Although human beings have been urbanizing, and then moving indoors, since the introduction of agriculture, social and technological changes in the past three decades have accelerated the human disconnect from the natural world.

Among the reasons: the proliferation of electronic communications; poor urban planning and disappearing open space; increased street traffic, etc. (Richard Louv, 2019. The new nature movement)

foto/photo @GSA


The impacts of Climate Change are being felt all around the world and its species, humans included, need theplanet to stop warming. It adversely affects our food systems, our health and wellbeing and the flora and faunawith which we share our world and our engagement or experiences of and with them. This relates to ourdomestic environment as well as our parks, green spaces, waterways and other natural surroundings.


With such a complex global issue, many people may be unsure where to start but our increasing technologyoverload and the rise of “nature-deficit disorder” could be seen as reasons why many people seemingly have alack of interest in and engagement with the natural environment. However, recent studies focus not so much on what is lost when nature experience fades, but on what is gained through more exposure to natural settings, including nearby nature in urban places. ( Children &Nature Network, 2019. What is nature-deficit disorder?  )

Based on the problems faced by the project, we get involved in nature and with people to understand nature as they see it. Through a ‘critical development’ model, we have designed a service system for young people to experience nature. Through this service system we aim to engage them in a more experiential and reflective approach to nature.


In iNaturing’s design projects, we mainly use co-design-related design methods. By engaging our participants in the project’s progress and decisions, we can move the project forward and develop it. On top of this, we also participate in developing decisions and pushing back conclusions based on user research. In addition to this, we also take a critical and speculative design approach, looking at the possibilities for changes in solutions based on problem points with more innovative eyes and thinking and also experimenting with new technologies to solve problems.

From the origin of the human being

Depending on the scope we have chosen, we need to clarify how people define nature and the problems they encounter in this process. Therefore, we decided to conduct two successive interviews, using the data from the first study to focus on critical issues that would then be used in the second study.


For the first interview, we set out a list of relevant groups and prioritized them according to their frequency of contact with nature. Regarding the content of the discussions, we set some definitive questions, mainly concerning people’s attitudes, to test our suspicions. These included what people’s moods were like before and after experiencing nature. How has accessing nature changed compared to the past, etc. 

Key information obtained

From our interviews, it appears that different people have different definitions of nature.

Our interviewers defined nature as “everything should be around us”, “Garden and the trees” and “Outdoors, mountains rivers,valleys”. However, we found that there is a significant distinction in the definition of nature for different age groups.


We have analyzed the reasons for young people’s current disconnection from nature and the problems they encounter in engaging with nature based on the responses they gave as a result of the first interviews. Some of the students at Inverness mentioned that it was not that they did not care about nature, but that time limited their contact with it, but others said there were more important things to do in their lives or their studies. After gaining this information, it was generally clear that the point of focus for us was young people. The issues we wanted to focus on were how young people could be motivated to engage with nature to enhance their experience.

Re-engage for young people

Based on their answers and our analysis, we focused the questions for the second interview on four areas. The main groups were students or young people who had recently worked and started a family. The diagram on the right depicts the aspects our group wanted to focus on during the second interview.

We then headed to Aberdeen with new questions and an engagement tool – a participatory map – to begin our second research interview. The image on the left shows the people and issue points that are our main focus for this engagement. Unlike our first extensive qualitative research, our focus this time is more focused and specific.

Collecting data & coding

We chose a location around the University of Aberdeen Medical School. The image below shows the results of our engagement tool after user participation.


At the stage of collating the content of the second interview, we first used Otter to convert the audio files into text form for easy navigation and highlighting, a move that reduced our time costs to a great extent. When processing the data, we used keyword extraction to highlight critical information based on the participants’ answers to each question, mainly in behavioural practices, attitudes, opinions, expectations, subjective feelings, etc. After extracting the key messages for each participant, they were categorized, and the high-frequency questions and responses were summarised. We have summarised what the participants have in common and used notes to show the results of collating high-frequency information from the interviews.


We found that young people see the primary way to engage with nature as outdoor activities, and even engaging with nature could be a social hang-out scenario.
Most young people already have a fixed perception of nature and a fixed activity location. However, very often, they find the choice of location very limited, which is one of the bad user experiences we received from the respondents in our secondary research.

Based on the summaries of the first and second interviews, we created two personas of young people. Although other groups were also covered in the first interview, the younger group became the main object of our research after that. In the two personas, we divided the user’s problem into two fictitious personas, tried to construct the user’s personas, preferences, and goals from the content and data of the base interview, and then suggested hopes for them by analyzing what the user said and their feelings. The above are the essential components of a user profile. Through the user profile, we can identify the user’s problems, where they want to go, and what they want to achieve.

But based on the persona alone, we needed help understanding the details of the user pain points and the information and opportunities we could gain. So we created two more complete user journey maps based on the two personas and the information obtained from the interviews. In the user journey maps, the primary user engagement process with nature is divided into three parts: the idea stage, the action stage, and the feeling stage. Although not all users go through all three steps, the three are common, and the complete process allows us to find out more. Here shows one of the personas and its user journey map.

Prioritizing user needs

After identifying users’ needs and pain points through persona and user journey maps, we thought about which needs to focus on and finally decided to prioritize people’s needs using the KANO model. The four axes were divided into aspirational, attractive, undifferentiated and essential. The ranking is based on how well the needs are fulfilled and how satisfied people are.


We voted to prioritise the requirements, we found an additional user to evaluate them. Still, we decided to prioritise the requirements based on that additional user evaluation. In future projects, we need to minimise the subjective judgement of the designers and instead make judgements based on the data available with increased user involvement.

Prototyping and User Feedback

Prototyping was relatively easy because we had the basis for our findings from the preliminary research and the KANO model analysis. We decided to take a collaborative approach to the prototyping phase, which has dramatically improved our productivity. It was because the research improved everyone’s knowledge of the project, and with the same team knowledge and goals, even the division of labour could be very efficient.


We brainstormed and came up with three concepts during the ideation stage: the first was a paper map, the second was a Greenboard, and the third one was Mapbox. We initially intended to redesign a paper map highlighting information about the city’s natural regions. We aim to make the landscape and outdoor activity information more visible on the map, and the paper map can be easily portable. Nevertheless, we eventually gave up on this idea because the paper size does not allow us to carry too much information. Moreover, different cities or locations need a corresponding map, which is hard to design various versions to satisfy users’ needs.

During the user feedback phase, although the first generation product was straightforward and did not have an interface that allowed users to interact well. However, everyone provided appropriate feedback based on their experience. 

  • Pop-ups should preferably be located in the same location  
  • The pop-ups after selecting a route are a bit confusing 
  • It would be more reasonable to break down the travel time into total time and activity time  
  • It would be more convenient to put the sharing function in the main interface 
  • Need to have the user’s location information on the map

Final outcome

Based on the results of user feedback, we have finally chosen two directions to work together to build systems that allow young people to engage with nature. The first is designing a Greenboard. During the second interview, we found that young people are unable to engage with nature due to time and location constraints.The green board allows young people to bring back things they have gained from nature and share the items with the rest of the community. With the green board, young people can post on the box the skills and activities they want to learn about nature, as well as their contact information. Other users can build connections if they can meet the needs. For example, if a young person wants to learn gardening skills and another elder person has relevant knowledge, they can get to know each other and communicate over the green board. We hope that the green board will help users build emotional bonds while adding fun to their interactions with nature.

The Green Board is designed to enable young people to share green and to connect with others.

The digital map provide a more pleasant interaction with nature for young people.

Our second direction is the digital map. As users’ pain points are mainly caused by a lack of information, the interface can be one of the solutions. We can present users with adequate information and meet their demands in creating plans, scheduling time, and planning routes with friends by using a digital map. To enhance the interest of exploring nature, users can use it to collect the different silhouettes of natural items. What’s more, it can be rolled up and transported, evoking the sentiment of an old paper map while being extremely practical for the user. We hope this solution will provide a more pleasant interaction with nature for young people.

Project impact




Communicate with stakeholders at the University of Aberdeen Medical School and educate them about the impact that natural contact brings to people.

Focusing on the Inverness area, the findings summarise the different attitudes towards nature and the reasons for them between younger and older groups.

Experimented with the possibilities of human-nature interaction and collected positive and negative feedback.

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