Designing the LandPKS App: Guidelines for Developing a Global App

The LandPKS app (landpotential.org) helps users make more sustainable land management decisions by assisting users to collect geo-located data about their soils, vegetation, and site characteristics; and returning back to users useful results and information about their site. The LandPKS app is a global app that can be used in any location around the world. As visible on the LandPKS Data Portal (landpotential.org/data-portal/), there have been LandPKS sites completed on 6 continents!

While being a global app has major advantages, it also comes with design challenges in order to assist our global users. In order to address this, we have developed three major design guidelines:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Usability
  3. Usefulness

In order to maximize simplicity, the LandPKS team aims to minimize the number of components and screens. We aim to break tasks into manageable chunks so that users are not overwhelmed.  Additionally, we strive to have the LandPKS app be as visual as possible by using simple graphics and charts. For example, in the vegetation monitoring module, LandCover, users select vegetation types based on simple images.

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Figure 1: Selection of vegetation and cover types in the LandCover module of the LandPKS app. Users choose from these simple images to determine what types of vegetation are present at their site.

In order to maximize usability of the LandPKS app we aim to design the navigation of the app to be intuitive and seamless. Most importantly, the LandPKS app is designed and built to be useable by non-technical experts. Therefore, we aim to use minimal technical language, include question marks with brief text and/or graphical explanations, and include explanatory videos when needed.  For example, in the LandInfo module, we include videos that help explain how to hand-texture the soil for a user who is not a soil scientist and may be unfamiliar with how to hand-texture the soil.

Figure 2: Screenshots of videos that help walk a user through how to hand texture the soil in the SoilInfo Module of the LandPKS app.

Lastly, we focus on the usefulness of the LandPKS app globally. This includes soliciting feedback from our users in order to help mold the LandPKS app to meet their needs. The LandPKS team conducts a bi-annual online user survey to gain feedback about various components of the app. We also spent a month in Tanzania last year testing the app with smallholder farmers and agricultural extension agents, making sure they found the app useful and were able to understand the outputs.

 

While the effort to create a global app is guided by the three steps outlined here, it is still very much a work in progress. The LandPKS app Version 3.0 is free and available now on the Google Play Store and iTunes Store. Learn more about the LandPKS app on the landpotential.org website. The LandPKS app was developed by the LandPKS Team for the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKs) with support from USAID and USDA-ARS. Please contact us at contact@landpotential.org with any questions, comments, or feedback.

By Amy Quandt, LandPKS Global Coordinator

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