Mobile app design for an Austin based gardening startup


Oct. - Dec. 2019

Project Type

Individual project, Client proposal


Interviews, Business Model Canvas, Design Sprint Map, Wireframing, Prototyping


Gardenio is an Austin based startup using technology to help people design, start, and maintain edible organic gardens. Gardenio aims to connect new food growers to the information, supplies, and people they need to be successfulHowever, currently, there is no organized and specialized place for new food growers to talk to each other and help each other out.

Gardenio had a beta version mobile app and was looking for design ideas to improve people's growing and social experience. My final design solutions allow new food growers to learn how to take care of the plants, track the growth of their plants, and engage in the local community.


The journey of planting starts right after purchase

Overview of the plants, video care guides, tips from local experts and discussions from the community are there to help the user.

Record and share the growth of plants

The journal in the app allows the user to take notes and take pictures of the plant, The photos could be generated into slideshow and share.

Notifications suggest the user take action

Users get notifications when the weather changes. The app can also detect potential issues from the photos that users upload and suggest solutions.

Explore events and connect to the local community

The app connects users to local food, farm, and shop to explore sustainability events. Users can also create events for sharing their joy of planting.


Understand the business

After the client kickoff, I completed the business model canvas which allowed me to consider key implication in Gardenio’s business planning process.


Key takeaways:

  • Gardenio's knowledge of growing plants, the data of weather changes, and what they've known about their customers are the keys to bring them value.

  • Gardenio can build long term customer relationships by increase physical relationships with customers.

  • Events like workshops and meetups are key activities to increase community engagement.

Users’ quotes from app store

I frequently upload new photos and it is very nice because I can see the growth of them as the time goes on from the old photos I upload

Learn from competitors

I analyzed several plants selling websites, as well as mobile apps which are helping people taking care of their plants. I also looked into some planting communities to informed my design. 

I really wish that there was a notes section for each of my plants so I can write down dates of small things that I have done

I can tell that some of my plants need to be watered a little more often than the app advises

Key takeaways:

  • People enjoy recoding their plants’ growth by taking pictures and taking notes.

  • There are guidelines to follow but the real situation sometimes differs.

Design Sprint Map

In order to scope the project to be a two months project, I drew a design sprint map with three other classmates. The map helped us find out opportunities for Gardenio’s success, and each of us picked up the focus points to work on individually.


Key takeaways:

  • 3 of the 8 interviewees said they started planting because they got a plant from someone (friends, colleagues…)

  • Half of the interviewees said they choose a kind of plant because they heard that it’s easy to grow.

  • 5 of the 8  interviewees are planting herbs because they know how to use them on cooking.

  • All participants interact with their plants (look at them, take photos, touch, prune, repot…)

Understand people's planting experiences

I interviewed 8 people with different planting experiences and gained several findings specifically. 


Design Decisions

Share the joy

Grow the community

From the research I did, I realized that many people started planting or growing something because they got a plant from someone else. Although not everyone could keep their plants alive for their first try, all of them got joy from it and they are willing to keep planting. By allowing people to share their joy and the little things of their plants, we can grow the community of planting.


Besides, people can easily access information about caring plants online but because of the different growing environments and weathers, they reach out to experienced people for advice. 

Hence, I identified main functions of the app:

  • Organized & Trusted: Categorize Gardenio’s support in some meaningful way, and identify experts on certain issues.

  • Record & MediaUsers should be able to record the journey of growing their own food, and share photo/video that chronicles their journey.

  • Engaged & Communicate: Community features should encourage engagement, and users should be able to communicate with other gardeners in their area.

Lo-fi prototype

I first sketched wireframes on my notebook and then create the lo-fi prototype with Sketch and InVision. 

Design iterations after testing with users 

The lo-fi prototype was displayed on the mobile phone and tested with 4 participants on six scenarios. After the tests, I discovered several usability issues and iterated them. Here are some examples:


  • How might we allow users to select what they want?

  • How might we lead the user from viewing to purchasing?

  • How might we match the questions to the right people?

  • How might we increase the success rate of the beginner?

  • How might we create a good sharing experience?

  • Record and look back plant's growth on the journal

  • Join Gardenio events and connect to local food growers 

What is the impact of this project?

In the final week of the semester, each of the students had a 2 minutes presentation, proposed the design to Gardenio. The client showed their interest in providing recipes in the mobile app, as well as the Journal function.

Few months after the presentation, I'm happy to learn that Gardenio has decided to implement digital tools to help users identify plant issues, as well as other community features to connect the local food growers!

( Screenshot of Gardenio's website, April 2020 )


© Sherry Wu | 2020