Redesigning Duolingo

A case study on Duolingo a free language learning app. Looking into how the platform could improve current user experience and leverage a new market.

View prototype here



personal project


UX Designer



• Use Duolingo's existing brand
• Business ideals and goals in mind.
• Advertised as a free app with premium services.


• To facilitate a more engaging and tailored learning experience

• To design a more personable and intuitive user interface

• Conduct and analyze user research, create flow charts and wireframes, and prototype in AdobeXD. Later moved to Figma.

Side note: I do not work for Duolingo and the views from this case study are strictly my own. Unlike the designers who work at Duolingo, I don’t have full access to all the user data that influenced their current designs. As a result, this case study is not exhaustive, and I am certainly not suggesting that Duolingo abandon their current design and adopt my redesign.

Project Overview

Understanding Duolingo

Duolingo is an interactive language learning application that provides a platform for users to pick and learn 95 different languages. As of June 30, 2020 the app has over 300 million registered users across the world. Duolingo is a free app with a chance and choice to upgrade to Pro which cost $9.99 per month.

To learn a new language

To aid learning a language

To refresh a language

Why are you using Duolingo? (30 responses)

Primary Research

I conducted interviews and gathered form data with 30 Duolingo users to get a better understanding for whom I was designing for:

I conducted these interviews either via phone call, messenger, or Skype.

I also looked at web reviews (around 250) to get a deeper insight into core issues with the app.

Breaking Hearts

redesign # 1


Currently hearts are only on the mobile platform. A user looses hearts when they make a mistake. Once the hearts are gone the user can no longer continue unless they purchase more hearts.

It causes frustration especially when you want to spend more time learning.


Replace hearts with Lingots. And make Lingots the same across platforms.

When a mistake is made, take Lingots away from the user bank.

Expand Learning Structure

redesign #2


Duolingo works on a system called “spaced repetition,” a technique in which learned information is repeated at regular (usually short) intervals. 

Currently, a user, once they have unlocked level 1, may continue to level up or move to a new genre.

Parents especially, who wanted to encourage their kids to learn expressed the want for a structured lesson

Kids are not a demographic Duolingo has included despite the fun and easy functionality of the app.


Add an extra screen in the onboarding to indicate the desire for a structured lesson or free form.

Plus adding a button to go to the next lesson, instead of having to return to the home screen.

View prototype here

Update: As of March 2020 Duolingo has introduced ABC for kids 3-6 years old.

Why go Plus?

redesign #3

Duolingo promotes itself as being a "free" app and tries to offer as much as it can in that sense. 
But for an app to really scale, getting paid users and offering an upgrade can make all the difference. 

Synthesizing the research I found from 250 online reviews, many would not "Go Plus" in Duolingo.


• Add more owl avatars and gamification to the store.

• Add more challenging lessons that can be unlocked using Lingots or a Plus currency.


What would make you Go Plus? (based on 30 responses)

The green owl has become a great icon and character for the platform. Duolingo could do more to continue to engage users and expand markets, such as kids.

You learn what works, and what doesn’t. You learn how to do things faster, better, and more efficiently. You learn how you work best to become a better designer and team member. Working on a team would only enhance that with the ability to learn from others.

Key Learnings

Let's Connect!

Emma Sadler
New York, NY

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