UX Research & Design

Case Study 

I led UX Research on a newly launched carbon footprint tracker app, identified critical engagement gaps and designed a new onboarding strategy to support Greency’s business goals and user needs.   




Hanna Shuvalova
Ilmir Nasretdinov
Pouya Rezazadeh Kalehbasti

My Role

UX Strategy, Research & Design 


Greency is a startup that is seeking to create a new metric in people’s lives: daily tracking of carbon emissions.  Greency provides the user with easy access to personalized data on the user’s carbon cost through automated tracking of daily commute and transportation activities.

User engagement and investment is a critical factor in Greency’s ability to reach its overall goal of reducing carbon emissions by half a billion metric tons (0.5 Gton) with 100 million monthly active users. 

I set out to evaluate how users view and interact with the gamified tree avatar central to Greency and its ability to support behavior change in its users. Through a UX research process, I uncovered critical engagement gaps and developed a user onboarding strategy that supports user engagement through empathy and relationship with the user’s Greency tree.     





I embarked on a comprehensive evaluation and research process designed to uncover key insights about the behaviors, needs and requirements of Greency’s users.

Problem Statement

The Greency team is looking for ways to build overall user engagement. A key component in user engagement is the user’s relationship with the tree avatar they create in Greency and the user’s ability to build a relationship with the tree and emphathize with the plight of the tree throughout the Greency experience.   



Automated Carbon Tracking

Evaluate how users respond to their carbon output data, the mechanism of tracking and data display, and the role of the tree for the user.

User Interviews

Usability Testing


Gamified Tree Avatar

Evaluate the relationship users develop with the Greency tree, and assess the user response to the health decline of the tree mediated by the user’s carbon output behavior.

Who Are The Users?

Educated, environmentally motivated and conscious, middle to high income men and women, ages 20-38 (millennials), who already use automatic tracking devices/apps (fitbit, etc.). These individuals already have modified their behavior in other ways to reduce environmental impact; for instance, by recycling or refusing single-use plastics. 

UX Research Recruitment

Participants were qualified based on a screener survey designed to reveal their concern for climate change and environmental impact on both societal and personal levels. Qualified participants also commute regularly, currently use or have used apps that require geo-location services, and must use iOS and have a Facebook account, which are necessary prerequisites for using Greency at this point in time. 

Research with Greency’s existing and potential users was conducted in 30-minute remotely moderated sessions. Participants included 2 of Greency’s existing users and 5 qualified target users new to Greency.

Survey Respondents

Research Volunteers

Qualifying New Users

New Users Interviewed

Existing Users Interviewed

In the first session, qualified individuals were interviewed about their lifestyle habits, commute behavior and the various ways in which they currently reduce their environmental impact. Afterwards, the individuals were introduced to the Greency app. Users were instructed to try out the app and interact with the tree they created. These users agreed to test out Greency for about a week to interact with the tree, test the carbon footprint tracking capability and share their overall experience in a second follow-up session.

First Session User Feedback

“You name your tree, you see a number, you see a date… For instance when you download a music app, you know the capabilities; you see the lyrics of the song.. To me, it’s not clear how it’s going to work.. what are the buttons?”

- Research Participant D

‘Is it supposed to show bars for everyday?’ ‘If someone was using it for more than a month.. Will someone see the usage for the week, the month?’


- Research Participant A

‘“I actually didn’t know that the graphic was going to change. I thought it would just be the number.”

“What does the app do exactly?”

- Research Participant C

Critical INsights

Core App Goals & Functions

The majority of users expressed difficulty in knowing how the app functions and the overall goal of the app.

Invisibility of Carbon Tracking

For the user, there is no clear association between the user’s commute behavior and the carbon output measurement in kilograms of CO2. Many users had questions about how exactly Greency tracks data and calculates the output.

Establishing Relationship with Tree

There is no way for the user to know upon signup and login that the tree’s health will react to the user’s carbon output, or that they can check-in with their tree to see how it is feeling throughout the day.

Output Data Dashboard

Users express difficulty in being able to view and analyze their carbon output data from the linear timeline given. They are especially confused by the incremental changing of the output number as the line slides across the days.

Addressing the Critical Issues 

Without users understanding the core app goals and functions, they are largely unable to develop a good relationship with their tree, and ultimately unlikely to be engaged with the overall purpose of the app: greater awareness of their own environmental impact and the changing of lifestyle habits.


Existing Onboarding Sequence

In the existing new user onboarding sequence, there is no indication that the tree is meant to be a dialogue partner for the user on their carbon output or the behavior contributing to such. Also, the user is unaware that the tree’s health directly responds to the level of carbon output that the user is producing; so this gamification component core to the overall Greency concept and approach is lost entirely. A solid relationship between the user and the tree is vitally necessary for the tree to function as a extension of the conscience of the user. This onboarding sequence does not support the proper development of this relationship, nor set expectations for the user and his or her experience of the app.



Tree Selection




New User Onboarding: A Conversational Approach

A user onboarding sequence with a clear narrative about how Greency tracks the user’s carbon output, and how the user will interact and relate to the tree throughout their experience properly sets expectations and provides a foundation upon which the user can establish a relationship with their tree.  Not only introducing the core concepts to the user, but also exploring the overall purpose of Greency in the context of a conversation with the user-created tree additionally supports the establishment of relationship with the tree.  The tree then becomes a living entity that communicates actively and regularly with the user. 


To start off the sequence, the tree introduces itself to the user and shares some basic info about where it typically lives and how much carbon it can sequester in its lifetime, based on data from iTreeTools. It is a friendly beginning that lays the foundation for increased personal and emotional investment in the life of the tree and its environment.


The tree then shares a little info about how Greency works to track the user’s carbon output based on their various commute behaviors and the method of transport they choose. Previously, this information was only directly available in the promotional information external to the Greency app.


In a step to create greater understanding of how the tree’s health is affected by the user’s carbon output, and greater emotional investment on the part of the user, the tree relates the personal and environmental threat of excess CO2 and asks the user for help.

Conceptual Result

In this part of the user’s conversational sequence with Arthur, the tree lets the user know what to expect going forward as both tree and user partner together to keep the tree and its environment healthy, with both in-app and real-world impact.

Real World Result

In the final screen of the conversational sequence, Arthur continues to connect the in-app impact and real-world impact for the user. By reducing carbon output, the user is rewarded with a thriving, healthy tree and environment complete with the animals native to the tree’s ecosystem in the app as a tangible representation of the positive real-word reduction of atmospheric CO2.

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