Making home energy savings simple.
An Innovation Lab for USA Today around building community and helping people understand complex issues through interactive storytelling.
We had four days to generate and protoype our concept. On the fifth day we pitched our ideas to USA Today.
WeReport, a crowd-sourced, location-based, neighborhood-focused news application for mobile and web. WeReport empowers people to quickly document, share, verify and read local news.
UX Designer and project manager for a team of three web development students. I prototyped the mobile app, while they built the web application.
How it Works
Adam is a new Opower Home customer who is using the site for the first time.
"My partner lost his job and we need to cut back on expenses, but I don't know where to start."
The directive for Day 1 was to decide on a concept and sketch the first prototype. Under normal circumstances, I would have researched our concept and conducted interviews or surveys to understand the needs & pain points, but the focus of the Innovation Lab was speed so we immediately launched into brainstoming.
The USA Today directive
Based on the USA Today objectives, we brainstormed ideas, recording all of them on the whiteboard to keep us on the same page and provide a shared space to riff on each other’s ideas.
Building on the concept that everyone is connected by six degrees of separation, we decided to create a forum called “Wish You Were Here” where people post and build on personal stories about shared experiences and locations. This addressed the USA Today directives of community building and interactive storytelling by creating a platform that helped people see their overlapping connections.
The next step was to translate the process steps into interface sketches. Design Studio was a new concept for the web developers so I explained how the collective sketching process is useful for quickly generating creative ideas from different points of view.
***insert text about difference in design studio
The success of the “Wish You Were Here" depended on it being accessible in a mobile format, but this extended beyond the web developer’s current skill set. To resolve this, we decided to build parallel versions - a website that fit within the skill constraints of the developers and a partner app that reflected the necessary mobile functionality.
Building & Testing
"The Big Pivot"
At the end of day one, I sketched a paper prototype from the ideas generated in the design studio and did a couple rounds of testing for the site concept and interface.
The findings from the testing were that the interface was confusing and that the site concept seemed like another social network - something testers already felt saturated with. Ideally, research at an early stage in the process would have shed light on the presence of some social network fatigue and we could have integrated that into our site concept. However, the pace of the project didn’t allow for this so we had to move on.
The developers already had started to build the site databases. Since time was so limited, we didn’t want to lose their work so we brainstormed ways we could re-orient the site while keep the database information consistent. To focus the brainstorm, we asked ourselves three questions: “What problems are we solving for the user”, “How are we solving this problem?” and “How does this benefit USA Today?"
The result of our brainstorm was a WeReport, a crowd-sourced, neighborhood-focused news application for mobile and web.
Defining the Path
Combining the Opower Home goals with Adam’s needs and pain points, we created a narrative for how a user would walk through the Opower website & app.
What was the best way to engage customers?
To resolve this, we researched other applications that track and aggregate personal data, from fitness apps like MyFitnessPal & Fitocracy to financial aggregators like Mint.com. Mint.com engaged customers by providing an easy-to-use, centralized platform for all people’s financial information - from bills to credit cards to banking - then provided services like bill consolidation, goal setting and personalized tips on how to save money.
Fitocracy also had a goal-setting feature, along with personalized recommendations that were based on information users entered about themselves.
To help visualize our research findings, we sketched various feature arrangements on the wall, then talked through different approaches.
We determined that the best engagement strategy for Opower was a combination of 1) providing detailed information on how customers compare to thier neighbors, 2) personalized tips on how to save money, and 3) providing a utility bill consolidation service.
Visualizing & Testing
Once we had established the elements we were going to focus on for the prototype, we sketched ideas for the website and app. Then, keeping in mind our persona Adam's needs, we compared our work and decided on a direction for the interface.
Website on-boarding sketches.
Sketches for website energy audit.
Utility bill consolidation.
Comparing sketches & deciding on a direction.
Paper prototype for home audit app.
We formalized the paper sketches and started testing the website and app with utility customers to understand what worked well and what was challenging.
We found that there was confusion with the app on boarding screens - the tester wanted the ability to go directly from the home screen to the quick scan functionality - so we combined two screens not one to enable a faster transition and provided more clarity by focusing the menu options into a simple list.
Usability testing of the website on-boarding also showed confusion around the on-boarding - testers weren’t sure what would motivate them to sign into & use the application. To resolve this, we focused the presentation of the content by removed unnecessary elements from the home page, and shifted the remaining content to better explain & reflect the site’s objectives.
Website testing - Before
The results of usability testing for the website home audit page indicated that people were overwhelmed by all the information they were seeing.
Website testing - After
To resolve that, we removed unnecessary elements from the page and simplified the presentation of the content.
Our prototype focused on the initial customer engagement for Opower Home through gathering of customer's energy use data and tips on how to save money. Thinking about the next steps for Opower....