Product Design

Creating a green home improvements platform

A feature that lets users browse financing options, local contractors, ideas, and estimates for green home renovations in one place.
A hand holding a mobile phone in front of an eco-friendly bag
My role
UI/UX Designer, Product Designer, UX Researcher
5 months
Some details were omitted to protect client confidentiality.

The purpose

Green home improvements are a hassle. Users need to browse financing options, local contractors, ideas for their project, calculate prices, and deal with the emotions this complex process brings.

We wanted to help them perform all of these tasks in one place, or at least minimize the complexity of the process by reducing their time spent on these tasks by over 30%. We also wanted to boost the customers' interest in taking out a loan from our institution or using one of our financing options.

Project scope

Find a way to engage users during the eco-friendly home improvement planning process in a way that everything they need is in one page: cost estimator, contractor search, incentives and rebates, and renovation ideas. Everything detailed in this case study pertains to the early stages and initial research of this feature.


  • Lack of budget for extensive research, which motivated us to use existing research and find interviewees ourselves.
  • Time limitations lowered the amount of hours we could devote to brainstorming and research, which is why we used exercises such as Crazy 8s and empathy mapping to come up with ideas quicker. For the research, we recruited individuals who have renovated their homes or are interested in renovations. That way, we can extract as much information as we could in a short amount of time.


  • Halfway through our design process we discovered people are mainly interested in energy efficient renovations rather than non-energy efficient renovations such as eco-friendly countertops.
  • We had to shift gears quick and have our product focus on energy efficiency so that it matches user needs rather than our assumptions.


  • The project received stakeholder buy-in, and it is currently being researched more by several departments.
  • We created a platform that solves real-world problems, which can be a great opportunity for the organization in terms of acquiring new customers.
  • We received recognition and an award for pitching this idea.

Our process

For this project, we used the Design Thinking method. We were asked to only focus on the first four steps: empathize, define, ideate, and prototype. This is because the organization wants to prioritize ideas and shaping them up first before carrying out comprehensive testing.

Design thinking process
Image by Interaction Design Foundation


There are different ways to help customers with loan applications to create an eco-friendly home, but first, we thought about what our product would look like two years from now.

Carrying out home renovations is more than just choosing how you want your house to look like. There are many steps involved from choosing a financing method to hiring the best contractor to perform the renovations.

To empathize with users that go through these complex tasks, we performed desk research followed by user interviews and consulting with Subject Matter Experts within the company.

Desk research findings

  • 92% of homeowners are now adamant about finding more sustainable ways to remodel (Angi).
  • 51% of real estate agents say they helped a client buy or sell a home with green features (EcoWatch).
  • 27.5% of remodelers' home improvements were focused on energy efficiency (American Housing Survey).
  • The home improvement industry is projected to grow by $625 billion by 2025 and could be worth $1 trillion by 2027 because people prefer to renovate their homes rather than move (North American Hardware and Paint Association & Grand View Research).
  • Many utility companies and government entities offer credits and rebates to homeowners.
  • Consumers have multiple reasons for switching to eco-friendly building materials, but saving money is the top reason with sustainability being another significant motivation. This is why energy efficiency is the most popular renovation.

Desk research analysis

There is certainly a market available for a green home improvements platform that makes the process easier and several problems that we could solve. However, we needed to know more about these problems and challenge our assumptions.

My team and I looked into the many things involved in the home renovations process, which left us wondering what aspects are the most challenging for customers.

Assumption map

I created an assumption map to visualize my team and I's guesses regarding customer behavior.

Based on our desk research, I categorized the assumptions by known and unknown. The known assumptions are the ones that had enough evidence, whereas the unknown ones must be investigated further.

Assumption map
Assumption map created by me

User interviews

I coordinated user interviews to challenge assumptions and get more information regarding pain points by talking to users.

My team and I asked questions pertaining to how they pay for home renovations, their interest in eco-friendly materials, and their experience during the green home renovations process.

For the contractor, we asked these questions:

  • How do your clients pay for green home renovations?
  • How would you describe your clients' attitude towards green home renovations?
  • What green home renovations are popular among your clients?
  • What is a problem you encounter when dealing with clients during the green home renovation planning process?

For the homeowners, we asked these questions:

  • What parts of the home renovation process do you struggle with the most and why?
  • How do you pay for green home renovations?
  • Which green home renovations have you done so far? Describe them.
  • Why did you opt for green home renovations instead of the traditional ones?

We didn't stick to this script, and we asked more questions based on the interviewees' answers.

Interview #1: Contractor

The interviewee is an engineer in his early thirties with a Master's Degree in Engineering. He has been in the construction field for two years, and has done ten remodeling projects. Some of his projects include kitchen and bathroom renovations.

Here are important notes from the contractor's interview:

  • Expressed the clients' main motivator is saving money, but there are also people who are willing to pay more money for quality materials.
  • He gets paid through milestones split into three payment installments. His clients pay using home equity loans from financial institutions or out of pocket.
  • He explained that there should be mutual interest. Both the customer and the contractor have to be interested in eco-friendly materials, especially the contractor because the client usually trusts their recommendations.
  • Upgrading the windows for insulation is popular with clients these days to save money on energy bills.
  • He said that the most complex aspect of the planning phase is how clients want to be billed because typically, it takes a while to search loans and get them approved.
Interview #2: Homeowner

My teammate interviewed a homeowner in her early 50s who lives Canada. She has renovated her home in the past, specifically for energy efficiency because she prioritizes saving money. Here's some of the interview insights:

Here are important notes from the contractor's interview:

  • Energy efficiency is the main motivator for her and her acquaintances who renovate their homes.
  • The most challenging part of the process for her is dealing with numbers and getting a price estimate.
  • She pays for her renovations out-of-pocket, but explained some of her acquaintances prefer taking out a loan.
  • When asked about federal incentives and rebates, she said she wants to be made aware of them because saving money is important to her. She indicated how easier it would be if there was a way to compare prices and get an estimate.
Interview #3: Homeowner

I interviewed a homeowner in her mid 60s who lives in Puerto Rico. She owns three properties and has carried out a fair amount of green home renovations.

Here are the insights:

  • She talked about how lots of friends, family, and acquaintances are purchasing solar panels and changing every appliance to an energy efficient one. She said they want to save money on energy bills and to protect the environment.
  • She made lots of renovations on her three properties. Most of them focus on eco-friendliness such as replacing appliances with energy efficient ones.
  • Loans are her preferred payment method. She never pays out-of-pocket because she's concerned about spending her savings.
  • She is interested in carrying out more green renovations focused on energy efficiency because her priority is saving money.
  • For her, green home renovations is an overwhelming task overall. She mentioned how difficult it is to hire someone trustworthy to do the job and to compare costs. She relies on friends and family for this.
Interview #4: Homeowner

I interviewed a homeowner in her late 40s who lives in the south coast of United States. She owns a home and installed solar panels in the past.

Here are the insights:

  • She used a personal loan to finance her solar panels, expressing how happy she was about the investment because her electricity bill in the summer when temperatures can go up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit is lower.
  • The most difficult part of her journey was knowing if the investment was going to be worth it and wondering if the solar panel company offered her the best deal.
  • When I asked if she shopped around for companies and compared prices, she said yes. She also said it was overwhelming sometimes because you had so many options and there's the pressure of choosing a reputable company.
  • Ultimately, she ended up choosing a contractor based on recommendations from friends and family, which made her feel reassured.
  • Both her and her husband opted for eco-friendly renovations because their electricity bill concerns them.

Subject Matter Expert consultation

By leaning on our Subject Matter Expert's knowledge, we found out that lots of financial institutions have their own green home renovations financing and planning programs.

The SME also described how customers typically use Home Equity Loans for their green home renovations, and that a portion of them need to be educated about financing options for these projects.

"Every customer's situation is different, so there will be a need to choose the best loan or financing option that fits their needs. A common mistake that homeowners make is not shopping around for the right loan and lacking the knowledge needed to determine if, for example, they can benefit more from a home equity line of credit."

Empathy mapping

I made this empathy map that summarizes all of the research we have done so far and visualize the pain points better.

Empathy map
Empathy map by me


There's an opportunity here to help users streamline the green home improvements process. Now that we understand their attitudes and feelings, we identified the following pain points:

  • Choosing the best contractor takes lots of effort, and users are concerned about choosing the wrong professional for the job.
  • Getting an estimate and calculating costs is time-consuming.
  • Users with limited financial knowledge may not know about the different loans and financing options.

Key questions

Based on the pain points identified, here are our key questions:

  • How can we help users choose the best loan or financing options for their project?
  • Is there a way to streamline the cost calculation process?
  • What does the user need to find a trustworthy contractor?
  • Which activities slow down the process and why?
  • Why do users struggle in certain parts of the green home renovations journey?

Problem statement

Planning green home renovations is challenging for homeowners because cost calculation, financing, and hiring a contractor is overwhelming.

How Might We statement

How might we help homeowners estimate project costs, choose a financing option, and find a contractor in order to make the process easier and less time-consuming?

User personas

Based on our user research, insights, and analysis of pain points we found, we created user personas. I was in charge of creating the Sarah user persona.

User persona of Sarah, a woman interested in lowering her electricity bill
Sarah, a homeowner wanting to carry out energy efficiency renovations and save money on electricity.
User persona of Maria, a woman that wants green renovations and doesn't know where to start
Maria, a homeowner interested in making her home greener.


To brainstorm ideas, we used lightning demos and the Crazy 8s exercise. Lightning demos involve looking at any website that solves a similar problem described in the problem statement.

The purpose of it is to find inspiration and see how other companies handle similar issues. The one that stood out the most was Home Depot's remodeling platform, which offers cost estimation, renovation ideas, and content to educate users.

We wanted to do something similar to that with our future solution called Green Home Hero.

Mapping the user journey

Before brainstorming ideas, I created this user journey map to visualize the steps in the renovations process.

User journey
User journey by me

Crazy 8s

Here are the ideas I generated. I imagined a solution that would show a list of loans and financing options with additional information about each option. Also, I imagined a cost calculator that clearly states how much you can save in addition to any federal incentives or rebates available based on their location.

I included my idea of providing a list of approved contractors as well as an extra feature that gives users green home renovation ideas so they can educate themselves about the topic.

Crazy 8s exercise
Crazy 8s exercise ideas

Competitor analysis

I identified two financial institutions that offer green home solutions. My intention was to see what other financial institutions are doing so that we can find a competitive advantage and offer something our users need that they don't offer.

Clean Energy Credit Union


  • Is a Green America Certified business.
  • Partnered with other companies such as Amicus Solar Cooperative to provide credit union customers solar panel discounts.
  • Green banking is the main focus when it comes to their services.
  • Offers loans for other purposes besides energy efficiency and green renovations. They also cover electric bike and electric vehicle loans.


  • No mention about incentives and rebates available. The website tells customers to look for incentives available. This kind of information isn't on the website directly.
  • No way to calculate project costs nor loan monthly payment through their website.
  • Does not provide assistance guidance when it comes to finding a contractor to do the job.
  • Their website has accessibility issues that prevents users from navigating it seamlessly and getting the most out of their green loans.
Go Green Financing


  • Lets users search for contractors participating on the Go Green Financing program.
  • Provides users financing options by generating a list of lenders they can choose from.
  • Also covers businesses and multifamily homes, not just residential.
  • Does a great job of selling their program while educating consumers about energy efficiency project ideas and how they can solve their problem of spending too much money on electricity costs.
  • Offers a broad list of energy efficiency projects to choose from, which at the same time educates customers about eco-friendly home renovations that save electricity.


  • Financing is currently not available for solar or energy storage systems through GoGreen Home.
  • The program has lots of eligibility criteria and limitations that can confuse users.
  • Mainly focused on green energy. Does not cover other renovations like eco-friendly countertops.
  • Does not offer an estimator. You can't see a preview of the costs upfront until you ask a contractor.
  • Your options are more limited if you are a DIYer and want to do the renovations yourself.
Competitor analysis

The solutions

After analyzing everything so far, we decided on the following solutions:

  • Calculate costs: Let users know the final costs with incentives and rebates applied to the estimate.
  • Guide users: Generate a list of contractors near users and let them compare financing options.
  • Provide information: Show important details such as APRs, loan terms, and how much they can borrow.
  • Adapt accordingly: Make this process personalized so that users can see information tailored to their needs.

We created a storyboard to present it to stakeholders and to also have a clear picture of how our solution would solve the users' problems.

Our storyboard depicts a woman who wants to lower her electricity bills using solar panels, but doesn't quite know where to start nor how to finance them. After doing some research on solar panel installers and their prices, she realized a loan is a great option given the high cost of solar panels.

Storyboard of a woman using our solution to get a loan


Main page

I created a low fidelity prototype using my team's feedback. This is the solution's main page. The intention is to showcases the value of what we offer as well as attract our customers' attention by telling them how we are able to save them time.

The page will automatically detect the user's city and state to provide them accurate numbers regarding project costs because according to our research, prices may vary according to location.

They will see the average cost based on their location when they select an option from the Renovation Project dropdown menu. The options will be energy efficiency renovations because our research indicated that users are more interested in saving money in electricity bills.

I also wanted to demonstrate how our organization is committed to going green by showing the users eco-friendly home ideas.

On this page, users are able to quickly access a list of approved contractors and compare financing options.

Low fidelity prototype of the product's main screen, which highlights features such as project estimator showing the average costs of a geothermal heat pump installation according to what contractors are charging in the area, an image of an eco-friendly house with clickable areas that educate users about the renovation done in the specific area, a section with cards that explain different financing options to users, and a section that tells users they can hire a bank-approved contractor

Getting an estimate

If I was a user wanting an estimate on my solar panel project, our Green Home Hero solution would guide them. It will state how much they can save on their electricity bill using location data. It will provide financing options too.

Low fidelity prototype of the first step of a solar panel project estimator, in which users need to input their address, energy provider, and average monthly energy billLow fidelity prototype of the second step in the solar panel project estimator, which tells users how much they can save on their energy bill based on 3D modeling on their roof and sunlight amount all year long, the average cost of the solar project, how much C02 emissions less are produced because of the project, a more detailed estimate with federal incentives applied, and lastly, a list of financing options in the form of a table to help users compare the applied interest rate, term, and amount of the loan or credit line

Contractor list

By having our organization select and vet contractors, our customers will feel like they are provided with trustworthy alternatives. We want to make sure our partners are legitimate so that users can feel less overwhelmed during the contractor shopping process.

Low fidelity prototype of the list of approved contractors near the user's area


We will partner with several departments to test this solution and keep improving it based on the findings. Currently, we are collaborating with Subject Matter Experts and other designers to shape up this solution more.

What this process taught me

This process taught me that testing out assumptions is important. I started this project with the assumption that there is not much interest in eco-friendly renovations because it's too expensive, so people decide to go for the traditional methods.

That wasn't the case. I ended up finding out through our primary and secondary research that people are interested in going green, especially when it comes to energy efficiency.

I learned the importance of iterating and helping team members make the most out of their diverse skills. Efficient collaboration ensures better results, and it motivates team members enough to contribute with their unique skills.