An interactive online database for the selection of woody ornamental plants

in HortTechnology

Web sites such as the University of Connecticut (UConn) Plant Database allow large volumes of information and images to be stored, published and accessed by users for the purpose of informed decision-making. Sorting information on the World Wide Web (Web) can be difficult, especially for novice users and those interested in quick results. The advent of Internet search and retrieval software fosters the creation of interactive decision support systems. The Plant Selector was designed to complement the UConn Plant Database plant encyclopedia by allowing Web site users to generate lists of woody ornamental plants that match specific criteria. On completion of an HTML-based search form by users, a Web-enabled database is searched and lists of matching plants are presented for review. To facilitate analysis of the Plant Selector's efficacy, an online questionnaire was implemented to solicit user feedback. Survey data from 426 responses to the online evaluation tool were analyzed both to understand user demographics and gauge satisfaction with the Plant Selector module. Survey data revealed that most Plant Selector users are between 40 to 65 years of age and homeowners with minimal horticultural experience. A large percentage of Web site visitors (68%) is located across the United States beyond Connecticut and the New England region. The great majority of survey respondents (65%) use this tool to select plants for the home landscape. Most (77%) either agree or strongly agree that the Plant Selector is easy to use and delivers results that are useful (66%), while 70% agree or strongly agree that the categories used by the Plant Selector are sufficient. The survey results in general suggest that Web-based decision support systems may serve useful roles in the field of horticulture education.

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