Case Study — Community Garden App

Red Academy. Winter 2017 Cohort. P3

Team — Me, Julia, Gray, Dex


Our Team was made up of three UX Design Students and one UI Design Student.

We met with our Client to discuss the redesign of his web-based Community Garden app. He asked us to create a mobile app that would provide these business goals.


  • A one stop shop for all garden management needs.
  • Onboard new gardeners
  • Assign new plots
  • Send billing info and invoices
  • Connect the Gardener Community


  • Sign up for Gardeners
  • Environmental and cultural education dedicated to food growing

The Community Garden App would address the lack of tools and technology required to manage community gardens. This custom garden management App would be designed to assist community garden managers and relieve the administrative burden placed on these organizations in order to support community gardening and local food growing. At the moment, most community gardens are run by volunteers, using a combination of systems (email, spreadsheet, pen and paper) to manage gardeners and accomplish administrative tasks.

While our Client was presenting how the existing Community Garden web app worked, we identified some areas for improvement — we could see why the tasks required for managing a garden and onboarding gardeners were pain points. We needed to make it easy and add a bit of fun to the process.

This meeting set the stage for our interviews, and informed the questions we needed to ask of our User Groups. We also had three weeks to come up with a prototype and present it to our client!

‘A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people, usually run by volunteers’. — wikipedia

RESEARCH — Interviews & Affinity Diagram

There are numerous Apps and software to assist with the gardening and growing food, yet no software has been custom built to assist with the administration and operations of a Community Garden.

We interviewed the two groups of Users for the App — Garden Managers and Gardeners with community garden plots, or gardeners who had had plots in the past.

  1. We found out from Garden Managers, that they have alot of repetitive managerial tasks, as well as fielding emails and phone calls from gardeners.
  2. From Gardeners we found that they want more information about the garden, the community, and gardening in general. The second insight was that they are generally over 40, unfamiliar with tech, and they don’t rely on it or enjoy using it.
Affinity Diagram — data associated with Gardener and Garden Manager Interviews

We pulled some data from creating an Affinity Diagram that described the feelings and revealed motivations for gardening.

  • satisfying
  • surprising
  • it’s an antidote to every other part of life
  • good, no comparison
  • collective aspect
  • knowledge
  • sharing
  • soothing
  • calm
  • reconnect with nature
  • connect
  • community
  • contribution
  • learning
  • spiritual lessons
  • faith — you can’t rush plants to grow
  • meeting others
  • all shades of green. brown. red. blue.
  • parents gardened

From this list we pulled out values, motivations, behaviours, and needs of our Garden Manager and Gardeners. The overlap between the two groups was that they both have strong values around self sufficiency, community, food security, and the environment.

Motivations, needs, and behaviours of our two User Groups and common values.


In the meantime, we came up with a few Mood Boards based on our interview outcomes.

Moodboards #1 and #2

During our interviews, when asked what colours they related to gardening, 45% of the people interviewed said red, green and yellow, and 55% said white, purple and greens.

Moodboard #3 — Hands in the soil — Earthiness — Connection — Sharing — Community — Belonging — Tangible

In our second meeting with our client, he felt the third mood board conveyed the feelings he wanted the App to convey. This aligned with our research outcomes as well.


Next, we created two User Personas, one for our Garden Manager and one for our Gardener, to help us get a good sense of who we were designing the App for including their motivations, and needs.

Community Garden Manager Profile

Gardener Profile


The problem for managers is that they’re using an inefficient system to manage their gardens and gardeners. It creates a lot of repetitive and unnecessary work for them, which takes alot of their time.

Because of this, we inadvertently created a problem for the gardeners because they are intimidated by the very technology that will ultimately help them sign up in a convenient and simple way for their garden plot.


To address both of these issues, we wanted to incorporate the following app features:

  • An app experience that requires the absolute bare minimum steps/actions to get set up
  • An enticing garden discovery experience with thorough, high-quality garden photos and garden details
  • Provide payment options that gardeners are comfortable with, followed by step-by-step instructions on what to do next
  • All the information they could possibly need related to their garden and their plot (garden access, resource availability, convenience, security, etc.)


With our new focus, we came up with a feature list.

Must have:

  • Sign up process
  • Manager accounts
  • User accounts
  • Electronic payment processing
  • Email confirmations
  • Garden photo galleries
  • Feed — News, Inspiration, and Events
  • Message board
  • Help section
  • how to use the app
  • FAQ


Holly is looking forward to getting her vegetable garden going this year, and can’t wait until Spring to start. She has seen the Community Garden close to her apartment and her neighbor has been gardening there for a few years so she wants to join up.

She hasn’t had a garden for a few years since moving into the apartment and is surprised how much she misses the sense of calm and connection to nature she feels from gardening. She also misses the connection with a gardening community and the knowledge she gains from the plants. It was always a surprise to see what changed every time she went to her garden, and she remembers as a child digging in the dirt and helping her mom as she tended their family’s garden. Somehow they always ended up hanging out in the garden when friends or family stopped by too.

Her neighbour has told her that there’s a new app available to help her sign up for the garden, reserve a plot, and pay, so she downloads it on her IPhone and starts the process. Minutes later, she’s paid with her credit card through the App, been assigned a garden plot, and has received a confirmation email. That was alot easier than she expected!


Olivia is getting ready for the upcoming gardening season and gardeners are starting to contact her to sign up for the Community Garden she manages at Dunbar and 40th. It’s going to become hectic really quickly with people wanting to start planting as soon as the weather gets warmer. The waitlist has 30 people on it so she needs to get her returning gardeners to commit and pay for their garden plots, so she can get in touch with the people who want a plot if one comes available.

If only there were more space available throughout the city to have more gardens! With a good organizational app to use, she, and other Garden Managers could handle alot more, and get the word out to more people as well. Maybe then she’d be able to convince more property developers to let their vacant lots be managed temporarily as Community Gardens.

User Flows for the Primary and Secondary Users — Garden Manager and Gardener


The scenarios helped us work out two User Flows, to show the basic elements to include in the App.

From here we created a paper prototype, and we started testing it to see the flow and the questions that would come up for the Users.

Initial paper prototype for our first User Test

As we were testing, we found that some of the button placement and the content on some of the screens was too crowded.

Other feedback from our Users made us realize that we needed to go back to a minimum viable product. We had created too many User Flows so there were too many options and tasks.

The Project Brief was to create a simple way for both Gardeners and the Garden Managers to input their details and create an account in order to streamline the amount of tasks for both.

In order to finish the App for our deadline, we had to chose one of the two User Flows, so we decided to focus on the Garden Manager only, which was the primary goal for our client.

Storyboard for the Primary User Flow of the Garden Manager


By concentrating on the Garden Manager only, we synthesized the on-boarding process into one efficient tool, providing them with the ability to:

  • On-board new gardeners, and email responses automatically
  • Assign plots
  • Send billing info and invoices
  • Connect the Gardener Community
  • keep track of the waitlist
  • post announcements and messages to Gardeners


After we iterated and tested the paper prototype with Users again, we were ready to digitize. In designing the digital screens for the App, we quickly got up to 65 screens, so we needed to cut back in scope as the timeline for the whole project was only three weeks to design and build a digital prototype.

We tested with Users with this digital prototype and found a few glitches in the new garden sign up process.

Users were expecting to see that payment had been received after it was marked paid, as well as detailed information about the Gardener.

We added the number of ‘steps’ at the top of the screen to set the User’s expectations on how long it will take to sign up.

We also added the ability to upload their own Garden Agreement (for the Gardeners to sign), or have the option to use the standard template we provided. This provides a time saving element shortening the initial set-up process.

Garden Managers wanted the ability to export the data from the App, as well as register payments received, and to see who hasn’t paid yet.


Although the App was the first team project we’d done, it was a huge success based on the positive feedback we received from our Client, Instructors and Users.

It required constant communication between myself and the rest of the Team. We worked well together, even though we had different work styles and personalities to consider. We all realized that our goal to create the best App we could in a short amount of time, was most important.

To make people’s lives easier through design, even if just a little bit, is why I’m doing this!


Community Garden App 2.0
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