After coming up empty in the App Store, a pair of hobby gardeners decided to launch a new venture with a garden planning iPad app. Working together, we devised, designed, and built their first big step,

Garden Sketch

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Where We Started

Lifelong gardeners Maija and Ian have always started their yardwork with a plan, sketched on paper as a top-down map. When they wanted to do the same on their iPads, they were frustrated by what felt like directionless apps built on top of plant databases.

We explored the concept of what an interactive gardening plan could be, and eventually turned the big dream into smaller, more concrete steps. With that roadmap in mind, they raised some seed funding and asked if we could make the first step happen with an iPad app that would provide a proof of concept, but still be usable by the public.

What We Did

Working from our research and the founder’s vision, we found the main obstacles in garden planning are seeing your own ideas in a clear way, and being able to communicate them to others for feedback and advice.

We designed an app experience where people could sketch with abstract shapes and softer colours for broad types of flora (plants, trees, hedges, shrubs, and so on, rather than exact species). Rather than worrying about getting their sketches perfect, gardeners could think about their yards and use their diagrams as a basis for conversations about their plans, but not get lost in the details.

The app required aspects of both mapping and drawing tools, but the amount of work to do either is a bigger mountain than we could climb with the modest budget. When we found the open source iOS vector drawing tool Inkpad, however, we saw a clear opportunity to do much more than we thought we could. In return for the benefits Inkpad brought to the project, Garden Sketch is also open source, and we salute our clients’ willingness to embrace an open model in their first digital venture.

We largely gutted the tools that Inkpad provides, then created a new set on top of its well-made drawing engine. Rather than present a blank canvas, the app walks people through the process of defining their property dimensions and placing major structures, namely the house. Documents were repurposed into garden plans applied to the same property, and a complement of plant and minor structure shapes were added along with some more generalized drawing tools for handling grass, gravel, and water areas. People are also able to add notes to any part of the drawing, which are handled as an overlay so they can be expressive but not clutter up the drawing. At the end of the process they are able to export their sketches with notes and all to get feedback and advice.

Throughout the building process, we tested the app with real gardeners with varying degrees of comfort with iPad apps, and kept making refinements as we pushed towards a late summer release.

The Results

In late August Garden Sketch debuted in the App Store, and found a ready audience due to the excellent social media and blogging work that had been going on beforehand. The app is clearly a first step, but achieves more in that first step than we thought possible when we set out.

Within two weeks from release the app had met its lower end adoption goals, and an initial community of enthusiastic gardeners is forming around the brand. They’ve already run one mini contest for people to showcase their drawings, with some contributions that made us smile.

We see lots in Garden Sketch that we would love to improve and take further, and given its start it won’t be long before we’re planning out the next big step for this trusty tool for the modern gardener. Get Garden Sketch on the App Store

Services Used

Collaborators

Technology

Project Snapshots

Evolution of the drawing tools tab

The Garden Sketch drawing tools underwent substantial changes through development.

Monogram

While houses could be placed once, minor non-flora objects were part of the regular shapes people could add to their sketches.

The flora drawing objects were abstract to avoid suggestion of any one species, letting gardeners focus on colour and arrangement rather than details.

We can do this for you

Garden Sketch came together on a small budget through creativity, a good initial strategy, and a highly collaborative relationship. If you’ve had an idea for an app, that first step might not be as big as you expect. Drop us a line to start the conversation:

Say hello@denimandsteel.com