Birdhouse

Designing a pet bird app that trains humans on how to train their birds

My Roles

Product Designer

Employer

Side Project

Year

2022–Present

Mobile mockup of the Birdhouse home screen, teasing three WIP habits for daily play, daily veggies, and weekly animal training.

Summary

A habit tracking app for pet bird owners called Birdhouse aims to reduce pet relinquishment rates by training humans how to train their birds. The user research I conducted challenged my assumptions, and I had to make several large changes to the app. However, through these pivots and incremental improvements, I achieved a 17% increase in user satisfaction over time.

Browse the case study

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 ownership, increasing spending, and the long lifespans of their pets, pet bird owners should be happy shoppers in the pet industry. Instead, the number of pet birds owners is quickly outpacing the pet bird products and services available on today’s market.

I discovered in user research that owners want to train their birds in some way—to perch on hands, eat veggies, or curb aggression and/or hormones—but they didn’t know how! Most existing products are not designed for pet birds and can actually promote undesired behaviors. It’s a frustrating experience for owners and pets alike. The tragic result is a high relinquishment rate of the US’s 4th most popular pet.

Pet bird owners are calling for products to provide enrichment. I created Birdhouse to be that answer to that flock call. It trains humans on how to train their birds!

Team

Me, UX Designer

Samaya Sinha, UX Research Consultant (Spring 2022)

Michelle Lee, Digital Marketing Consultant (Spring 2022)

Tools

Platforms

After Effects • Calendly • Facebook Ad Campaign Manager • Figma • Illustrator • Miro • Pinterest Business Ad Manager • SurveySparrow • WordPress • Zoom

Deliverables

Strategy

User mapping

Competitor
analysis (x8)

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

User typing

Research

Discovery interviews (x5)

Discovery survey (x89)

Affinity mapping

User journey

User flows

Usability testing, moderated (x5)

Usability testing, unmoderated
(x10 per iteration)

Design

Branding

Copywriting (30k+ words)

Illustration (x32)

Design system (iOS)

Web accessibility

User flows

Wireframing

Prototyping

Challenge

How might we make it easier for bird owners to take care of their pets and provide enrichment?

Colorful, chatty, and cute, birds swoop in as the 4th most popular pet at 9.9m U.S. households.

Pet bird owners feel more “unique” compared to domestic pet owners and appreciate the intelligence and personality of their birds. Becoming a part of the flock often requires big lifestyle adjustments for pet bird owners. That’s why pet bird owners are increasing spending on products and diets that support their birds’ health. They’ll spend nearly $5k over the lifetime of a small bird — including hatchday presents!

But the early bird doesn’t always get the worm (er, seed).

With growing numbers, increasing spending, and the long lifespans of their pets, pet bird owners should be happy shoppers in the pet industry. However, today’s market doesn’t offer products and services that cater to pet birds.

Pet bird owners demand enrichment but can’t find it.

Unlike owners of more conventional pets like cats and dogs, pet bird owners struggle. While 4.7m households adopted a new pet since 2021, an estimated 3.4m also gave one up. Behavior is the 3rd most cited reason for pet bird relinquishment.

Pet bird owners struggle to find pet products and services for them. They realize they need a holistic approach to the caretaking of their pet birds.

Process

Answering the flock call

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. I therefore conceptualized Birdhouse as a healthcare app.

However, I first needed to develop a thorough understanding of the pet bird owner’s experience. I asked pet bird owners for their most pressing problems.

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! User feedback challenged my hypothesis. Affinity mapping also made it apparent my hypothesized problem (lack of healthcare) was too narrow…

A little birdie told me...wrong

While 2 of the 5 discovery interviewees brought up the avian healthcare concerns I was investigating, all 5 interviewees and 59 of 89 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.

My user research revealed even experienced pet bird owners may feel unconfident in their caretaking as they encounter misinformation from pop culture and navigate products designed for cats and dogs.

“Especially as a new bird owner, you don’t know when to be concerned or when it’s normal behavior.”

“Birds don’t show when they’re sick, and their little bodies are covered in feathers.”

“We never handled them because we were too scared to pick them up.”

“Also vegetables, any idea how hard it is to introduce a bird to vegetables and get them to actually swallow one. So back to the drawing board, little gremlins need vegetables…”

“Some of the stuff they sell in pet stores aren’t actually good for them.

“Lots of misinformation, both spread innocently and maliciously.”

Which nest egg to grow?

As a result of the discovery interviews, I revisited my initial hypothesis that bird owners needed more help with avian healthcare. I pivoted instead to caretaking education. Birdhouse will train humans how to train their pet birds!

My early concepts for Birdhouse’s new MVP also took two different directions. Then, I realized the split resulted because one concept targeted one type of users, and the other targeted another type.

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 what 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 pet owners!

I launched a second pretotyping ad campaign, this time A/B testing the two MVP concepts. They nearly tied, but the Habit Tracker won more clicks across 28,000 impressions.

Determining the key path scenario

I identified several task flows for the habit tracking app: (below). However, the key path scenario for a first-time user is logging their first habit.

  1. Onboarding into the app
  2. Choosing a birdkeeping activity
  3. Recording the completion an activity
  4. Journaling about the activity
  5. Viewing completion streaks

First looks

The first Birdhouse MVP explored 5 key habits identified in user discovery research. I moderated usability testing with 5x pet owners to see how easily they could perform core functions and navigate the app and how they felt about their experience overall.

The MVP performed well! All 5 users successfully tracked a habit, and 4 of 5 successfully logged a habit. However, the MVP navigation confused 2 of the users who both wished for a better way to “backtrack.”

Birdhouse home screen UI placed onto a mobile device. It teases two habits for feeding veggie chop and basic animal training.

Iterating again and again...

Applying the iOS design system

Recoloring for more accessibility

Switching to swipe to log habits

Mobile mockup of the Birdhouse home screen, teasing three WIP habits for daily play, daily veggies, and weekly animal training.

Conclusion

Since I hatched the idea for Birdhouse in March 2022, the concept has grown into a full-fledged app.

I achieved above-average CTRs across 43,000 professional animal trainers and pet owners while A/B testing a pretotype ad campaign. Then I researched and wrote tutorials with 30,000+ combined word count across 6 habits identified as critical in discovery user research and prototyped an interactive MVP on Figma with 100+ high-fidelity wireframes.

More than a simple habit tracker, Birdhouse provides education and encouragement to misguided pet bird owners.

Hopefully Birdhouse is coming to an app store near you soon!

Results

Since I hatched the idea for Birdhouse in March 2022, the concept has grown into a full-fledged app. I continuously iterated on the UI design based on user analytics and feedback, resulting in incremental improvements and a 17% increase in overall user satisfaction ratings over time.

Direct Success after Redesigning a Key Feature
+ 0 %
in User Satisfaction
+ 0 %
in Net Promoter Score (NPS)
+ 0 %

Reflections

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 pet owners can trust.

I also had to revisit my approach to mobile gestures. I hypothesized swiping came naturally but users struggled to intuit where to swipe. A refined onboarding, well-placed clues, and simpler navigation helped pet owners explore and commit to healthy habits.

 

View on Figma