Answering the flock call: discovery research for a new pet bird app for the 3rd most popular pet
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Birdhouse is my passion project after caring for pet parrots for over 20 years. Birdhouse aims to educate and empower pet bird owners so they can form long-lasting friendships with their birds.
With growing numbers, increasing spending, and the long lifespans of their pets, pet bird owners should be happy shoppers in the pet industry.
However, the number of pet birds owners is quickly outpacing the pet bird products and services available on today’s market. Pet bird owners demand for products that provide enrichment, but businesses struggle to keep stock.
Pet bird owners realize they need a holistic approach to the caretaking of their pet birds. Yet, they struggle to find pet products and services for them.
How might we make it easier for bird owners to take care of their pets and provide enrichment?
I hypothesized that the pet bird owner’s greatest challenge would be accessing avian healthcare. Without proper enrichment and other healthy birdkeeping habits, pet bird owners might be tempted to relinquish their birds.
However, I first needed to develop a thorough understanding of the pet bird owner’s experience.
I then needed to identify their most pressing problem(s) and find opportunities for solutions.
Me, UX Researcher
Kosal Sen, UX Mentor
Samaya Sinha, UX Mentor
Michelle Lee, Digital Marketing Consultant
Calendly • Facebook Ad Campaign Manager • Miro • Pinterest Business Ad Manager • SurveySparrow • WordPress • Zoom
Discovery interviews (x5)
Discovery survey (x89)
Pretotyping (53k impressions, 43k+ people reached)
Pen and paper ideation sketches (x100+)
Competitor analysis (x8)
Understanding What Drives Owners
I needed to gain a better understanding of what a day in the life of bird owners looks like to identify the issues they encounter on a day-to-day basis. I needed to talk to people who worked with and cared for pet birds.
Stakeholder mapping identified both indirect and direct pet bird caretakers with relevant experience.
I analyzed the findings I collected from 5x discovery interviews over Zoom and 89x online survey responses for key themes and recurring issues among these bird owners.
The results were surprising and challenged my hypothesis!
Feeding Two Birds with One Scone!
Affinity mapping helped me identify patterns in their experiences. This exercise made it apparent my hypothesized problem was too narrow.
While two of discovery interviewees brought up the avian healthcare concerns I was investigating, the other interviewees and the large majority of survey respondents indicated a much more pressing issue…
Many indicated a lack of confidence that they were providing the essentials for their pet birds. This even included basics like food, sleep, and cage sizes.
I revisited my initial hypothesis that bird owners needed more help with avian healthcare. I pivoted instead to caretaking education.
To make education more appealing to users, I wanted to give it a training spin for two reasons:
- Training was a frequent “wish list” item, including training for tricks, hand-taming, food converting, and hormonal issues.
- Training directly addresses undesirable behavior, a frequently cited reason of pet relinquishment.
I could feed two birds with one scone with this new education-training approach! I could help educate pet bird owners on caretaking essentials while allowing them to do something many felt excited about.
Fake Door Pretotype Experiment
I tested for interest in with my new education-training approach with pretotyping a fake door.
My ads included images of key screens and features plus text that touted benefits of each MVP concept. A digital marketing consultant volunteered her time and expertise to write the ad copy based on my direction.
Then, I launched an online advertising campaign that teased my product to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest users.
I gauged interest by seeing how many clicked the ad and went to a landing page on my website to learn more about the app.
Success! The ads yielded above average clickthrough rates across nearly 25,000 impressions. Pet bird owners were definitely interested.
Targeting Those with the Most Need
Next, I needed to identify who benefits the most from my educational and training app.
User typing revealed two different groups of potential pet bird owners my Birdhouse app could really help:
- Those open to more
These owners have a lower avian caretaking education level but higher likeliness to invest more time/money into their pets.
- Those disengaged
These owners have a higher avian caretaking education level but lower likeliness to invest more time/money into their pets.
My early concepts for user flows and the MVP also took two different directions. Then, I realized the split resulted because one MVP concept targeted the first group of users, and the other targeted the second group.
I updated my user typing with their matching MVP concepts:
- A Habit Tracker for those open to more
These owners want to learn how to take better care of their pets and with more consistency. Routine was the solution. A Habit Tracker helps them build a healthy routine, educating them along the way about the benefits of each habit. It’s repetitive.
- A Progress Tracker for those disengaged
These owners want to learn want to do to better care of their pets and want to see growth. Motivation was the solution. A gamified Progress Tracker helps them “level up” by completing caretaking tasks, educating them along the way about the benefits of each challenge. It’s incremental.
I didn’t know which to choose—so I asked the users!
I launched a second pretotyping ad campaign, this test A/B testing the two MVP concepts. They nearly tied, but the Habit Tracker won more clicks across 28,000 impressions.
I conducted a competitor analysis of 10x other products, both direct and indirect competitors. The analysis helped me identify patterns that worked, popular task flows, and content gaps. Birdhouse’s educational and training combo is a unique twist to the limited solutions currently on market.
A user journey map identified pain points in the daily life of a pet bird owner. Real pullquotes from my research also help illustrate the user’s mindset.
What does teaching healthy avian caretaking habits look like?
I first drew a user task flow chart of each step in the app using Miro’s flowcharting tool.
Then, I drew over 100 sketches on paper before finalizing 5x lo-fi mock-ups of the MVP’s key screens. (See my Birdhouse visual design case study!)
I concluded there’s strong interest in a pet bird app that equips pet bird owners to address behavioral issues (over a more focused healthcare app).
The pretotyping campaigns won above-average CTRs across 43,000 people—even among those who identified as professional animal trainers and behavioralists.
A/B testing further revealed that users preferred learning how to build healthy habits and reliable routines with their pet birds, and these preferences informed the user task flows and visual design of the Birdhouse MVP.
Birdhouse the mobile app can expand its available habits, add social sharing, and offer special member benefits.
Outside the app, Birdhouse might consider a blog and a mailing list.
A blog provides more advanced education opportunities for users seeking to their caretaking to the next level.
A mailing list can motivate and inspire. For example, the mailing list might include new cage layouts for users to try! It might also partner with an animal adoption center to spotlight adoptable pet birds.
I had to pivot many times throughout my research. My findings challenged my hypotheses, but I was able to build a more relevant product as a result.
As a result of my UX research, I moved away from a healthcare concept and towards solving a more pressing pain point: pet bird education they can trust.