Earthworm: UX Research
Conducting interviews to smooth the sign up process and site wide structure.
• UX Researcher
• UX Designer
• Graphic Designer
Earthworm was a startup matching gardeners with homeowners who rent out areas of their yard for gardening, in exchange for money or some of the produce grown.
I initially joined the team as a graphic designer at the beginning of the summer. Towards the end however, there were concerns about lack of signups, so I pitched a UX project to interview potential clients in order to uncover pain points and increase signups.
Earthworm was struggling to acquire new users for their web application. I proposed to interview potential clients from their target audience and perform usability testing.
The signup process was confusing because there were no differentiation between the different Gardener and Homeowner roles. Additionally, another deterrent was the site’s messy information architecture. A lot of the information was repetitive, resulting in visitors being confused about their location within the site, and having trouble finding information they were looking for.
Restructure the information architecture of the site.
Conducted over Zoom, I interviewed 8 people; 3 homeowners who were interested in renting out their yard and 5 gardeners.
These interviews taught me that visitors felt the site really pushed them to sign up, but they had difficulty finding information about the different roles.
Additionally, information was thrown in their face, which got overwhelming fast and often led to difficulty understanding the benefits of what the service was really trying to do.
After categorizing the notes I took during each interview, it became clear to me that what was needed most was a better content structure. Information needed to be divided when necessary and only showing more detailed information if the user wanted to see it, not by default.
This led me to develop 4 insights as to why sign ups were lacking; poor navigation, confusing buttons, repeat information, and too many options in the sign up process.
Insight 1: Poor Navigation
The first insight was the different patterns of navigation throughout the site. The Gardener page acted as the Landing page (shown below), but was not labelled on the nav bar. This confused all the Gardeners while they were exploring and learning about the site, and since it was not labelled in the nav, they were unsure how to get back or where they initially saw the Gardener sign up.
Insight 2: Confusing Buttons
On the Landing / Gardener and Homeowner pages, there was another button next to the green Sign Up button.
At first glance, these buttons appear to be part of the sign up process. However they actually take users to the start of the sign up process of the opposite role. This confused every person I interviewed.
“Rent out your backyard” on the Landing / Gardener page took visitors to the Homeowner page.
“Become an earthworm gardener” on the Homeowner page took visitors to the Landing / Gardener page.
Insight 3: Repeat Information
Interest forms were found on both Landing / Gardener and Homeowner pages, which asked visitors how they could improve their website and app. However, the information presented did not clearly convey that the “Get Started” button would lead to the interest form, which had similar sign up process questions, but didn’t actually sign visitors up for the service.
These forms led to confusion, since some had already signed up when they discovered them. For those who had not already signed up, it was unclear if they were the beginning of the sign up process or if it was something else.
Additionally, there was little to no distinction between the two forms, resulting in repeated information and visitors losing track of their location within the site.
The same unclear information was found on both Landing / Gardener and Homeowner pages (above), but led to different forms (below).
Visitors were confused about the purpose of the interest forms since they were both very similar and had an unclear purpose.
Insight 4: Too Many Options
Earthworm allowed Gardeners the option to rent out plots from Homeowner and Community Garden listings, or to get paid to garden.
While signing up, “I am a” and “Gardening Preferences” included all options at once, regardless of user intentions. This caused a great deal of hesitation, and some users began questioning their intentions or what they were actually signing up for.
Additionally, most users were only interested in being just a Gardener or just a Homeowner, but there were a couple who were interested in both. However, it was unclear to them if they should have two separate accounts or if they could only have one.
Sign Up Flowchart
Final Site Designs
I made sure the landing page introduces the company and the services they provide, making it easy to understand the company and what they offer. Visitors can then easily choose options to learn more.
The nav bar includes buttons for Gardeners and Homeowners, with information about each role found only on those pages.
Additionally, using clear titles over hero images helps visitors understand where they are within the site, and what page they’re on.
When I pitched this project, I really had no idea what to expect, and I was surprised with the insights I found. I felt like I learned so much; from articulating the issues to dubious supervisors, managing my time in an efficient manner, to learning that visuals for everything I’m explaining is absolutely necessary (Which was definitely a rookie mistake, but hey, I only started learning graphic design and UX earlier that year!).
Unfortunately, the company went defunct only a couple months after my internship ended. But even to this day, the lessons I learned from working with Earthworm still come in handy, and I think this internship was invaluable for my career growth.
While I managed to find the bumps throughout Earthworm’s web application and sign up process, I would have really liked to go back and do another round of interviews once the content structure was strengthened. I also would have liked to further refine the content structure of each page and present mockups of the signup process, but the internship was nearing its end for the summer.
Next time I work on a project like this, I would like to work with another person ideally. I think it would also be beneficial to be more organized as I found that to be a challenge in the beginning.