Product Design, Mobile APP Design, & Gardening

A mobile gardening app grows your green thumb

Individual Project, Gardenio


The Gardenio mobile app is designed, in conjunction with Growboxes, to support somebody new to growing food across their food growing journey, which is inherently cyclical. It connects people to the information, supplies, and people they need to be successful. There’s no such thing as a black thumb, just lack of access.


Product Designer 


Oct 2019 - Dec 2019


The Problems

My client believes the growth engine is powered by an active, robust, helpful community, with tools that connect people made for the at-home food grower. There is no organized, specialized place for new (and experienced) food growers to talk to each other and help each other out. Currently, there are Facebook groups, Google Groups, some online forums, a subreddit etc. The entire space is tribal, fragmented, and inconsistent.

How might we leverage people and community to improve people’s growing and social experience with Gardenio?

Project Timeline

I started the project with secondary research and user research in order to help me understand the real situation and identify what are users’ biggest frustrations before I make any design decisions. By unconvering the users’ needs and pain points, I designed the screens targeted to identified themes. After rounds of usability tests and iterations, I presented the high fidelity prototype to my client.

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Business Model Canvas

To identify the opportunities of improving growers’ experience and thus set forth a successful business, I mapped out the elements to communicate details of Gardenio’s business model which includes the value propositions differentiated from other competitors, various channels to deliver values to customers, strategies for key activities and resources to maximize user experience and revenue streams. 

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Comparative Analysis - Feature Audit

I conducted comparative evaluations on a couple of direct competitors to identify Gardenio’s position in the market and opportunities to grow. By generating a feature audit list, I pinpointed the similarities and differences between each gardening app.

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Community Apps for Inspirations

As I was going to build a niche community app for gardener to connect with like-minded people, I also analyzed other apps that leverage community attributes to advocate the resources exchange for inspirations.

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Meetup is a social platform allows the users to discover events/organizations that are interested to them or organize an event to get people together and make a difference.

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User Profiles

Increase the visibility of the event or community to build trust
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Engage Others

Start new conversations by creating new content
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Important Timeline

Display content in a timely manner
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Direct Messaging

Keep the conversations within the APP

Kitchen Stories is a mobile APP features step-by-step photo instructions and video guides on making various types of dishes and the community for sharing recipes and culinary techniques.

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Video Tutorials

Combining text with photos and video gives better experience
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Categorize the Content

Explore and browse content more efficiently
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Share the Result

Share in the comment to engage the conversation better
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Moderate the Content

Quality content gives visual enjoyment


Findings & Quotes

Followed by the market research, I conducted 6 in-person interviews to better understand potential users’ perspectives to uncover the goals, needs, expectations and frustrations when they come to gardening. In order to learn from different angles, I spoke with 3 self-proclaimed novice growers and 3 experts. We converged the common themes into the following insights:

Expert Grower
Growers need community features tailored to the growing experience as most of them are not distinguished from the regular social media

“Sometimes I feel very redundant to go to the community section in a gardening app because it’s like a replica of Facebook forum, or instagram page. It’s not efficient.”

Novice Grower
Growers are frustrated with unrelated information online

"I have a hard time finding information on the Internet. It's just difficult... Too much information... A lot of the problems have to do with images. I doubt that today's imaging technology delivers reliable matches."

Expert Grower
Some growers doubt the credibility of answers provided by other growers

“I don’t think I can always get the right answers from the community feeds.”

Novice Grower
The accuracy of the plant identification determines whether the grower will return

“I think the plant identification feature is very convenient but it’s not always accurate.”

Novice Grower
The gardening instructions in the app did not set the grower up for success

“I followed the instructions in the app, but my plants still died.”

Expert Grower
Information overload or lack of information will not satisfy the grower

"I just want the right amount of information enough for me to grow my plants."


Being informed by insights from the research, I developed the two personas, Catherine and Alex, to represent the end users of the product. Catherine represents novice grower group and Alex represents expert grower’s.



32 years old | Chef | Novice grower
“I can’t tell which resources are more reliable than others.”


Relies on online gardening forum for basic gardening information about care guides and seasonal selections


Brings plants from the garden to table for health benefits and sustainability


To easily identify plant issue, to be notified about the plant care, to find solutions from the community, and to get inspired from other growers


Uncertain about the resources online, not enough care instructions provided within the app, and could not find answers



35 years old | Nurse | Expert grower
“A high accuracy rate of plant identification is very important for me to decide whether to continue using the app.”


Shares expertise with friends in the forum about gardening, answers gardening questions, and invites friends and family to the garden


Reconnects with the nature and enjoys healthy and organic foods


To get recommendations of gardening projects
To learn different gardening techniques
To share expertise in an easy way


The complicated hierarchy makes her hard to navigate through the app, unmoderated information loses credibility, and lacks inspiration in gardening

Journey Map

A gardener’s journey encompasses plenty of touch points and that evokes emotional changes from discover to harvest. I decided to map out each element so that helped me to see the forest for the trees.

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Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

I found that Gardenio lacks a wide range of user-engagement features. While some applications implement community functionality, the lack of a structured information architecture undermines the user experience. A resource-sharing community and a substantial database of care guides are important factors that distinguish Gardenio from other gardening applications.

Prioritizing Features

I synthesized all findings from research to prioritize features for an MVP using Kano model. I ensured that I had an ideal amount of basic and performance features to fulfill users' needs in gardening, then I added delighter features to distinguish Gardenio from other competitors.

 Basic Needs 

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Care Guides

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Task Reminder

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Discover Project

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Support Team

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Plants Database

 Performance Needs 

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Plant ID

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Weather Forecast

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In-app Store

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Create Content


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Plant Diagnosis

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Chat Messaging

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Video Guides

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Augmented Reality


Gardenio does not meet users' basic gardening needs. Users need Gardenio's mobile app, which can accurately identify plants, integrate adequate and relevant care guides and task reminders, give growers more confidence in decision-making, and provide a communication channel for growers to share and seek answers. The solution proposed will benefit Gardenio's business by reorganizing the information architecture and introducing new functional elements to meet user needs. The solution is in line with Gardenio's goal of creating a self-sustaining community that brings growers and experts together for social networking and resource exchanges.


Concept Generation and Testing

I developed wireframes of different user scenarios to test with users. I collected feedback from users to confirm proposed ideas and address usability issues. This stage focuses on four topics:

Select the scenario you are most interested in:

Scenario 1 - Plant Identification

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Scenario 2 - Chat Messaging

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Scenario 3 - Expertise Sharing

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Scenario 4 - Sense of Community

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Scenario 5 - Reward Mechanism

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Information Architecture

After the first usability test, I restructured the information architecture based on participants' feedback to streamline the gardening experience.


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High Fidelity Prototype

Here we are. 

The following high-fidelity prototype and annotations will focus on the ease of caring plants as well as social elements.

Manage multiple plants in the Augmented Reality (AR)
The image recognition feature allows the Gardenio gardeners to scan to identify unknown plants and scan to find plant cares.
The AR allows the gardeners to manage several plants simultaneously and flexibly by quickly skimming through what actions are required for each plant on the same screen.
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Everything you need to know about taking good care of the plants
The Gardenio gardeners can also scan to diagnose plants and compare the results with different percentages of confidence. By drilling down to the detail page of diagnosis report and plant care, the gardeners will learn more about how to take care their plants.
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The community is here to help
The Gardenio gardeners are strongly supported by the enthusiastic community. They can explore the events and activities that are happening around them, and join the local meet up to share their growing experience. They can also find hot topics that are circulated in the community Pool where they can participate the conversations or offer help.
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Chat with the gardeners who have similar interests as you do.
The built-in chat messaging feature allows the gardeners to have a streamlined experience of social networking while also finding the information they want from others.
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Even though the project is handed off, I believe there is a spectrum of opportunities for improving the process. For example, I could've done a few more usability tests to obtain user feedback for testing out a couple of suggested ideas from user interviews. Good user experience comes from an endless investigation of users.

Working on an industry project in an academic setting is always challenging because we had to shrink the timeline into a one-semester schedule. I followed the design thinking methodologies as the backbone for my project. I believe a good research process requires time to process the information so that to transform it into something valuable. This time instead of cramming in the methodologies, deep diving to the available research data helped me find the best solutions for my client.

It is every designer's responsibility to serve the audience better as well as the client. My client had a clear direction that the community feature is needed for the app's growth engine when he came to us. After the first couple of user interviews, I realized the community feature is not as urgent as the intelligent function, such as plant identification needed for the app in participants' minds. I continued to explore the ideas that came up from the interviews and kept the social elements on top of my head to provide my client a more integral report with fulfilling the project goals and, at the same time, propose a list of potential features for business growth.