Mašek
    Nov 26, 2022 at 23:22
  • @DanMašek please see my edit. With developing countries i mean both third and second world countries. Most second world countries such as Indonesia or Russia do have internet.
    – Maurice
    Dec 4, 2022 at 3:27

2 Answers 2

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That's cool.

I was impressed at some of the options you had, and the level of detail.

Here are some things I think you could do to improve the site (take this with a grain of salt, since I didn't actually create an account and log in, in my analysis; perhaps another time):

  • Fix the forum. It's not functional, currently. If you want a free one, you might try ProBoards, or if you want more power (but still have it be free), you could get an account with alwaysdata.com and probably install a custom forum. It sounds like maybe you already have a server, though (so maybe you don't need something like alwaysdata). Don't rely only on social media (some people purposefully avoid social media; I suspect that group of individuals will grow).
  • Make some screencasts that demonstrate how to use the site, and what you can actually do (and why). Screencasts can reduce learning curves, show people what your features are (clearly), transcend the differences in how people talk, and such.
  • If possible, make the important stuff easier to see right away. I had a hard time finding out how to enter any location data, make journal entries and such. These are things you'll want to highlight in the screencast, too. I know, you have the journal entry link right there, but I kept looking on the thing on the right that says 'Menu' for it, instead of on the second upper menu bar. Also, when I clicked on Plant Calendar, and Plant Database, I expected the configurable widgets to be in the main area where the text is (rather than just text being there); so, eventually I found the sidebar-thing on the right. If you're set on the way the design is now, screencasts can be your friend in helping people understand it.
  • Make it immediately clear that there's free and immediately usable content. I notice it talks about pricing (some people's eyes may glaze over after they see that, and not realize you have free features). If they're looking to buy, then they might want to know exactly what they're dealing with before they do buy.
  • FAQ #8 has a small typo (i.e. ment should be meant).

It looks like you're hoping for this site to be big; it's an ambitious project. The reason I say that is because it will likely take a lot of users to generate the kind of collaborative data you're talking about (in order for it to be very useful). So, that's something to be aware of, if you're not already. I would be sure to highlight your features that do not require lots of members, until the database becomes more mature.

Anyway, my advice is to demonstrate your features (rather than only describe them). Also, I suggest making it so people can understand them without having to get an account first.

I know a lot of people are looking for garden planning software (I'm not really one of them, but I like your database feature). We do get a lot of questions about that, and I know people on gardening forums bring it up sometimes. So, you've got an audience, if you can connect with them.

Okay, I looked at your database some more, and I have some more feedback on it specifically:

  1. You referred to tomatoes as love apples in the checkbox area. A lot of people aren't familiar with the term love apple (same for wolf peach if you're ever tempted to use that), but almost everyone knows what a tomato is. Tomatoes are probably the most popular crop for home gardeners; so, I would definitely recommend saying tomato instead.
  2. Variety-specific information needs to be variety-specific (not just species-specific); I mean, don't just put the same information for every tomato variety besides its name (don't follow the example of the many tomato databases that do this; it's really frustrating for users searching for information on specific varieties when they only see what they already know: generic information that presumably applies to most tomatoes, rather than to the specific one they searched for). I recommend looking at Tatiana's TOMATObase for ideas on what kind of information to include per variety (e.g. fruit size, fruit shape, days to maturity, leaf type, parentage, year of introduction, uses, taste, production, growth habit, etc.; also, you can do more stuff, like specific disease-resistances, etc.)
  3. The dropdown checkboxes when selecting a crop lack a scrollbar (on my Firefox web browser on Linux). The cursor keys do work, but it's likely many people won't know to use them.
  4. There are many more crops you could add to the list, if you want (like watermelon, muskmelons, corn, cabbage, etc.); of course, more crops means more work for whoever is making the database.

If you're making a plant database, I recommend associating with, and learning about, the types of people who use them (and learn why they use them). You can find them on gardening forums (especially the ones where they do seed swaps, trades, and things). Also, fans of vendors like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds may have a higher level of interest than average, too (you can probably find them on social media).

One advantage you have over other plant databases, though, is the collaborative features, of course. I didn't mean to dismiss those.

Networking in general is a good idea. That's definitely easier to do with gardening communities than for most other things (in my experience). Well, honestly, it's easier than any other thing; I can't say I've found an easier way to socialize on the Internet (unless you're into online games, which I don't recommend, since they're addictive and usually violent). I mean, make gardening friends. You can make some gardening friends on StackExchange, but it's hard, because it's not a forum, and it's not designed for making friends (I have made a few on it, though).

If I said anything offensive, I didn't mean to offend. I may have said some irrelevant stuff in my answer. So, please excuse that.

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An interesting application. I used to professionally test applications in my technical writing job, so I ran yours without looking at any docs, as per our testing standards. My experience is that most software users (in the US, at least) don't read any documentation when they get a new piece of software, nor do they WANT to read any docs. (an aside: I was once told that I had "too many words" in a five-page online document that consisted mostly of screen captures with, IIRC, 100 words. The page count was too high...).

For what it's worth, here are my findings (I did not create an account):

Pest Identification

This is an excellent feature which I liked very much seeing, but I fear that few users will actually do it. We occasionally get posts here that say something like "Saw holes in leaves, nuked garden with a ton of pesticides, holes still there. Why?" No desire to ID a pest, just throw chemicals at the garden. A link to a pest ID site (not run by a chemical company) would be an excellent addition, if possible. Or did I miss this?

Change "bug" to "insect", as most of the pests in a garden are in fact insects, not bugs. Don't forget slugs as a pest, too.

I don't use social media, so if you're relying on it for account entry or connectivity with other users then you've already excluded me from using the app. If I don't use the app, I cannot recommend it (FWIW, I now work in the horticulture trade and often recommend tools to my clients).

Planting Calendar Section

Based on Gröningen as the default location, I'm guessing English is your second language, in which case I strongly commend you for the mostly excellent text in this app. As I would expect, there are some areas of text that contain awkward phrasing, though, and I suggest that you have your site proofread by someone who is a native English speaker, if you're planning on an English-only application. Two examples of these are below:

  • On the Creating a Plant Calendar page: "On the right you can find a set of filter options that you can use to customize a planting calendar or to filter the results returned when quering the plant database." Should be querying the plant database".
  • In the following sentence, "metric and imperial measure system" is non-idiomatic; I would change it to "metric and imperial measurement systems" (the "and" requires a plural here).

You don't seem to have the ability to create a planting calendar based on starting seeds indoors. I only start my peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, onions, cucumber, and melons indoors, not outdoors (if I started them outdoors I'd never get a crop in my area). To me, this lack is a dealbreaker and makes this aspect of the app useless.

You don't seem to have the ability to add plants purchased from local nurseries or farmer's markets. Rather than seed-starting time, you'd have to track "earliest planting time" based on last frost day, I suppose, or maybe something like "planting time for purchased plants". This could be useful if also tracking "indoor seed planting time" as mentioned above. Perhaps I missed something in the app?

Menu

The leftmost icon in the Menu sidebar does not have a "hover" instruction, nor does it actually work.

When a user clicks on the Switch Calendar icon and selects Database, the focus should go directly to the Database entry field. On my screen, that field is off the bottom of the screen and the icon Database selection looks like it's broken because you can't see it or the Filter options. I'm using the Opera browser, with regular (as opposed to HDR or gaming) graphics.

Database

I see that you don't need a scroll bar on the item selection lists, but it's not obvious that having focus on the open combobox (?) control allows you to use the mouse's wheel to view the rest of the list. I agree that this type of control should have a scrollbar.

What the heck is "Pea marrowfat?" Similarly, US users probably won't know that "aubergine" means "eggplant". Common names are going to be an issue, I think. I suspect that coming up with a type of "alternative name" option based on location could be a solution, but it would certainly cost time to add it to the database, queries, and pages.

You have a factual error on the Yellow Alpine Strawberry data. It's listed as being hardy to -9.4F and US Zone 5A. -9F is actually US zone 6, not zone 5. Perhaps this only an artifact from test data?

Journal Entries

Are all Journal entries public (in other words, will all entries appear in the "Latest Journal Entries" section)? If so, then this could be an issue for some users. See below for another comment about this feature.

As a user, I would like to create a permanent filter on "Latest Journal Entries" so that I only see those in my State/Province, my growing zone (US/Canada) or minimum winter temperatures (and possibly maximum summer temperatures). I don't want to see what someone two zones warmer than me is doing, as it's more than likely irrelevant to me.

I would also like to see Journal Entries (not necessarily recent) by topic: Seeding Issues, Pests, Weather, etc. Or is the intent of the Forum?

Other

I like the idea behind the Shadowcaster feature, but not sure if most users will be able to equate it to "full sun"/"part sun", which is really all the info that vegetable gardeners need.

I'm not sure what the purpose of the "Soil Grids" feature is.

The Forum doesn't work because you've been banned from Reddit.

One last thing, and this is quite minor - no tech writer or developer ever refers to a software issue as a "bug" in public-facing documentation or screens (I'm referring to your News page); we always use "issue" instead. Supposedly, users don't trust an app if they see that it has known bugs. Not sure how relevant this is in today's world, though.

Hope these comments and suggestions help!

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