Answering the flock call: discovery research for a new pet bird app for the 3rd most popular pet

My Role

UX Researcher

Side Project

Birdhouse

Year

2022

Background—

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.

Frustrated with efforts to adequately care for their pet birds, many owners have considered relinquishment. While 4.7 million households adopted a new pet since 2021, an estimated 3.4 million have also given one up, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA)’s 2022 survey in the U.K. Unfortunately, most animal shelters are ill-equipped to care for such popular and long-living exotic pets.

Relinquishment is a tragic end to the relationship as well as a strain on ill-equipped animal shelters, but it’s also a result of a missed business opportunity for the growing pet care/supplies industry.

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. This is where I wanted Birdhouse to help. Birdhouse would answer the flock call to find solutions for pet bird owners.

Challenge—

I hypothesized that the pet bird owner’s greatest challenge would be accessing avian healthcare.

Many pet bird owners avoid avian healthcare because it’s difficult to understand even they can obtain the rare access to it. I also recalled my own struggle to find resources suited to the unique needs of pet birds—even the vet forms use cat/dog language without a spot to track bird-specific issues.

Indeed, a recent 2022 study by Mars Veterinary Health forecasts a shortage of nearly 15,000 veterinarian by 2030—and most remaining vets don’t see exotic patients like the most popular pet bird species, which are mostly parrots.

Without proper enrichment and other healthy birdkeeping habits, pet bird owners might be tempted to relinquish their birds.

Therefore, I wanted to design a digital product that:

  • helps owners monitor the health of pet birds;
  • empowers owners to make informed decisions about treatment options as illnesses arise; and
  • removes barriers owners face while trying to actively and responsibly care for pet birds.

However, I first needed to develop a thorough understanding of the pet bird owner’s experience. Then, I needed to identify their most pressing problem(s) and find opportunities for solutions.

Team

Me, UX Researcher

Kosal Sen, UX Mentor

Samaya Sinha, UX Mentor

Michelle Lee, Digital Marketing Consultant

Tools

Miro

Zoom

Calendly

SurveySparrow

Meta (formerly Facebook) Ad Campaign Manager

Pinterest Business Ad Manager

My own WordPress website

Solutions—

Throughout my research, I had to pivot many times. 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.

Deliverables

Stakeholder mapping

Discovery interviews (x5)

Discovery survey (x89)

Affinity mapping

User journey

User workflows

User typing

Pretotyping (53k impressions, 43k+ people reached)

Pen and paper ideation sketches (x100+)

Competitor analysis (x8)

MVP (x1)

Impact—

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.

Process—

Understanding What Drives Pet Bird Owners
Or Feeding Two Birds with One Scone

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 bird caretakers—especially exotic pet bird owners—with relevant experiences to inform my solution.

Stakeholder Map

To recruit bird caretakers, I launched a landing page on my own website, posted several social media posts complete with graphics tailored for each audience, shoulder-tapped people I personally knew, and asked friends and family to help spread the word I’d like to talk to bird caretakers about their experiences caring for their birds.

Discovery Interview

Zoom screenshot of me conducting a remote user interview with a real bird owner.

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 shocking!

Affinity Clustering Map

I made an affinity map in Miro, jotting down all my notes from the interviews and surveys onto virtual sticky notes and grouping them into common themes.

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 and instead pivoted to caretaking education.

To make education more appealing to users, I wanted to give it a training spin for two reasons:

  1. Training was a frequent “wish list” item, including training for tricks, hand-taming, food converting, and hormonal issues.
  2. 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.

Gauging Interest with a Pretotype

I tested for interest in with my new education-training approach with pretotyping a fake door.

I launched an online advertising campaign that teased my product to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest users. My ads included images of key screens and features plus text that touted benefits of each MVP concept. 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.

Pretotype

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:

  1. Those open to more
    These owners have a lower avian caretaking education level but higher likeliness to invest more time/money into their pets.
  2. Those disengaged
    These owners have a higher avian caretaking education level but lower likeliness to invest more time/money into their pets.

User Types

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Pretotype

Finding Opportunities to Build Healthy Habits

A user journey map helped me determine opportunities for pet bird owners to build connections and deeper relationships through healthy habits.

Crafting the Perfect User Journey

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.

User Task Flow Chart

Ideation on Paper

Lo-Fi to Hi-Fi MVP

I conducted a competitor analysis of 10x other products, both direct and indirect competitors. The task flow and content is where Birdhouse really soars over its competitors. I conducted a competitor analysis of 10x other products, both direct and indirect competitors. Birdhouse’s educational and training combo is a unique twist to the limited solutions currently on market.

Competitive Analysis