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Feature Design — Spring 2023

My role

User Interface Designer— Competitor Analysis, User Interface Design, Wireframes and Mockups, Handoff to Development

Team

  • William Morris, Programmer/Supervisor

Timeline

2 months

overview

Merlin Bird ID, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a globally popular bird identification app with more than 3 million users.

While renowned for its bird identification capabilities, the app needed enhancements to foster user engagement and conservation action. Introducing the profile page was crucial at that time to enhance user engagement and retention by providing a personalized space for users to visualize their birding journey and achievements.

Working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for three years not only allowed me to expand my responsibilities but also provided the profound experience of seeing my work impact a global audience.

Project timeline

ProjectTimeline

CONTEXT

I’m just going to close the app...

The Problem

The problem presented to the company was the high user attrition rate and inadequate retention rates among novice users of the Merlin Bird ID app. When presented to me, the key issues highlights were the following:

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Steep Learning Curve

Novice users find it challenging to navigate and understand the app's features and functionality, making the initial experience overwhelming.

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Lack of Progress Tracking

Users cannot easily track their birding progress or monitor their improvement over time, which diminishes their sense of achievement and motivation.

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Missed Social Connection

Users who want to connect with fellow bird enthusiasts miss opportunities to share experiences, learn from others, and build a sense of community.

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Lack of Accountability

Without tools to set and monitor birding goals, users struggle to establish meaningful objectives for their birding activities.

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THE PROBLEM

“When I first used the Merlin Bird ID app, I felt overwhelmed by all the features and it was hard to know where to start. I struggled to keep track of the birds I identified or connect with other bird watchers. I wished there was a simpler way to see my progress and stay motivated.

Company Goals

The company aims to increase user engagement and retention on the Merlin Bird ID app while improving users' bird identification skills and overall experience. Additionally, they seek to enhance data collection efforts, establish a sustainable business model, and foster a love for birding among users through an engaging and rewarding app experience.

North Star Design Principles

From the user and business goals provided, the North Star design principles were formulated to align with these objectives:

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Concise Clarity

  • Aligns with the goal to increase user engagement and retention by ensuring that instructions and interactions within the app are clear and easy to understand.
  • Supports the objective of establishing a sustainable business model by clearly communicating the app's value proposition to users, thus encouraging adoption and retention.

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Proactive Feedback

  • Aligned with the goal to improve novice users' bird identification skills and overall experience by providing timely feedback on their progress and errors, facilitating learning and skill improvement.
  • Reinforces the objective to foster a love for birding among users by offering positive reinforcement and rewards for their efforts, enhancing their enjoyment and motivation.

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Product Excellence

  • Supports the goal to enhance data collection efforts by delivering exceptional design solutions that exceed user expectations, thereby inspiring trust and confidence in the app's ability to collect high-quality bird sightings.
  • Also contributes to the objective of establishing a sustainable business model by ensuring that the app delivers value to users consistently, leading to long-term engagement and retention.

Competitor Analysis

The redesign aimed to refine the user interface design by addressing the identified usability challenges, security concerns, and lack of clarity in financial terminology, while also integrating features tailored to the needs of Bangladeshi users, such as improved transaction history, simplified fund transfer processes, and enhanced security measures like biometric login options.
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CompetetiorAnalysisRight

Birda:

Observing Birda's strengths, I identified the significance of providing users with a platform to connect, share experiences, and track their birding journeys. Birda's approach, which aligned with the lab’s objectives of enhancing user engagement and improving retention rates, served as a clear model for developing a more compelling user experience.

Audubon:

In contrast, Audubon's "My Audubon" section lacked essential features for user engagement and retention. The analysis revealed missed opportunities for progress tracking and community-building within this competitor's platform. Audubon's shortcomings underscored the importance of addressing key issues faced by Merlin users, including the steep learning curve, lack of progress tracking, missed social connections, and accountability challenges.

user persona

User personas humanized research findings, guiding the design process towards a more tailored and user-friendly experience.

Meet

Sarah Miller.

Leading by example

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Background

Sarah Miller is a 29-year-old environmental science teacher from Vancouver, Canada. She is very comfortable with technology and frequently uses mobile apps for both education and personal interests. An enthusiastic birder with intermediate knowledge, Sarah often participates in local birdwatching events and enjoys integrating her love for birds into her teaching.

Understanding Habits

  1. Checks Merlin Bird ID app before heading out for a morning walk to see if there are any rare bird sightings in her area.
  2. Uses the app extensively on weekends during birdwatching trips to log new species and learn more about them.
  3. Shares her birding achievements and photos on social media and birdwatching forums.

Painpoints

  1. Finds it difficult to navigate the app to quickly log sightings.
  2. Feels the app lacks features that encourage continuous use and engagement beyond basic bird identification.
  3. Wants a better way to visualize and track her birding milestones and personal achievements.
  4. Desires more personalized content based on her birding interests and past activity.

Meet

Javier.

A devoted father

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Background

Javier Rodríguez is a 45-year-old software developer from Madrid, Spain. Highly tech-savvy, Javier enjoys using various apps for hobbies and personal development. He recently developed an interest in birdwatching during the pandemic and is a novice birder who values learning and family activities centered around this new passion.

Understanding Habits

  1. Uses Merlin Bird ID app during his daily jog in the park to identify birds and learn more about them.
  2. Spends time in the evenings exploring the app to improve his birding knowledge and identify birds he has photographed.
  3. Involves his family in birdwatching activities on weekends, using the app to educate his children about local bird species.

Painpoints

  1. Finds it challenging to use some features of the app due to the complex interface.
  2. Wishes for quicker access to frequently used functions like logging new sightings and viewing past logs.
  3. Needs a more engaging way to see his progress and accomplishments in birdwatching.
  4. Interested in contributing to bird conservation but finds it hard to discover relevant activities and events through the app.

SOLUTION

It’s just that simple?

Introducing a Profile Page

The foundational measure taken to elevate the user experience was the introduction of a profile page—a crucial solution tailored to proactively tackle the challenges experienced by users while concurrently aligning seamlessly with the application's core objectives.
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Steep Learning Curve

Novice users find it challenging to navigate and understand the app's features and functionality, making the initial experience overwhelming.

Addressing the Problem

The profile page streamlines the user experience by creating a structured place for novice users to understand their journey and manage their data effectively.

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Lack of Progress Tracking

Users cannot easily track their birding progress or monitor their improvement over time, which diminishes their sense of achievement and motivation.

Addressing the Problem

The profile page offers a visual representation of a user's birding journey, allowing them to see their achievements, milestones, and bird sightings over time to instills a sense of accomplishment and motivation by providing a tangible record of their progress.

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Missed Social Connection

Users who want to connect with fellow bird enthusiasts miss opportunities to share experiences, learn from others, and build a sense of community.

Addressing the Problem

The profile page bridges the gap of missed social connections, by introducing the opportunity for features like community interaction and sharing experiences within the profile page, users can connect with fellow bird enthusiasts.

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Lack of Accountability

Without tools to set and monitor birding goals, users struggle to establish meaningful objectives for their birding activities.

Addressing the Problem

The profile page introduces notifications, reminders, and gamification elements like daily streaks, which not only motivate users to engage with the app but also encourage them to set and achieve birding goals. This helps users stay accountable, fostering a more active and consistent usage pattern.

Information Architecture

Information architecture was crucial in addressing the needs of users by organizing app features in an intuitive manner, reducing navigation challenges, and improving accessibility, thereby enhancing their overall experience.
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Potential Features & Functionalities

Card sorting addressed prior issues mentioned in the project by exploring content groupings in a way that made sense to them, thus ensuring that the redesigned information architecture was aligned with users' mental models and navigation preferences.
PotentialFeature

Lo-Fi Sketches

Low-fidelity sketches helped in visualizing and refining design concepts before moving on to more detailed design iterations.
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Mid-Fidelity Sketches

The mid-fidelity design phase involved refining the wireframes and incorporating feedback from the UX research.
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Hi-Fidelity Screens

The approved high-fidelity design builds upon the mid-fidelity version, incorporating the following features:

1. Species Identified

The profile page provides a space for users to track their progress and interact with their own birding data. This would seamlessly interact with other components of the application, such as the users’ checklists, photos, and recordings.

2. Add Reminders

By addressing the pain points of staying accountable and low engagement, reminders align with the company's goal of encouraging users to engage with the app frequently. It provided a clear path for users to stay motivated and invested in birding.

3. Daily Streaks

Daily streaks are easy tasks, aim to increase engagement with some incentives for users.

4. Data Insights

Users can now access valuable insights about their bird sightings and birding activities, addressing the challenge of feeling disconnected from their data. This not only improves the user experience but also contributes to the company's goal of promoting data collection.
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TAKEaWAYS

No project is flawless.

Learnings

As a response to these findings, recommendations were formulated to address the identified issues: enhancing data quality and consistency through the following measures.

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Sample Size

In reflecting on this project, I've come to appreciate the significant impact that even seemingly minor design elements, like a profile page, can have on the overall user experience. Its role in enhancing user retention and satisfaction cannot be understated, highlighting the importance of meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of the design process.

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Handoffs

One of the most significant challenges I faced in this project was the limited access to direct user research feedback and the lack of involvement before the handoff. Not having the opportunity to engage directly with users meant that I had to rely on existing data and assumptions, which posed a risk of overlooking critical insights and user needs.

IMPACTS

What does the future of Merlin look like?

So, why is a profile page important?

Adding a profile page marks the initial step in alleviating the challenges novice users encounter when using Merlin. However, it holds vital significance in the broader strategic vision of Merlin, which includes introducing features such as Friend Activities and Goals to enhance the user experience and further address user pain points.

By introducing the profile page, Merlin can now enable users to connect with fellow bird enthusiasts, share experiences, and learn from others. The profile page enhances the sense of community within the application, as it promotes user engagement and social interaction, which were previously lacking.

Merlin plans on introducing quests and challenges related to birding goals to further incentivize users to engage with the application and achieve their objectives.