I worked on a live brief for a start-up company called Labrador Energy while I was a student on General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive course. My role was lead visual designer and we worked as a group of three over a two-week sprint, utilising agile practices.
The challenge was to redesign Labrador’s website to educate potential customers on what the Labrador service is, how the technology it uses works, and why people should sign up.
The UK Government is rolling out smart meters and aims to have one installed in every household by 2020. Households can switch energy tariffs and providers but it is a nuisance for them to do so. The way people are billed at present is by energy suppliers estimating what a household’s future usage will be. Smart meters will remove this prediction-based billing and the need for workers to check the meters at each point physically.
Labrador Energy uses new household technology with gas and electricity smart meters to measure energy consumption, review energy tariffs and recommend the cheapest deal for households. It then switches customers over to the cheapest energy tariff available to them.
Methods: user interviews, concept mapping, task analysis, user flows, jobs to be done, design studio,
We carried out guerrilla-style interviews at London’s Spitalfields food and antiques market during the busy lunch hours. We asked three questions each of 30 people to gauge public knowledge of smart meters.
User Research Summary Points:
- public knowledge about smart meters is generally low;
- many people don’t bother switching because they believe the money they will save is not worth the time it takes to switch;
- the perception is stronger that switching suppliers is a frustrating experience;
- an even split between good and bad experiences for people who had switched energy suppliers; and
- there is a level of distrust about comparison sites and impartial recommendations to a different supplier.
In our design studio, we brain-stormed branding and education around Labrador and smart meters. We found that a major issue for Labrador would be distilling all the information we had on a complex topic into small, legible paragraphs.
We collated our findings and created concept maps, and the key points we decided to focus on are summarised below:
Task Analysis & Experience Map
We analysed the way people would compare energy suppliers before making a switch, as well as what they have to go through when their supplier takes a reading from their energy meter. It was useful for us but it's also important to point out that for a new Labrador user, the main task was finding out about the company and smart meters. This left a small gap in which we could make a difference as UX designers. We realised how important the home page would be at this stage of our design process.
Jobs to be Done
We decided to work with the jobs-to-be-done process rather than the user story and persona method. With jobs-to-be-done, the focus was on making the task more efficient, since the job of switching energy suppliers to get the cheapest tariff can apply to anybody. We still looked at the pain points of the process to help the user.
Generating personas might be more helpful in future user flows, such as if Labrador decides to change the frequency with which they send notifications to switch tariffs.
Feature Prioritisation & User Flows
We created user flows based on our prioritisation of features. The aim was to:
- help new visitors understand the concept of the Labrador Box, smart meter, cost savings and smart homes;
- offer customers the best deal which they don’t have to spend time researching themselves;
- present information but not inundate customers with notifications; and
- show how households could save money on their bills, reduce energy consumption and spend less time researching tariffs.
We identified three design goals to simplify the complex information to new customers:
- Education — educate users on what Labrador is, how it works, and why it is beneficial to them.
- Signing up — streamline the sign up process to ensure new customers aren’t put off by having to provide too much information, or having a frustrating experience.
- Retention — keep Labrador customers satisfied by providing a valuable tool through the energy dashboard, where users can track their energy usage and switch easily to a better tariff. This has the potential to promote positive customer reviews.
We created low-fidelity wire-frames and wrote the content to test as often as possible. We drew several sketches of the home page that would cover the main questions of what, why and how that related to Labrador’s new service. We also investigated which benefits of signing up to Labrador would resonate the most with people.
We highlighted Labrador's functionatly as three processes:
- Install — the smart meter, Labrador box;
- Track — customers monitor their energy usage on a dashboard used on the device of their choice; and
- Switch — the main selling point of Labrador is the automatic switch to the cheapest deal.
New technology can be confusing even when explained as concisely as possible, so I designed icons in Sketch to help explain the technology.
After testing several iterations at mid-fidelity, we included another page that went into more detail on Labrador’s services. This ensured the home page was not too heavy on text. From our testing, we found that the main benefits that resonated with people were that the service is free, easy and accurate. We included those product features on the services page as well as the home page.
We designed an illustration of the whole system that incorporated the icons from the home page, to make the process clearer (below).
We redesigned and tested the sign-up page and identified the following factors to help users:
- A brief reiteration of what Labrador does and what the installation would involve;
- Limit the number of steps in the sign up process; and
- Tell users what would happen once they signed up.
From our testing of the user's energy account dashboard, the main features we focused on for our dashboard design to show users:
- what they can save;
- a real-time breakdown of energy consumption; and
- tips for reducing their energy consumption.
We recommended some points for Labrador to consider as it launches its business:
- incorporating a customer’s previous tariffs and showing comparisons;
- showing customers their total savings since signing up with Labrador;
- providing tips on how to save money on their energy bill by reducing usage at particular times; and
- developing a referral system for existing customers to recommend to friends and family.