Redesigning a mobile app to empower people to grow their own food.

The Brief

Gardenio believes that there's no such thing as a black thumb, just lack of access. It sends its customers everything they need to grow food with an app which is designed to support its customers who are new to growing food across their growing journey. It aims to connect its customers to the information, supplies, and people who can help them succeed.


The current design, however, fails to fulfill its goal due to its inadequate care guide info and non-engaging design. Therefore, the objective of this project is to improve customers' growing experiences with better guidance and lift engagement.



Key Skills


Type of Porject

UX Designer

2 months

Competitive Analysis | Interview | Journey Map | Sketching | Wireframing | Prototyping | Motion Design

Sketch, InVision Studio

Individual project | Rapid Prototyping course project collaborating with Gardenio

Client Kickoff

The kickoff meeting with Gardenio's founder, Roman Gonzalez, helped me have a better understanding of their goals, background, and business drivers. These are the three main takeaways from the meeting:


  • Redesigning the app to improve people's growing experience and attract more new users

  • Creating a community may be a good way to drive user growth but it's not a direction that we necessarily need to go with

Target Users

21-35 years old young adults living in urban area who are new to growing food

Journey Mapping

Based on the research insights and information provided by Gardenio's founder, Roman Gonzalez, I created a journey map to map out how the novices currently grow plants (without Gardenio) and how I expect them to interact with the redesigned app. This helped me better understand and address user's needs and pain points as they experience growing plants.

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Design Solution:

Scaffolding — an adjustable and personalized guidance to facilitate learning and growing


Based on the insights from the user research, I decided to focus on two key areas, including encouraging observation and learning, as well as providing customized and prompt guidance. The ideas I came up with included using AI to provide users with timely suggestions, encouraging users to observe by keeping a diary, recommending articles to users based on their plant condition, and so on.

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Some early explorations I sketched


After exploring the ideas, I decided to create a 'scaffolding' experience in which users can omit the care guides when they become sophisticated. The app supports users to learn the new skills and knowledge along growing by tailored guidance, which they can access whenever they want. Users can also adjust the care plans that would give them more sense of control of growing food.

Before getting into the high-fidelity prototype, I created wireframes to develop the structure of the app and user flow.


Research Insight:

The current app served as a dictionary only needed while users have plant issues, instead of a media fostering observation and learning behaviors.

Research Insight:

The current app served as a dictionary only needed while users have plant issues, instead of a media fostering observation and learning behaviors.

To better understand the problems of the app and acquire basic background knowledge of growing plants, I did the literature review and the app review. I found that though Gardenio tried to provide all information a novice grower may need to help them succeed, it neglected that an essential skill — observation is needed for the novice to succeed. Cultivating plant observation skills help the novices learn to recognize the health plant appearance, notice unusual symptoms and its patterns and deal with potential causes. However, the app fails to motivate and engage the novices to observe, to learn, and to try through their growing journey. What's more, its text-heavy design and uninformative care guides make learning less intriguing to users.

App review key takeaways
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Novices lack the sense of control while growing plants

I also did an interview with a friend of mine who is new to growing food to learn about what difficulties a novice will have along growing. I found that as a novice with limited knowledge, it makes them more difficult to identify the real plant problems and choose the appropriate solutions. Also, the great amount of information and its complexity also make the novice more anxious and overwhelmed. Such uncertainties and the feel of out of control make them more easily to give up on gardening.


Design Decision 1:

Customizing care plans based on the information given by users

By asking users the growing environment of their plants, it can help the system predict the growth patterns of the plants. Also, it also enables the app to provide users with better and reliable suggestions to take care of their plants. Moreover, it helps the product gain trust from customers.

Design Decision 2:
Providing access to flexible and tailored care guides

Users are able to know what tasks need to be done every day through To-do, which is recommended by the app according to plant development. By tapping the card, users can also check the details of the task. The To-do is editable that users can change the time, snooze, or delete the task based on their needs. These features support users to gradually internalize their skills and knowledge and then develop their own strategies for growing plants.  

Design Decision 3:
Encourage users to observe plants through the Journal

In addition to adding images and notes in the Journal, users are also encouraged to observe and log the growth of the plant to improve the care guides recommendation. 

Design Decision 4:

Using AI technology to help users identify plant diseases

Identifying plant diseases is one of the most difficult tasks for novices. I decided to utilize AI technology to help users to recognize the plant diseases. I included the percentage of accuracy to help users identify which disease is the one that their plant may have to that they can feel more in control instead of overwhelmed by several possible results.

Bonus Feature:

A community enables users to connect with people who share the same love of their interests

Based on the competitive analysis, I found that people expect growing food could bring them positive effects on their daily lives. Thus, I utilized community to help users enlist social support which encourages them to keep growing food.

Considering it is difficult to have users actively participate in the community, I include the discussion and poll posts initiated by admin to foster engagement.

How might we help a novice to have more sense of control over growing plants and engage them in growing along the way?


From the competitive analysis, I also found that though most competitors used various ways to empower their customers before and after purchasing, their service could not promptly facilitate the customers to deal with their plant issues with better guidance.  Also, many of them have held the events and published articles related to cooking, green consumerism, or mindfulness. It reflects that people are also interested in other related topics and may expect gardening bringing them some positive feedbacks to their daily life.

Competitive Analysis Summary
Competitive Analysis Summary

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Details of Competitive Analysis-1
Details of Competitive Analysis-1

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Details of Competitive Analysis-2
Details of Competitive Analysis-2

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Competitive Analysis Summary
Competitive Analysis Summary

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Design with time constraints

It was challenging to shrink the timeline into a one-semester schedule. With the time limitation, I was unable to do a thorough user research to deeply understand what users want, think, and feel. Alternatively, I deep dived into the available research data to help me find the best solution for my client. 

Micro-animation Design

While developing the high-fidelity prototype, I decided to grab this opportunity to learn how to do the motion design with InVision Studio. It was challenging at the beginning since I couldn't understand how animation works in InVision, especially when it comes to editing timeline. But it became so much fun when I successfully animated a floating action button. The whole process encouraged me to think about why I did a motion in this way. Now, I am excited to learn more about motion design!