Royal Horticultural Society App – Case Study

On February 22nd, 2011, posted in: reports and case studies by 3 Comments

Lindsey and I spent last Spring deep in conversation about the state of mobile learning and interpretation.  We were excited by the possibilities, frustrated by progress – you probably recognise the symptoms – and finally hit by a realisation that we had to stop talking and do something.  So, we set up Frankly, Green + Webb. During that time, there were a few projects that really fired us up, ones that we felt reflected a more thoughtful, user centred approach and that harnessed the platform to really deliver on their mission. We thought they offered some really interesting pointers for the cultural sector.

One of those projects was the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Grow Your Own’ app. Grow Your Own was launched in April of last year – which, with great serendipity was just as Lindsey took possession of her allotment!  The app is part of the RHS’s wider campaign to encourage people to experience the pleasure and benefits of growing their own vegetables – designed to help you choose and cultivate fruit and veg. It combines content about specific fruit and veg with access to expert RHS advice, information about recommended varieties and common pests and disease together with links to the RHS plants shop and a Grow Your Own forum.

It uses the freemium model – giving this basic content for free and offering, additional content and functionality for a small fee (£1.79).  Functionality includes calendar alerts to remind you what to do and when for your chosen plants, location-aware frost warnings, watering reminders and drought alerts.

Now that might not seem immediately relevant to museums and galleries but we felt it offered some insights and inspiration.  Late last year – before the flu and Christmas shutdown took hold – I spoke with Lara Burns, Online Projects Manager with the RHS who initiated and led the app project.  I’ve put together a case study that we hope you’ll find useful but here’s a summary of what caught our attention.

The audience need, the purpose and the platform match

Turns out there are lots of people just like Lindsey for whom growing veg is their first experience of gardening.  They need practical help and inspiration and they often need it when stood in a muddy garden or allotment not at their desk. We think every project should keep in mind audience need, mission and only use mobile as a platform when the mobile context really is relevant

Combining utility with information and interpretation

By making something useful the RHS team have embedded the app in people’s daily lives allowing them to develop an ongoing relationship with a new audience.  It may be more of a stretch for some organisations to imagine how they can do this but its worth keeping that driver in mind – how can you find a place in people’s lives.

It’s playful and pleasurable

The beautiful design and light, humorous approach to copy means it is a real pleasure to explore and use.  People have to want to use an app – you can’t force them!

Its authentic and accurate

Sometimes we get caught in the trap of thinking that we have to choose between our values and mission and producing something desirable and commercial. The content here seems to put that argument to bed – it is rigorous, accurate and authentic to the voice of the RHS, it’s just not a solemn, academic lecture. It’s the expert gardener and horticulturist at your side in the veg patch offering friendly practical help, not stood at a podium lecturing his or her peers.

It tests the freemium model

We urgently need to understand how value is perceived in this new environment. A lot of people in the cultural world have been watching the freemium model and hoping it offers them a way forward at a time when budgets are more than usually tight but charging for everything sits ill with their outreach mission.  On the basis of the evidence in the case study, it doesn’t look like freemium is such an easy win. We suspect perceptions of value have been shaped by a lot of free apps and the gaming model of continuous free upgrades to content and functionality.  We need a lot more data and more openness about results in order to develop good reliable benchmarking for success to support future cultural sector projects.  If you have data you’re able to share do please send it along – there are lots of people out there trying to build  business and user cases who need to know.

Click on the link below to download the case study and get more of an insight into:

  • Downloads
  • Pricing
  • Methodology
  • Top tips from the team

Click here to download Royal Horticultural Society app Case Study – please note you will need to provide a valid email address

3 Responses to “Royal Horticultural Society App – Case Study”

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lindsey_green and aly webb, franklygw. franklygw said: New Blog Post: RHS app case study – – includes download figures, methodology and freemium insight ^AW […]

  • It would be useful to know more about the process of deciding which content would be free, which premium, and how this is communicated/ justified to the public. Are there any best practices to be derived for other organizations in this regard?

  • We had a difficult decision to make – we wanted to reach the widest possible audience with the app – therefore wanted it to be free; but in the long term we need to make a return on the project costs – therefore need to charge.

    We offered 20 plant profiles (full info) for free – these were the 20 most popularly grown fruit/veg. We then added additional functionality and content (another 16 profiles) at a charge as an in-app upgrade. There was admittedly some backlash against this (user reviews), and not a huge uptake (although not insignficant). With hindsight, we perhaps muddled the message by mixing upgrade of fucntionality and content. Unfortunately, some people just want content for free. But we cannot afford to produce apps without funding them. We see this app as a publication – and in terms of comparison to the books we publish, it is a lot cheaper!

    This year we are upgrading the product, offering full functionality (weather alerts, calendars etc) in the free version, for the 20 free profiles. Then users can upgrade to buy additional content bundles (eg extra veg/extra fruit).

    We will see how users feel about this! Would be fascinated to know how others are dealing with this issue.

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