PG&E Solar Dashboard

UX / WEB DESIGN

About the project

Pacific Gas and Electric came to Opower asking for a unique online experience for their solar customers. They wanted to increase customer satisfaction and reduce call center costs related to bill confusion.

By providing a clear, interactive visualization of their bill we were able create a product that educates users and adds value to their online experience.

My role

I led the design of this project with oversight from David Royer, Senior UX Designer at Opower. I was responsible for all phases of the design process including; research, wireframing, user testing, visual design and documentation.

Read the Case Study

Billing for solar customers works differently.

Utility bills can be confusing. This is epecially true for Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers who own solar panels. Their billing works differently than most because they pay for their electricity usage just once a year instead of every month.

Our goal was to create a unique online experience for these users to help increase customer satisfaction and reduce call center costs related to bill confusion

Understanding the current experience

To gain an understanding of the current experience for solar customers I conducted an audit of PGE's website as well as the 
paper statements customers receive in the mail each month.

I found that there was a large disconnect between the information a user sees online and what they get in the mail.

User Research

I worked with the Opower Research team to recruit and interview 6 real PG&E solar customer in order understand how they think about their bill

Based on the research, I assembled a customer journey map to better understand the context of how a user would experience PG&E’s website.

Exploration

Installation
Phase

First Month

First Year

Long Term

Decisions

The amount of information and solar providers was overwhelming

Lease Vs Ownership

One of the most pressing questions users had was whether to lease or own their solar panels

1st Interaction

A solar provider conducting a home inspection to see if they qualify

Solar Provider Control

The user's solar provider controls the majority of this process

Poor Introduction

Limited communication with utility. Poor introductions to new billing model

Information overload

The user is overloaded with new information and paperwork at this stage

Eager

Users are eager to check on their usage/generation

PG&E Web Experience

Many users went online to PGE but found the information limited or not relavant

Complicated Statements

Many users called PG&E because they didn't understand their statement

Bill Comparison

Users are interested to know how much solar saved them this year

Unexpectedly High Bill

At the end of the billing period some users were surprised by how much money they owed

Stopped Looking at Usage

Many users reported losing interest in checking on their usage

Investment Pay Off

Users want to know their total savings and when the panels have paid for themselves

Detailed Pricing

After having solar for many years users are interested in more detailed time of use rates

Sketching & Internal Critique

Using what I learned from the research I started an interative process of sketching starting with user flows and moving into higher fidelity wireframes. During this process I held work/critique sessions with the Opower UX team.

Prototyping using Invision

From my wireframes I created high fidelity prototypes with limited interactivity. Since clear communication was essential to the success of this design, I wanted to test with proper visual hierarchy

User testing using 
Lean UX Principles

Using the invision prototype we conducted 2 rounds of remote user testing sessions with 6 participants each. After each round of testing I consolidated the findings and then iterated on the prototype

Final Designs

Click to learn more about design decisions

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Build in Education

In order to change the mental model of monthly usage billing we built in education for 1st time users. Users can choose to permanently dismiss this notification or learn more.

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At a Glance

This area provide users with snapshot view of the current status of their usage charges. It also helps teach novice users how billing works.

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Details on Demand

This allows users to track their charges and see how they progress towards their final payment date. Details on demand helps eliminate surprise bills at the end of the billing cycle.

Functional documentation for the client & developers

The final deliverable was a specification document that explained the functionality of the product as well as research findings. This was used internally by PG&E to bring stakeholders up to speed so that they could come sign off on the design. It was also used as reference for the development.

It launched to 125,000 PGE customers on December 2014.

The design was so well received by PG&E that they bought an expansion including a full suite of web products specifically for solar customers.