How to Make Sense of Energy Through UX

By |2018-08-09T19:39:47-04:00March 19th, 2018|User Experience (UX) Design|

UX design is incredibly dependent on user data relating to demographics and psychographics, as well as other variables related to the software being developed itself. This presents a major challenge in many UX designs to present complex data in an easily digestible format. How could businesses conduct energy data management without being able to interpret the data?

We’re familiar with this challenge at UM Tech, as we had to develop energy management services that dealt with this complexity. In terms of the energy industry, terms can vary greatly and some can be downright confusing.

  • Contracts (lots of interchangeable terms)
  • Invoices (each utility and supplier has its own)
  • Usage (depending on the size of the meter and the contract, the way you are billed for usage differs)
  • Cost (even the charges can differ between utility companies and suppliers) 

Our goal was to provide energy dashboards that enabled customers to read between the lines of their energy data and obtain greater visibility over their energy needs. With increased visibility, our users could gather a clear idea of what changes need to be made to improve their workflow and understanding of their energy needs.

Research

In order to begin solving this problem, we needed to conduct market research to better understand the variation in the market. We then researched the needs of relevant players in the energy industry, including suppliers, brokers, and commercial business owners, and then compared it to our market research to come up with ideas. We also needed to research the vast array of invoices available from both suppliers and brokers. After this, we needed to nail down the contract terms from suppliers to better understand the barriers being presented. Finally, we conducted market research into other data centric apps for insights into how to solve this problem and eliminate these barriers.

Design

Our solution to this problem would come through design. Sure, we could incorporate this data and create an app for each user and call it a day. But, if we could create energy management products available and easily understood by all parties, we could break down the barriers that still existed in the marketplace.

First, we needed to talk to users across all teams and companies for feedback.This allowed for a wider-range of input and provided a clearer picture of the state of energy across the board. Talking to users also uncovered other pain-points and needs that helped improve the product we were working on. Asking open-ended questions to learn as much as we could helped paint a more colorful picture that told a story rather than just a one-word message.

As we like to say, learn by doing. In order to solve user-centered problems, we need to experience our products through the user’s perspective. This involves expressing empathy and listening to feedback. It also entails walking through our products step-by-step with our users until “complete” to experience what the user experiences. By seeing what they see and even listening to the nuances of their speech, we can uncover opportunities in our own design that we didn’t know were right there.

Acting upon these areas of opportunity is key to satisfying users and creating value. It’s also the key principle to iterative development.

Summary

Ultimately, we were able to develop energy management solutions that best served our customers by focusing on our UX. This allowed us to make more sense of the energy industry and develop an easily digestible energy dashboard that could easily help our customers. The keys to our success will be the keys to your success. Ask. Listen. Empathize. Confirm.

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